The Winner of CARISCA’s 2021 Dissertation Proposal Award is Passionate about Supply Chain Sustainability

Assilah Agigi won top honors at CARISCA’s inaugural Supply Chain Research Summit Dissertation Proposal Award in 2021.

Assilah Agigi

Assilah Agigi’s spirit of growth and determination propels her towards a promising future as a supply chain academic. 

She did not set out to study supply chain management, but she was hooked when she learned about logistics while visiting a BMW manufacturer during her honors studies. 

“The whole process was mind-opening,” she said. “This is something I could be passionate about and enjoy doing. I went on to finish my master’s in supply chain management, and I published a few articles in local South African journals and one article in the Africa Journal of Management, a leading African journal. My aim is to now focus on my PhD and make a global contribution and publish in top supply chain management journals.”

Agigi has always felt catalyzed by the opportunity to positively influence the care of Africa and the planet. Her dissertation, An Investigation of the Relationship Between the Diffusion and Adoption of Sustainable Supply Chain Management Practices, Organisational Capabilities Development, and Firm Innovativeness, is inspired by the work of Woolworths, a supermarket chain in South Africa, because of its ongoing sustainability efforts that have been recognized globally. 

When Agigi was deciding her dissertation focus, she considered what she wants to be known for — her niche. 

“If I will be known for something [through my research], I need it to be about a topic that’s meaningful to me. There’s an urgency to sustainability, and there is so much more companies can be doing.”

Before setting out to become a supply chain sustainability scholar, Agigi was raised in Mozambique and her family moved to South Africa when she was in high school. Her father, an accountant, was determined to provide better educational opportunities for his children. His efforts were a success as Agigi and her two younger brothers all pursued university study.  

“‘Do more, do bigger,’ was my father’s mantra,” Agigi said, “I take after my father in several ways, particularly when it comes to staying busy and looking ahead to the future.” 

Agigi plans to defend her dissertation in 2022. In the meantime, she is busy teaching as a lecturer in the Department of Supply Chain Management at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. Agigi is a member of the University’s first Supply Chain Master’s Program cohort and the flagship PhD program. 

“This is a big challenge. We have a big responsibility. We have a high student-to-professor ratio because there are not enough supply chain academics to train everyone who wants to learn more about supply chains. There is a real gap in talented professors, something that CARISCA is doing a stellar job of addressing,” Agigi said.

One of the people who is confident in Agigi’s ability to handle her studies and teaching load is Arizona State University Professor and Senior Technical Advisor for CARISCA, Adegoke Oke, one of her PhD supervisors. He has advised Agigi for the past three years of her PhD studies. 

“​​She is very passionate about her topic, she is always willing to learn, and she is open to taking criticism. I have seen her develop critical research skills over the years, and I have no doubt that she will complete her PhD and go on to become a great scholar,” Oke said.

Agigi is thankful for Professor Oke’s role in shaping her research as well as helping her improve her teaching abilities. 

“Professor Oke is very driven, which I aspire to be as well,” she explained.

As a result of Oke’s encouragement, Agigi has presented at multiple international supply chain management conferences representing South Africa and Africa, including the European Operations Management Association (EurOMA) Conference in 2020
(which is where Agigi learned a lot from her peers and changed her dissertation topic to focus on sustainability). 

Attending conferences and presenting research is Agigi’s top advice for PhD students. She said that Professor Oke has been the catalyzing force that pushes her to share her work and get out of her comfort zone. 

Agigi’s long-term goal is to finish her PhD so she can become a supply chain management professor. 

“It’s really my students that inspire me to continue in academia. When it comes to my research, I’m interested in conducting research that applies to companies, helping them add value and ‘do things better.’ I am inspired by Arizona State University Professor Thomas Choi’s industry experience, and I would like to conduct this type of research in Africa.

Assilah’s Tips for Effective Presentations

The best thing for any PhD student is to present your research to people in your field. Go with no expectation but to present what you have and receive feedback. This is the best way to learn as much as possible.

  1. Practice, practice, practice! All of the research seems important, but by practicing your presentation, you can make sure you focus on the most important information in the time available. 
  2. Attend different conferences and consortia.  By attending multiple high-quality conferences and presenting your work, you will get more feedback to improve your presentation style and your research. Also, you will learn a lot about other research that can contribute to your work. 
  3. Get straight to the point.  Don’t get bogged down with too many details. Get straight to the point: what makes your research stand out? 
  4. Tell a story. Tell your research’s story and follow it through.