Jim Detert knows about courage. He studied workplace courage and leadership for nearly a decade at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, serving as faculty director for Johnson’s leadership initiative and authoring teaching cases and other materials on leadership that have been taught to thousands of students of all ages around the world.
Studying workplace courage and having it are often two different things, but not for Detert, who summoned up some of his own by leaving his long-time academic home to teach at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. His course that launches in the fourth quarter this fall, Defining Moments, examines key moments in the careers of several current leaders.
“Darden has been great,” Detert tells Poets&Quants about his new academic home. “You hear about the absolute devotion to students, the concern for the classroom experience, the overall experience, and that’s certainly what Darden is known for, but really until I was here I don’t think I could fully appreciate the degree to which that really permeates everything.”
MOST NEW HIRES ARE NEW PROFS
Detert is one of 143 professors to start a new job at the Top 20 leading U.S. business schools in 2016-2017. Poets&Quants compiled all the new, newly hired, and visiting professors and compiled them by new employer, field of expertise, and years teaching. Most — 87, or 61% — are newly minted professors, assistant professors, or associate professors.
Harvard Business School led all schools with 18 new hires; Kellogg had 15, and Wharton had 14. NYU’s Stern School of Business had 13, and UCLA’s Anderson School of Management had 10. The school with the fewest new hires was Darden, which welcomed only Jim Detert into its ranks; Dartmouth Tuck had only two, and Berkeley-Haas and Michigan-Ross each brought aboard only three new hires.
Among the more experienced professors to set up shop on a new campus were MIT Sloan’s John Van Reenen, a professor of applied economics who has logged 23 years at the front of college classrooms, including the last 13 at the London School of Economics; Wharton marketing professor Aviv Nevo, who spent the last 19 years instructing classes at Kellogg, UC-Berkeley, and MIT Sloan; and Yale School of Management’s Toby Moskowitz, a finance prof who moved east from Chicago Booth after 18 years. Both Tuck hires, accounting professor Joseph Gerakos and finance professor Gordon Phillips, came with considerable experience: Gerakos spent 19 years at Booth, and Phillips 20 years at USC Marshall.
Not all big changes involved big relocations. Iris Bohnet, the Harvard Kennedy School veteran of 19 years, moved across the Charles River to teach Behavioral Economics for Organizations at the B-school this year. And Yale School of Art’s Michael Bierut and Jessica Helfand moved over to the SOM to partner on a pair of design-related courses for the SOM. Though it was a short move physically, Helfand says, it was a major change philosophically — likening it to “going from Finland to Guatemala.”
SEEDS OF A COURSE BLOOM ON A NEW CAMPUS
Detert, with 19 years teaching at Johnson, Penn State’s Smeal School, and Minnesota’s Carlson School, was among the most experienced professors to get acclimated to a new campus this fall. But he brought some of his old job with him. The seeds for his Defining Moments course were planted during his years at Cornell, he says, when he taught an MBA course titled Becoming a Leader and a core executive course titled Managing and Leading Organizations.
“Over the years I had moved toward ending every course with this idea that we’ve worked on a lot of specific tools but really, as you know at some intuitive level, your career is going to be about whether you have the courage to use these tools at the right moment,” Detert says. “And students had repeatedly said on course evaluations, ‘We should have a course on this topic.’ And that really set the stage for this course now.”
Defining Moments, he says, evolved out of the realization that MBA programs spend a lot of time teaching all sorts of social science concepts, theories, findings, “and realizing that you could really put an ever-increasing number of tools in the MBA student’s tool kit but if, when the defining moments come, they are unable — or more so unwilling — to use them, it really doesn’t matter how big the toolkit is. And so that idea really led me to start a large, comprehensive research project on workplace courage, leading with courage, and the sort of the corollary is this idea of the Defining Moments course.”
In preparing for the course, Detert is embracing his new surroundings. The course will present a series of short cases to students involving real-life leaders from the Darden community and challenges they faced and overcame: “Here’s a situation so-and-so found him or herself in, and then we’ll ask not just what he or she should do but how he or she should do it successfully or competently. Right now I’m interviewing a swath of Darden alums in all different roles and industries to capture defining moments from them, and then to really help students understand their own core values and frames and the issues around which they really want to be able to act successfully — and then also to really practice the kinds of communication and crisis handling and other skills that are necessary to execute those.”
(See the full list of new professors at the top U.S. business schools on Page 3.)
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