Assistant Professor of Organization and Management
Emory University, Goizueta Business School
For Wesley Longhofer, business school isn’t just a place to learn how to land a posh job or run a growing business. Instead, this Emory professor views it as a “catalyst” designed to drive change and serve the greater society.
“As professional schools, business schools have the obligation to ensure business leaders do more good and less harm. And they are producing some of the best research in my field.”
Count Longhofer among those researchers. His passions include climate change, organizational sociology, and NGOs. Just six years into his teaching career, his research has already been featured in the American Sociological Review, Social Forces, and Sociological Science and Scientific Reports. He even managed to land the mother of all guest speakers for a class: His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.
At the same time, Longhofer has emerged as one of Goizueta’s most respected professors at nearly every level. This year, he received the Emory Williams Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award. Two years ago, he ran the table at Goizueta, landing the Alumni Award for Excellence in Research, the Adler Prize for Excellence in Teaching, the BBA Distinguished Educator Award, and the Outstanding Faculty Leader in Service Award from Omicron Delta Kappa.
At current institution since what year? 2012
Education: PhD, Sociology, University of Minnesota, 2011
List of courses you currently teach: Business and Society, Social Enterprise in Nicaragua
Twitter handle: @WesleyLonghofer (but I don’t use it)
TELL US ABOUT YOUR LIFE AS A PROFESSOR
“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…I realized that business schools can be a catalyst for change. As professional schools, business schools have the obligation to ensure business leaders do more good and less harm. And they are producing some of the best research in my field.”
What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?
I’m currently working on two book projects. With some terrific collaborators, one examines the distribution of carbon pollution among the world’s power plants to better understand how we can effectively mitigate climate change. Another project examines what happens to the nonprofits and social enterprises that high school students found once they matriculate into college. It is still in the early stages – so stay tuned!
If I weren’t a business school professor…
Journalist or children’s book author.
What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?
Maybe my shoes.
One word that describes my first time teaching:
Enlightening. (I was mistakenly assigned the business yoga room. There were no desks – only yoga mats!)
If your teaching style/classroom experience had a theme song, what would it be?
“Money Changes Everything” by The Smiths. The lack of lyrics leaves the provocative title open to interpretation.
As a b-school professor, what motivates you?
Research. We are lucky that we get to spend so much time unlocking puzzles about organizations that then – hopefully — have relevance for business and society. And I love students who are curious about the world and think audaciously about how to improve it.
Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor:
We don’t all wear suits when we teach.
Professor you most admire and why:
Too many to name. I’ve been fortunate to have learned from some amazing people. But if you had asked who I still go to with questions, then it would probably be my mom.
What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?
Business students are very action-oriented and are not easily discouraged, which can be energizing for a sociologist like myself.
What is most challenging?
Students want a lot of advice about jobs – and my last non-academic job was as a butcher’s apprentice in high school.
Using just one word, describe your favorite type of student:
Using just one word, describe your least favorite type of student:
What is the most impressive thing one of your students has done?
Too many to choose from! A student of mine recently won a $100,000 prize for developing rapid-response Ebola test strips — and then donated it all to a local Atlanta high school.
What is the least favorite thing one has done?
One student recently said I look like Ed Sheeran.
What does a student need to do to get an A in your class?
Ask thoughtful questions about corporations in society and be comfortable with complicated and uneasy answers.
When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as…
Reasonable and relatively efficient.
But I would describe myself as…
Sisyphean. It never seems to end.
Fill in the blank: “If my students can understand why even the best of intentions can bring unintended consequences, then I’ve done my job as their professor.”
LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM
Fun fact about yourself:
Growing up in Kansas, most of my childhood memories involve either basketball or tornadoes. I’ve also never taken a business class.
What are your hobbies?
Cooking, writing, and college basketball.
How will you spend your summer?
Writing a book and preparing for the arrival of our second daughter.
Favorite place to vacation:
The North Shore of Oahu.
Two recent favorites are Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan and Darktown by Thomas Mullen.
What is your favorite movie and/or television show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?
The Wire. Required watching for those interested in broken institutions and the people working tirelessly to fix them.
Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist:
Music that reminds me of a specific period in my life. The Hold Steady got me through graduate school, Otis Redding and Springsteen are fixtures in my marriage, and my daughter loved Kanye West as a baby.
Bucket list item #1:
Hiking through the Torres del Paine National Park with my family.
THOUGHTS OF REFLECTION
What professional achievement are you most proud of?
It is not my achievement, but I am really proud of the work that we have done at Social Enterprise @ Goizueta. In addition to our research and coursework, we run an Atlanta-based entrepreneurship accelerator and take students to visit coffee farms in Central America and living wage garment factories in the Dominican Republic. And we are able to do so because we have such an awesome and dedicated team.
What is your most memorable moment as a professor?
In 2013, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was a guest speaker in my class. It was an incredibly inspiring and humbling experience and I am so thankful to Emory for making it happen. It was also the only time (so far) that I had undercover police officers in my class.
If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…
Honest discussions about inequality as an urgent business problem.
And much less of this…
In your opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at doing what?
Being more proactive on climate change. A lot of people remain worried that companies will slow down or retreat in their climate efforts in the current political environment. The smart ones will continue pushing and innovating.
Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would be like for you?
Issues that tend to get covered in social enterprise electives would get more coverage in core courses. Why wait until your last semester to talk about inequality or a living wage?
DON’T MISS: THE WORLD’S 40 BEST BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSORS UNDER THE AGE OF 40
Comments or questions about this article? Email us.