For our “Going abroad” series, Hugo Guyader interviewed Sven Tuzovic, who moved from Germany to the US, and later to Australia. This is the first part of the interview with him.

Sven is Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor in the US) at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. After obtaining his PhD in Marketing from the University of Basel, Switzerland (2003), Sven started his academic career as Visiting Professor at the University of New Orleans (2005–2006), just 2 weeks prior to Hurricane Katrina. After another year as Visiting Professor at Murray State University in Kentucky (2006–2007), he joined the Business School of Pacific Lutheran University (PLU), in Washington State (2007–2015).

Sven’s international background extends further. He has been a guest lecturer in Salzburg, Austria (2009), in Moscow, Russia (2010-2012), and in Frankfurt (2011), Kaiserslautern (2013) and Stuttgart (2015) in Germany. He also organized and led four short-term study abroad tours with undergraduate and MBA students to Switzerland and Germany. In 2014 he joined Leo Burnett in Chicago as a participant in the Advertising Educational Foundation’s (AEF) Visiting Professor Program (VPP), a two-week fellowship to expose selected professors to the day-to-day operations of a global advertising agency.

That is to say, he is a global academic and a passionate globetrotter — cf his Twitter bio!

Tell us briefly about your globetrotting experience. 

I am born in a small town near Duesseldorf in North Rhine Westfalia, Germany. I’ve lived in 9 cities and 4 countries. This includes Munich and Basel in Europe, several states in the US (CA, GA, LA, KY and WA), and now Brisbane, Australia. My most recent experience living in New York City for my sabbatical was interrupted due to the coronavirus. 

How come you did your Bachelor’s in the US?

This relates to my time as an exchange student in High School in San Diego (1990). I had a wonderful experience and I loved the country. So I had plans throughout my undergraduate studies to study for a full year in the US. At that time, we did not have many international partnerships between universities. My decision to chose Georgia Southern University was rather random. I applied via an agency in Germany that told me I could get a Bachelor within one year. It turned out, this was not as simple as I thought. I arrived at Georgia Southern with 0 credits and started as Freshman with English 101 … yes, totally bizarre. I ‘fought’ with the admissions office to get credits transferred, and in my fourth quarter, I had Senior standing and completed my marketing capstone.

Why then did you move to Switzerland for your PhD education? 

Good question. I never thought I would move to Switzerland. The decision relates to my passion for services marketing. After I returned from the US to Germany, Professor Bernd Stauss founded the first Department for Services Management there. I belonged to one of the first cohorts to enroll in this MBA in Services Marketing from the Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt. And after graduation, I wanted to continue in this domain. Back in 2000, only a few marketing professors in the German-speaking area had a high reputation in services marketing, including Professor Manfred Bruhn at the University of Basel, Switzerland. I was successfully hired and started my journey as a PhD candidate and research assistant. And I never had any regrets! 

2003 dissertation celebration with Manfred Bruhn

What would you recommend to someone applying for a PhD in Switzerland?

There are probably a few things to consider. First, you have to decide on the type of higher education institution. Switzerland has a dozen universities and a number of universities of applied sciences. Second, you have to consider each region and the local language. You get by with English but I would advise you to know and/or learn French if you plan to study in Geneva or Lausanne. Third, look at the curriculum. While some schools follow a structure similar to US schools with course work, the common approach in the German-speaking area is ‘no’ course work at all. That means you are much more independent and you have to upskill yourself, e.g. in research methods. 

Are conferences more valuable for networking with scholars or for visiting new places?

BOTH. I love traveling, so conferences are a great way to discover and explore new destinations. But networking is the most valuable aspect. I strongly believe it has benefitted me professionally for my career and personally as I established many friendships with other international academics around the world. 

What is your experience as a visiting scholar? 

I can highly recommend this for several reasons. First, if you are not sure about an academic career, this allows you to test the water. For example, I worked in consulting in Munich before I started my position in New Orleans. I had only slight teaching experience as a Ph.D. student. Second, you can expand on your regional preference. Would you want to live in this city/region long-term or not? And third, you build valuable relationships that can be beneficial for future research collaborations. 

At which stage of someone’s career would you recommend it?

I would differentiate here: at the beginning of your career and then later on during sabbatical. In my case, I started with a visiting position as I was not familiar with the AMA recruitment process. I did not know that you have a 1-year cycle, that is you interview for positions in the following year. In hindsight, I believe that my visiting positions were beneficial to get my tenure-track position at PLU as I was able to demonstrate teaching experience and student evaluations. And when you have a sabbatical, visiting positions are a fantastic time for new research collaborations. I just spent part of my sabbatical at the Gabelli School of Business at Fordham University in New York City and this has already resulted in several papers. 

2014 PLU MSMR launch group photo with colleagues

Are there key personas who inspired you to have an international career?

I would contribute my international career largely to my extensive participation in academic conferences since the beginning of my Ph.D. studies. I am grateful that my Ph.D. advisor Professor Manfred Bruhn supported all of my conference submissions. This enabled me to expand my academic network considerably, and it allowed me to meet Professor Ray Fisk, who subsequently hired me at the University of New Orleans. The SERVSIG community was then helpful during my very first Summer AMA job market in 2006 as I met Associate Professor Merl Simpson who was the main force to recruit me at PLU. And thanks to my ANZMAC conferences in the following years, Professor Sharyn Rundle-Thiele and Professor Rebekah Russell-Bennett were key influencers for my decision to come to Griffith University and subsequently to QUT. 

2008 MBA study abroad Ireland with Merl Simpson

How many pictures do you take on average when at a conference?

A lot of photos! But rarely any selfies. Most of those photos are with my academic friends at the social events and the gala dinner.

Sven Tuzovic
Senior Lecturer, School of Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations of QUT School of Business, Brisbane, Australia.