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News@Ivey · Cam Buchan

Meet Will Diebel, Ivey PhD candidate

Sep 8, 2020

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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: Will Diebel, PhD candidate

A Guelph, Ontario, native, PhD candidate William Diebel already knew of Ivey’s reputation as a leading business school. Now, Diebel is at Ivey, working on research into the impact of supply chains on sustainable development. Through this series of questions and answers, discover more about Diebel’s background, influences, and the important advice he gives on surviving a pandemic.  

Q&A with Will Diebel

What attracted you to Ivey’s program?

As a regional native, I was aware of Ivey’s reputation as a leading Canadian business school. However, it wasn’t until halfway through my Master’s degree at Western (Environment and Sustainability) that I considered a PhD. Ivey’s PhD director at the time, Stephan Vachon, became an early mentor and encouraged me to apply to Ivey’s program. Now in the program, I benefit from the mentorship of Professor Rob Klassen and Assistant Professor Jury Gualandris. I was especially excited about the possibility of pursuing research with leading scholars in the area of supply chain sustainability.

What is your research focus?

My research aims to better understand how supply chain structures impact sustainable development processes.

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

Viewing sustainability problems through a supply-chain lens reveals relevant issues that need to be addressed. For example, more than 90 per cent of corporate environmental impacts can be attributed to upstream supply chain firms. Since these upstream firms are often “hidden” from the view of downstream firms and consumers, it is difficult to understand where to direct and focus sustainable development efforts. One way to address this issue is to study when and how sustainability practices, such as emissions measurement and disclosure, become normalized and diffuse upstream in supply chains.

How do you see your research making an impact?

I hope to have opportunities to communicate my research to a broad audience, such as practitioners, policymakers, students, etc. Sustainability is a system-level problem, so I believe it’s important to participate in many boundary-spanning discussions.

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

Research can enable businesses to improve by helping them become more sustainable. One way forward is to study the effects of inclusive management frameworks, such as design thinking, a topic I recently wrote about with co-authors Klassen and Gualandris for the Oxford Handbook of Supply Chain Management (forthcoming). More generally, studies that better integrate planetary limits and social considerations into management theory may help businesses more effectively create shared value for society and its global citizens.

What previous experience prepared you for this?

From a young age, I was involved in music lessons and sports. These activities taught me that I could develop skills through practice and perseverance. I think these lessons help me cope with imposter syndrome* and give me hope that I can become a competent researcher.

* Imposter syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success.

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

I grew up in Guelph, Ontario – about one hour east of London – in a quiet, suburban community. It was great! In addition to my two younger brothers, there were lots of other kids to run around the neighbourhood with. We were always so active, playing road hockey, basketball, tennis, soccer… you name it.

Who have been your strongest influences in life?

Probably my Mom. She’s an amazing role model and I almost always seek her advice.

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

I recently took up skateboarding and yoga as two ways to stay active during COVID-times. I also like to compose music, which has been a life-long passion.

What might someone be surprised to know about you?

I never thought I would pursue graduate-level education. After I completed my undergrad, I followed my passion for music production and worked side jobs for about seven years. I am lucky to be surrounded by loved ones who support and encourage me to follow my interests.

What is the most played song on your playlist as of now?

Vegyn – Feet Too Tough 005 (128 BPM)

What is your best podcast recommendation?

Rabbit Hole is an amazing mini-series podcast that was recently produced by The New York Times. It essentially describes how the post-truth era has emerged and continues to shape public discourse. It’s fascinating and terrifying. And an honourable mention must go to Reply All, one of my favourite shows running, I think I’ve listened to every episode.

What book would you recommend to others? Why?

I’m currently reading How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. I recommend this book because I think it is time to devote more attention to marginalized groups and invest time in: First, better understanding the issues that affect them; and second, understanding how to be an effective ally.

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

I personally don’t have a problem staying connected, so I’m not sure I have any useful advice to offer. I actually spend too much time “connected,” which I think is the real issue. It’s easy to fall into routines of scanning social media and the news while I’m stuck at home. These habits can get me down. I’ve been reminding myself to get outside at least once a day recently, and I feel that usually rejuvenates me.