Spotlight on Supervision: The TUM Supervisory Award 2023

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Every year the TUM Graduate Council honors the outstanding supervision of doctoral candidates at TUM with the Supervisory Award. Launched in 2018, the award emphasizes the importance of trustful and respectful supervision for early career researchers. The price, endowed with 5,000 € and sponsored by the TUM Bund der Freunde e.V., benefits the doctoral candidates of the winning professorship.

This year, the title of the best supervisor goes to Prof. Dr. Jens Förderer. His intensive supervision style and support of long-term career planning convinced the Graduate Council. Like in the past years, the race was a close call. Tobias Weiß from this year’s TUM Graduate Council award working group stresses: “We are glad that it was a close decision between the top candidates again this year, which speaks for consistently good supervision at TUM.” The Graduate Council decides on the award through a multi-step selection process, in which all doctoral candidates at TUM can nominate their doctoral supervisor first. After a pre-selection at the Schools/degree awarding institutions by the respective doctoral candidates' representatives, all members of the Graduate Council vote on the award winner.

Jens Förderer, who holds the Professorship for Innovation and Digitalization at the TUM School of Management, was unaware of his nomination in advance. “I feel very honored and proud to have received this award. I am especially impressed that I have received this award among all TUM professors.” He wants to use the prize money to provide his doctoral candidates with the best possible support and enable them to have access to high-profile international scientific conferences.

But how can good doctoral supervision look like in practice and which aspects play a role for the Supervisory Award? Every doctoral candidate has individual requirements, just as every supervisory relationship is unique. A binding definition would fall short. Doctoral supervision can go far beyond academic, content-focused support such as developing a research question and feedback on publications and manuscripts. The Graduate Council points out: “The Supervisory Award also aims to draw attention to less obvious aspects. These include, for example, social cohesion, exemplary leadership behavior, or support for training in topics that exceed the actual doctorate.”

The TUM Graduate Council members during their 105th meeting in the TUM senate hall. Photo: TUM GC

Jens Förderer particularly focuses on career development. Especially for doctoral candidates in business administration, the question often arises whether the doctorate is a foundation for a career in science or business. “It is important to me that doctoral candidates (…) develop an idea – or even a vision, which role their doctoral project plays for their future career path.” The development of one’s own vision – this can also be transferred to the research project. Finding a research topic that fills oneself with enthusiasm is essential, as there is “hardly a more effective driver for research success than intrinsic motivation”. Jens Förderer sees the supervisor role as approaching this topic together and creating a balance of freedom and routines for doctoral candidates. He achieves this in the form of weekly sync meetings, individually with all doctoral candidates of the chair. This regular exchange and the reachability of the supervisor are also central criteria for the granting of the award for the Graduate Council.

However, it should be emphasized that doctoral supervision is a two-way process to which both supervisors and doctoral candidates actively contribute. According to the Graduate Council, open and honest communication on both sides forms the basis of good collaboration. Jens Förderer particularly appreciates his doctoral candidates’ proactive commitment to cooperation.

The TUM Graduate School congratulates Prof. Dr. Jens Förderer on the Supervisory Award 2023 and thanks him as well as Tobias Weiß for the conversation. You will find more information on the Supervisory Award and the winners of the past years on the website of the TUM Graduate Council.

PS: Supervisors at TUM can register for the Doctoral Supervisor Training until 8 December. The training provides a holistic overview of how you can optimally support your doctoral candidates, from recruiting to career development.