Life at SCANCOR at Stanford

Tips and ideas from postdocs for incoming scholars

Arno Kourula and Arto Huuskonen
Arno Kourula and Arto Huuskonen, Photo: J. Björkdahl, 2011

Here are some reflections and opinions of SCANCOR postdocs to help incoming SCANCOR scholars orient themselves.  We plan to update the document periodically, so let us know if you have additional information that could be useful to SCANCORians.

Arno Kourula, Maja Lotz, Sara Värlander, Arild Waeraas

From Visiting Scholars

Welcoming reception

SCANCOR, a unique gateway to Stanford and the possibility to network, share, engage with and learn from other scholars, researchers and students in all a kinds of academic fields both at SCANCOR and Stanford as a whole.  Academically: Be prepared and know what you want to use your stay at SCANCOR for. There is no so-called usual way to do things or structure to step into, so it is entirely up to you. The openness can be a challenge but is most of all a gift to explore. Concentrate on your work, and network with people within your field of interest. Even if you plan well be prepared that it will be different and you don’t know all the great possibilities beforehand.

In terms of practicalities, the first weeks after arrival is getting everything settled with housing, finances, transport etc. The SCANCOR guide is very helpful! 

Rikke Dalsted, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Big Game. Photo: Anniina Autero

My stay at SCANCOR and Stanford has been both challenging and exciting, but most of all immensely rewarding and inspiring. Here I have established contacts that will be important for my future work. My primary advice to incoming SCANCOR researchers is to leave as many obligations and commitments to your home institution as possible, so that your main focus is on what's going on here at Stanford – and in the BayArea. The possibilities for academic input and exchange here are enormous!

Make sure to challenge yourself and seize the opportunity to meet and discuss with people who previously were only names on a title page.

There is no doubt that moving overseas takes a lot of effort. Expect it to take at least a couple of weeks to settle in and get your everyday life organized. The move away from familiar surroundings at home will guraranteed trigger new ideas, and provide new perspectives on your research. A huge advantage of being associated with SCANCOR is that you get to know colleagues to discuss and share the experiences of visiting Stanford. Through the regular weekly seminars SCANCOR scholars also become familiar with each other's work, hence providing valuable common ground for discussions.

Siri Øyslebø Sørensen, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

SCANCOR/Stanford is a unique place for reflection and learning. To paraphrase Matt Ridley in his book The Rational Optimist: "Stanford is a place where ideas can have sex ". To benefit from this stimulating environment you must come prepared. Not only in practical terms but mentally. My best advice before you arrive is to set goals for your stay and develop a game plan for getting there. For doctoral scholars: how far will you move your dissertation? For Postdocs: which articles from your dissertation will you submit and where? For senior faculty: how can you further your own development and contribute to others development. SCANCOR/Stanford is a very fertile place for creative thinking. You will be exposed to many talented people who willingly will share and develop their idea with you. Use the opportunity to advance your own thinking with these talented people. Trust me: it is a unique experience! 

Tor W. Andreassen

Professor, Chair, Department of Marketing

Associate Dean MSc program in Marketing

BI Norwegian Business School



From an affiliated Visiting Scholar:

Life at SCANCOR potentially offers invaluable rewards, but it could also turn out to be an expensive and tedious experience - it all depends on how you approach it. From personal experience and observation I have drawn three lessons on how to have a meaningful stay here.

First of all, think carefully about what you want to get out of your stay and make a plan in advance for how to achieve your specific objectives. But once you get here, don’t just focus on that plan. Upon arrival, spend every day of your first month to try to understand what goes on in this area and experience it in person. That means not only Stanford itself but Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. Try to understand what the world’s leading companies are doing here, how they think, strategize and operate. Then you can spend the rest of your stay carrying out your plan, possibly revising it in light of what you have learnt during your first month.

Secondly, reach out to your community in this area. That could mean the Innovation Center of your country, the Nordic Innovation House, Silicon Vikings, etc. Being in touch with such institutions can be extremely valuable for the current and future networking opportunities they provide. Find information on their websites about the events they organize, then attend the events that match your interests. Talk to people there and make connections. The popular mantra in this area is: “Networking, networking and networking”. You don’t have to be an outgoing person to network. You just need to understand what you want, what others can offer you, and what you can offer them. There are abundant opportunities here if you are willing to reach out.

Finally, to make the most of your stay here, be as proactive as you can in both your professional and your social life. Make an effort to talk to and understand others. One of the best things that happened to me during my stay was establishing close relationships with my fellow Scancorians. We have lunch together almost every day, discussing important topics in life and work, exchanging lessons and experiences, learning from each other. There is no distance between professor and PhD student. Everyone is equal, everyone is unique.

-Nhien Nguyen, NTNU, Fall 2015

From Hubi Theissen, Recognised Student - University of Oxford, Summer 2016

At SCANCOR (away from your day-to-day stress at home) you really get work done in a nevertheless vibrant environment with exceptional people, who become friends. In fact, the people I met in the SCANCOR office, outside on campus and even off campus made Stanford a life-changing experience. Please talk to (even random) people (on campus) you don’t know (yet)! Everybody is so open, willing to exchange ideas, warm and friendly. I remember myself returning to my office desk many times smiling because I had just experienced another great conversation while having a coffee break or running into somebody special on campus. It is a true gift to advance one’s research in this positive atmosphere. Maybe there are only two caveats: it is a rather expensive place to live – and it will be very hard to leave!

To sum up, after spending this summer with SCANCOR at Stanford there is so much I take home: impactful and valuable feedback on my doctoral research (written and verbal – formal and informal), tangible progress with my central research paper, multiple warm and stimulating interactions with the people in this place, extra motivation and joie de vivre to continuously work hard on my research project, friendships and personal contacts, the moving experience of Christian faith in another part of the world – and certainly, fantastic memories and a lasting smile on my face. Thank you, Maude, Mitchell, Sarah, SCANCOR and friends! It was a life-changing visit.

[Hubertus H. Theissen, Recognised Student (2016) – University of Oxford]