Guest article by Linda Alkire and Wafa Hammedi.

As we reflect on the 10th anniversary edition of the Let’s Talk About Service (LTAS) conference, we, Linda Alkire and Wafa Hammedi, are filled with a profound sense of accomplishment, gratitude, and anticipation for the future. In December 2023, we had the privilege of co-chairing LTAS at the University of Namur in Belgium, where we embraced the theme of “Emerging Paradigms in Service Research”. 

Day 1: December 6th, 2023 

The LTAS opening reception was not only a moment to welcome participants but also to cultivate a welcoming, open, and safe environment for PhD students and early career researchers. The highlight of the evening was the delightful visit from St Nicholas, a cherished tradition in Belgium, where ‘Sinterklaas’ and his helpers distribute gifts and sweets, aligning perfectly with the local celebration on December 6th.

Day 2: December 7th, 2023

Our opening remarks aimed to challenge and inspire attendees to reimagine the scope and impact of their work amidst the shifts in the global landscape brought about by technological, societal, and environmental changes. We also took a moment to reflect on the remarkable journey of LTAS over the past decade. It was a nostalgic and inspiring experience as we revisited the milestones and achievements of each edition through a specially curated video. This retrospective not only highlighted the evolution of LTAS but also served as a tribute to its enduring impact.

Additionally, we had the honor of celebrating Professor Jay Kandampully’s significant contributions to LTAS throughout these ten years. His dedication and insights have been instrumental in shaping LTAS’s success and its influential role in the field.

Keynote speeches from Professors Gaia RuberaMirella Kleijnen, and Mike Brady set a tone for introspection and advancement, advocating for a fresh look at our research practices and topics. Each speaker brought a unique perspective, encouraging a fresh look at our research practices and topics. 

The panel on “Responsible Research in Business and Marketing,” exceptionally moderated by Professor Sertan Kabadayi, initiated an important conversation on the ethical responsibilities of our profession and research field. 

The carefully curated workshop, “How to Reverse Engineer a Journal Article?” led by Professor Rebekah Russell-Bennett, was crafted not merely as a skill-building exercise but as a critical exercise in rethinking how we construct and disseminate knowledge in service research. 

Our LTAS 2023 program also featured a surprise social event that seamlessly blended the scholarly with the cultural, allowing our attendees to immerse themselves in the local heritage of Namur. We embarked on a gondola ride carrying us to the Citadel’s summit, where we explored Le Pavillon (The Belgian Pavillon at the 2015 Milan World Expo) and its immersive art displays. The evening progressed with a curated beer tasting presented by BJoys, showcasing the local brews and offering a taste of Belgium’s renowned beer culture. The atmosphere was further enlivened by a performance from Les Échasseurs Namurois – a UNESCO heritage, and an iconic and vibrant display of local folklore on stilts that captivated everyone’s attention and hearts. The day’s festivities culminated with a gala dinner at the prestigious Le Château de Namur, where we gathered for an evening of gastronomic delight and heartfelt toasts. 

During the Gala Dinner, Kristina Heinonen on behalf of AMA SERVSIG took a moment to honor the founders of LTAS—Wafa Hammedi, Annouk Lievens, Bart Lariviere, and Sertan Kabadayi —with appreciation plaques. This recognition from SERVSIG was not only sincere but also deeply touching, serving to acknowledge their visionary leadership, relentless efforts in establishing and nurturing the LTAS conferences, and their significant contributions to advancing the service field.

Our last surprise of the day marked the debut of the LTAS song created and performed by members of our community. This song encapsulated the spirit of LTAS, and our hope is that it will become an enduring tradition, sung at future conferences to celebrate and remember the essence of what brings us together. 

Day 3: December 8th, 2023

The last day of LTAS 2023 was marked by a palpable sense of anticipation, which was more than met by the stimulating keynotes from Professors Gazi Islam and Martin Wetzels. Their presentations captivated our audience and set a vigorous intellectual pace for the day. Fueled by these insights, attendees poured their energy into group workshops, where they diligently worked on crafting research proposals.

In the afternoon, the teams had the opportunity to present the projects they had been working on. This session allowed for peer review and constructive feedback. The presentations demonstrated the effort and thoughtfulness of the teams, as well as the beneficial influence of the renowned academic coaches who provided support throughout the process. The commitment shown by everyone involved was commendable and contributed to the productive and scholarly atmosphere of the day.

In our closing remarks, we celebrated the past decade’s achievements and looked eagerly towards the next LTAS, to be hosted by Maastricht University on December 4-6, 2024 (co-chaired by Kars Mennens, Gaby Odekerken – Schröder, and Dominik Mahr) reaffirming our joint commitment to the advancement of service research by supporting the new generation of service scholars. 

A sincere thank you to all participants, keynotes, academic coaches, LTAS founders, and to our fantastic NADI-CERCLE team for making this edition such a big success. 

Finally, in hosting LTAS 2023, we did more than commemorate a decade of academic excellence; we set the stage for a future where service scholarship is at the forefront of addressing the complex, interconnected challenges of our modern world. We called upon the participants to rise with courage and creativity to meet the demands of the present and the uncertainties of the future. Here’s to continuing this critical journey together, with resilience and resolve, at LTAS and beyond! 

To revisit the highlights and memorable moments of LTAS 2023, we invite you to enjoy this video.

Best Wishes, 

Linda Alkire and Wafa Hammedi 

Linda Alkire, Ph.D.
Roberts Excellence Endowed Professor Associate Professor of Marketing
Texas State University, USA 

Wafa Hammedi, Ph.D.
Professor of Service Management
NADI-CERCLE, University of Namur, Belgium