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At the top as well as very friendly and personal

At the top as well as very friendly and personal

Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts/Simone Golob

Lisa Brüggen inspired by Mary Jo Bitner

Lisa Brüggen, senior lecturer of Marketing, knew that it had to be a woman if it was about her academic hero. “There are plenty of men who inspire me, but a woman at the top stimulates just that little bit more.” The choice was Mary Jo Bitner, professor of Service Marketing at Arizona State University.

Economist Lisa Brüggen (38) met Mary Jo Bitner when she went on a research visit to the Arizona State University as a trainee researcher. “Of course I was familiar with her books and articles. She is one of the top people in her field. Her book Services Marketing is a standard work. The fact that you get to know someone like that personally, is rather special. And not just five minutes at a congress, but for a longer period.” Brüggen was surprised by Bitner’s attitude. “Very friendly and personal. In the US, you are still seen as a student when you are doing a PhD, but she nevertheless took the time for me, gave me feedback and invited me for coffee.”

One of the reasons why Brüggen, as a young scientist, went looking for female role models was because of the questions she had about combining a career with children. “Bitner is someone who loves to talk about her children. She showed that it was possible.”

She remembers one conversation in particular. “It was during a dinner with the faculty club. We talked about values, what was important in life. As a scientist work is a major part of your life. You don’t stop thinking about what you are working on when the clock strikes five. The danger is that you get completely lost in it. I regularly try to reflect and put things into perspective, which is something I learned from women like Bitner. I also work very hard, but I pay good attention to the limits. That is something you have to determine for yourself.”

It is not just Bitner’s attitude that Brüggen admires. “She is a true all-rounder. She doesn’t just do research, but she is also the director of the Centre for Services Leadership and an editor of a journal. She is someone who builds bridges between different fields, who is involved in the field.”  

Brüggen feels that role models are important. “And not just at the top. That’s too far away for young scientists. I had the advantage of having a colleague who was a couple of years older and always just a little bit ahead. Both with her career and with children. I was able to see how things were done and I had someone I could ask practical questions.”

A role that Brüggen herself now fulfils. “I have never formally been anybody’s mentor, but I try not to coach my trainee research assistants merely on content, but to also prepare them for the academic world. It can help if you offer to just listen. I really like to help, it gives me a lot of satisfaction.”

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