Darden Professor Oversees Prestigious Research Competition

10 October 2012

Who is the boldest and most innovative student thinker in the broad field of management? Whose cutting edge work — done with rigor and relevance — will win this year’s INFORMS/Organization Science Dissertation Proposal Competition? The answer means much to organization science, as the ideas from the winners can advance knowledge in the wide-ranging discipline.

This year’s competition is being overseen by Darden Professor Jared Harris, who was elected to a four-year term on the INFORMS College on Organization Science Executive Committee this past spring. The dissertation proposal competition is the primary responsibility of the Executive Committee, and the highest-profile function of the Organization Science division of INFORMS.

The annual competition is a big deal for graduate students. “It is an aspirational event for most Ph.D. students studying at top programs,” Harris says. “For students, it is an opportunity to put your dissertation ideas in front of a distinguished panel of eight judges, who are always top scholars in the field.”

Remarkably, Darden has two professors who were finalists in the competition as students. Harris himself was a finalist in 2005, while a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota, with his dissertation “Financial Misrepresentation: Antecedents and Performance Effects.” Darden Professor and Batten Institute Executive Director Michael Lenox was also a finalist in 1998, while a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with his dissertation “Agency and Information Costs in the Intra-Firm Diffusion of Practice.”

“The INFORMS dissertation competition is a wonderful opportunity to meet fellow Ph.D. students, many of whom remain close colleagues and friends to this day,” said Lenox. “The competition is also a great opportunity to expose your work at an early stage of your career to a number of leading faculty in the field.”

Being chosen as one of the eight finalists in the competition — now in its 20th year — is one of the highest honors available for graduate students. A total of 86 submissions were entered this year, but only the chosen eight will move on to present to a panel of judges in a single, day-long workshop. During the workshop, the finalists will each have time to present their ideas and receive feedback from the judges. The all-day workshop also provides these top students with an opportunity to interact with a small group of future colleagues. At the workshop, the judges will select a winner and a runner-up.

“The judges are multidisciplinary — strategy, entrepreneurship, organizational behavior, ethics, psychology — and the finalists have to be able to communicate their ideas in a compelling manner to that multidisciplinary audience,” says Harris, who does research on corporate governance and teaches ethics and strategy at Darden.

The competition is fierce but often highlights the best cutting-edge work being done in the field. Being selected as a finalist suggests that a student has proposed a remarkably unusual dissertation. The doctoral candidates “must meet stringent requirements for timely progress, rigor and relevance to the study of organizations,” according to the INFORMS website. “The proposals are judged for their feasibility, thoroughness, rigor and relevance, but also for their innovativeness,” says Harris. “This is a key element of the contest.”

Last year’s winner was Jessica Kennedy of the University of California, Berkeley. Her winning dissertation was titled “Power and Dissent: Implications for Ethics in Organizations.”

The final competition will be held on Saturday, 13 October, in Phoenix, Arizona, at the INFORMS annual meeting.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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