The MMIAM Journey

A blog about the Master of Management
in International Arts Management program

From Master to Doctor—Continuing Education After the MMIAM

A MMIAM Journey Interview with Chloé Vanasse

Chloé Vanasse is a 2020 graduate of the MMIAM program and is currently in the middle of a PhD at HEC Montréal. She and Brittany spoke about the process of continuing education after the MMIAM program and her motivation to continue studying.

Let’s start where I always begin: are you an artist? What drew you to the arts?

No. I come from a family that loves art, however. My parents have always encouraged us to play music, and I have a sister who plays the violin for a living. I went to music school to play cello and piano and danced for years, but I don’t have rhythm and you need that for both music and dance. So, I was never as good as I wanted to be.

Tell me about your educational background. How did you decide you wanted to do a PhD after the MMIAM?

Well, I initially began a bachelor’s degree in business administration, but I thought it was too general. I went on to finish with a degree in accounting. My graduation was actually the day before I left for Dallas [to begin the MMIAM]. I was particularly interested in the MMIAM, because as well as focusing on art management, it allowed me to discover new cultures and travel. But ironically, I was a member of the cohort that took place when COVID first began. Of course, we didn’t know it at the time, but this was not the best year to travel. But there were upsides. I became, and still am, very close with my roommates…we were stuck in the same apartment for three months, so of course we became very close!

Chloé in Dallas with MMIAM classmates: Inna Huttunen and Fatou Diagne. Credit: Personal archive.

In Montreal—which is where we quarantined—I began working on my thesis and I realized I really liked research and that although this is changing, data and analytics are sometimes under-utilized tools in the arts. Even though the MMIAM is not a master’s program that heavily focuses on research, this was a welcome discovery for me.

So, what’s the gap you’re interested in filling?

Cultural or experiential products are quite distinctive from other essential goods. Traditionally, the companies producing these products have fewer means, but also—and this is one area I’m focusing on—marketing and artistic value can often be perceived to be at odds. Certain marketing tactics can be seen as damaging to the authenticity of the cultural product being offered.

So, part of my studies explores traditional marketing aspects, like promotions, in cultural contexts. For instance, I’m looking at the publishing industry in Quebec. Here, there is a  specific day dedicated to promoting Quebecois literature. What’s interesting is that there aren’t any sales or discounts on that day. It’s all about supporting local publishers and authors, and it’s a great success. I’m digging into why this particular promotion is so successful and if it actually boosts book sales in the long run. It’s very interesting, because, it does not follow the traditional sales trajectory observed for other promotions, such as price discounts.

Chloé in Dallas… with books! Credit: Personal archive.

So you went straight from the MMIAM into your PhD program?

After the program, I went back to work in accounting at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) for a year. While working, I began applying for a PhD program.

While doing my thesis, I remember thinking that I didn’t have enough research skills to dive as deep as I would have liked. So, I started consulting with professors, including Professor François Colbert, about what the process was like and how to apply.

Can you walk us through the PhD process in Canada?

I looked into programs, mostly in Europe and Canada. Most schools will ask for the GMAT and you need to have a very good score. I was working at PwC at the time and it was the busy season, so it was a bit difficult to manage. I was waking up at 4 am every morning to study before work.

You’ll also be asked for a research proposal. You don’t have to stick to it but they want to see your interests and gauge potential. Many schools will also want you to already have your advisors. I contacted a lot of researchers based on their research interests, who I thought I might want to work with. Academics are really nice! I got a response and an invitation to chat from almost everyone I reached out to. It’s also traditional to have two or three recommendation letters.

Most of the deadlines to apply are in January or February and you’ll have a response by March for a September start date.

It’s as if you’re already doing the work before you’re even accepted…

Yes, because it’s very competitive, there are only a handful of slots. But also, it’s good to know what you’re getting into. I didn’t have a lot of experience in this world and so it was helpful to talk to people, ask questions, receive guidance.

And now you’re in your third year!

Yes! So, in a PhD, you have two years of classes (more or less), which I’ve finished, and I’ve done my exams and now I’m writing my research proposal. I should finish next year.

What is the support like in Canada?

So, the reason I didn’t end up going to Europe was because there was generally less funding available. At HEC, they don’t accept students if they aren’t ready to fund them. In addition to the tuition fees, they were offering $20,000 per year in non-taxable scholarships, and I think that amount has gone up now! I applied for governmental funding and small scholarships and also started working as a teaching assistant. It’s not like a working salaried job, but it’s manageable. This is all of course dependent on where you apply and how much time you want to spend writing grants.

When you’re finished, do you see yourself working in academia? Have you thought that far yet?

I’m undecided. I really love research and I want to stay in a role that allows me to do that. Also, academia is a tough market. So, it depends on what opportunities will be available when I’m done. I would also like to consider working as a research consultant for companies that are interested in media, entertainment, and creative industries.

In our fundraising course in Dallas, we worked with Deep Vellum, which I loved. I researched so much about the publishing industry and what it means to be a small, independent arts organization. I’ve applied a lot of what we learned in the program. It gave me a basis for what I need to know or want to know, and what I want to research.

Is there something I should have asked you that I didn’t?

No, I think we’ve covered it all! However, I would like to add that this journey has taught me the importance of collaboration between industry and academia in driving progress and innovation. There is a lot of value in research partnerships, and there is often funding opportunities for nonprofits, like at MITACS in Quebec, for instance. So, If you’re experiencing issues or noticing areas of work that aren’t working, looking into a research partnership can be a great opportunity!

Chloé in Dallas with MMIAM classmates: Fatou Diagne and Inna Huttunen. Credit: Personal archive.