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Meet Mirit Grabarski, Ivey PhD candidate

  • Cam Buchan
  • |
  • Sep 2, 2020
Meet Mirit Grabarski, Ivey PhD candidate

Ivey’s PhD Program in Business Administration is a full-time research-based program designed to develop scholars and to place graduates at high quality research universities around the world. Our PhD candidates are showcased at conferences around the world, and regularly featured in top-tier academic and industry publications.

To help you get to know them, we’ve asked them about their academic and personal interests.

Get to know: Mirit Grabarski, PhD candidate

With her origins in the former Soviet Union, strong role models in her grandparents, and a keen interest in studying people, Mirit Grabarski is creating a scientific and practical model for successful career empowerment. The work will ultimately help organizations unleash the potential in their employees and enable vulnerable populations to gain and maintain their original occupations and status.

Q&A with Mirit Grabarski

What attracted you to Ivey’s program?

I was really interested in the case method and how it works. Although PhD students are trained in seminar-based courses, I was curious about cases and real-life stories, and Ivey is the perfect place for that. I was also interested in the Behavioral Lab and learning about experiments, and found the best possible advisor, Professor Alison Konrad, so all the puzzle pieces came together well.

What is your research focus?

I study career-related behaviours and decision making, and why some people are proactive in developing their careers, while others seem stuck in the wrong lane. In my thesis, I am developing a potential explanation called “career empowerment,” and an instrument to measure it, which can be useful for both theorists and career counsellors, who can help people become more successful in their careers. I also have a deep passion for organizational diversity – especially gender – but I am learning about other types of diversity, too. After all, all my work comes down to barriers that people face, and tearing them apart.

Why is that area appealing to you? What big problems/issues need to be addressed?

I have seen many people who are unhappy with their careers, but don’t perceive themselves as able to turn their lives around. We can see the need for this empowerment in vulnerable populations, such as immigrants, and people with disabilities. COVID-19 created another type of challenge, as people struggle to maintain their jobs and have sustainable careers. Helping people to realize their potential has economic implications on the national level, and that’s what I am trying to harness.

How do you see your research making an impact?

I aim to build theory that is scientifically solid and explains this motivational phenomenon in a precise way, yet has very practical value for career counselling, and that identifies sources of motivation and areas for improvement for each person.

How do you see research as an aid to business improvement?

I believe that businesses that have an interest in fully realizing their human capital should invest in empowering their employees. I already have some evidence that career empowerment is positively associated with job satisfaction and organizational commitment (which in turn relates to performance), and negatively associated with turnover intentions.

What previous experience prepared you for this?

Professionally, I am trained as a reference librarian, working in research-supporting roles for 15 years before starting my PhD program. I was experienced with literature reviews, some research methods, research administration, including grant proposals and budgeting, and generally understanding the mechanisms of academic institutions.

Where did you grow up and what was it like there?

My origins actually explain a lot of my research interests. I was born in the Soviet Union, taking in a lot of messages about how women can achieve the highest professional goals, yet are still expected to fully take care of the house, while downplaying their professional achievements at home. I also learned that capitalism is bad, and financial status must be concealed. Then I immigrated to Israel with my family at age nine. I witnessed my old country falling apart, along with its communist ideals, and had to learn a whole new approach to life. I also saw my parents struggling professionally, with varying levels of success, so it was an accelerated growing-up process and I managed a lot of life by myself.

Who have been your strongest influences in life?

First, my grandparents, and especially grandma, were strong influences in my life. I spent a lot of time with them as a child, and they were amazing role models of a couple who respect and support each other, both professionally and personally. Then my husband really helped me to be unapologetically authentic, and now I look up to my advisor, Alison. I am lucky to have had the right people from which to learn.

What do you like to do outside of the PhD program?

I started teaching so that’s the other side of the academic life for me. The classroom is a place where I can have a real impact by sharing with students what I have learned.

What might someone be surprised to know about you?

I love musicals – Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar. I wish we could have that right now. And my distant wish is to learn Flamenco.

What is your best podcast recommendation?

Never listened to podcasts. I’m a reader, not a listener.

What book would you recommend to others? Why?

I always recommend The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. I found it in my teenage years and it’s my safe place when I need comfort.

What tips have you learned for staying connected in an online learning environment?

As a student, I got my undergraduate and graduate degrees in a distance-learning program, so I am very comfortable with this method. As a teacher, I am still figuring it out. As a human being, I am happy with a little disconnect when possible.

Note: Read more in Intouch about Grabarski and the interest she shares in gender and diversity with Alison Konrad, Professor of Organizational Behaviour at Ivey.