Julie Salsbery is the first student in Robinson’s Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) program to be awarded a grant by the prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Salsbery, a member of the 2021 DBA cohort, will be at the University of Antwerp for six months studying the European approach to sustainable investing. Here, she discusses her plans.
Let’s start with your topic. What is sustainable investing?
Sustainable investing – investing in companies that both earn a return and help create a better world – is one of the hottest topics in asset management today. Investors have already put billions into sustainable funds and the trend is expected to accelerate.
Are you focusing on a particular area of sustainable investing?
My research examines growing differences within the field of sustainable investing and seeks to identify those areas where client needs, policy frameworks, and investment approaches are best aligned to produce impact. I will be working with academics at the University of Antwerp and policymakers at the European Commission, as well as asset management practitioners throughout Europe.
Will you be working with academics and practitioners you already know?
Many of the practitioners (asset managers) I will engage with are based on relationships I have fostered throughout my career; some will be through introductions at the University of Antwerp. I obtained my letter of invitation to the university from contacts I made presenting my research at the 2019 Engaged Management Scholarship Conference, which was in Antwerp that year. Robinson DBA students regularly attend and present at the conference, which is an initiative of Executive DBA Council. The European Community policymakers I will work with are a mix of individuals I identified through my personal network as well as through faculty contacts at the University of Antwerp.
The Fulbright journey really is all about networking – sharing my existing research, explaining what I hope to achieve through my Fulbright research, and finding others who are interested in finding answers to the same questions. Academics love to share ideas and collaborate, so it’s just a matter of finding others with shared interests.
Did your come into the DBA program planning to research sustainable investing, or did this focus emerge during your studies?
I started the DBA with the goal of expanding my work-related research on sustainable finance into my academic research. Virtually all the papers I have researched and written within the DBA program have been on sustainable finance. Recently I was able to tie in my passion for and history with emerging markets into my dissertation, “Environmental, Social, and Governance ESG): Understanding the Role of Country-of-Origin in Multinational Enterprise Behavior.” Professor Vikas Agarwal, Bank of America Distinguished Chair, is my dissertation advisor. Scott Murray, assistant professor of finance, and Oguzhan Karakas of Cambridge University are on my dissertation committee.
How will your experience in the DBA program inform what you do moving forward? What provided the greatest benefit?
The DBA has given me a whole new analytical toolkit with which to help solve practical problems. For me, the most impactful classes have been on the rigors of qualitative and quantitative methods. That said, the most intellectually challenging, and therefore fun, part of the DBA has been learning how to develop and test theory. While my frequent mention of ascending or descending the ‘ladder of abstraction’ is now viewed more as comic relief during our back-to-back four-hour classes, I really do appreciate the mental exercise of it. For that I can thank Regents’ Professor Arun Rai who did an outstanding job teaching The Philosophy and Practice of Engaged Scholarship.
When you entered the DBA program, you probably had certain expectations. Were there any surprises along the way?
I expected to be intellectually challenged and to expand my analytical skills. What I didn’t expect was the depth of friendships I would make, and so quickly. I simply cannot say enough about my cohort on this journey. The mental gymnastics required of a doctoral education and the fortitude necessary to write and defend a dissertation should not be understated. Thankfully, the kindness, intelligence, diversity, depth of knowledge, and sense of fun that runs so deep in my 2021 cohort has made the process truly joyful for me.
Anything else you would like to share?
I hope that the knowledge I gain through obtaining my doctorate, combined with the international research experience of the Fulbright, will enable me to continue serving the sustainable finance movement across all three dimensions – contributing to practice, educating future generations, and serving in an advisory role through board memberships or consulting.
Robinson’s three-year Doctor of Business Administration is for senior-level managers, executives and professionals looking to evolve business practices, develop new perspectives through applied research, and create flexibility for future career change. DBA students learn research methods and business theory through applied research and address real issues within their dissertations.