Assistant Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship
Olga Hawn, who was nominated for Weatherspoon MBA and Ph.D. Teaching Award in 2017, is not only one of the most popular teachers at the Kenan-Flagler Business School, she is also Faculty Director of The Center for Sustainable Enterprise at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.
“Olga Hawn became the new Faculty Director of the Center for Sustainable Enterprise this academic year,” one nominator said. “Even with this new administrative duty, she has continued to pursue excellence in her research, presenting papers at top conferences, publishing in top journals, and teaching her award-winning classes. This year, 2019, marks the Center’s 20th year and Olga will be chairing and hosting the top academic conference in Corporate Social Responsibility, the Alliance for Research in Corporate Sustainability. Olga is recognized as a rising star here at Kenan-Flagler by tenured faculty for her research and publications, by staff for her strategic vision for the Center, and by students for her classes. She received a 5/5 on both content and teaching from her recent MBA course Strategy and Sustainability.”
Hawn’s research interests lie in strategy and organization theory, business and society, and her work has been published in the Academy of Management Review, Strategic Management Journal, Academy of Management Journal and Research Policy. She earned Ph.D. in strategy and business administration from Duke, a master’s degree in management research from Saïd Business School at Oxford University, and a master’s degree in international business and a BA in economics from the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics. On top of teaching and research, Hawn is also on the board of the Strategic Management Journal and won the Outstanding Strategic Management Journal Editorial Board Member award in 2014.
Current Age: 34
At current institution since what year? 2015
Education: Ph.D. in Strategy from Duke University, MSc in Management Research from Oxford University, MA in International Business and BA in Economics from Russian Plekhanov University of Economics
List of current MBA courses you currently teach: Strategy and Sustainability, Global Immersion Elective in Sustainability and Social Enterprise
TELL US ABOUT YOUR LIFE AS A PROFESSOR:
I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I got a scholarship to go to Oxford for a Master’s of Science in Management Research. It turned out to be a pre-doctoral degree that opened my eyes to this career, especially in terms of research. I then went back to my alma mater in Russia and taught a couple of classes (as a master’s student myself), which confirmed for me that I also enjoyed teaching.
What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?
Using big data, I am working with Ioannis Ioannous (London Business School) and Rodolphe Durand (HEC Paris) to unpack a variety of environmental, social and governance issues that companies around the globe get criticized for and under what conditions they respond to them more substantively. So far we found that they respond more when (a) the focal firm gets criticized on a larger number of issues; (b) when the focal firm is not even in the media for these issues but its peers are; (c) with greater media reach, coverage and severity of the criticism; and (d) when the issues are small in scale, local in scope, independent in nature and involve primary stakeholders (i.e., employees, shareholders, and customers, rather than community and environment).
If I weren’t a business school professor… I would probably be an artist or interior designer. I finished arts school and really like modern/contemporary design. But seriously, I would have taken over my dad’s business and stayed in Kolomna, Russia.
What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? Authenticity
One word that describes my first-time teaching: Strict
Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: Be yourself.
Professor you most admire and why: My former advisor and mentor Will Mitchell (Rotman) – he doesn’t sleep. He has so many co-authors in so many places and so many projects going at the same time, he is simply not human.
What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?
“Let’s get to business” attitude and their desire to make a positive impact on the world
What is most challenging?
Moderating debates: Since I teach sustainability, there are lots of complicated problems and ethical issues that we discuss in a classroom, some of them have no right answer or solution.
Using just one word, describe your favorite type of student: Open-minded
Using just one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Biased
When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Fair
LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM:
What are your hobbies? Bikram yoga, gardening, spending time with my family
How will you spend your summer? Traveling
Favorite place(s) to vacation: Holbox island in Mexico until recently
Favorite book(s): “The Unwomanly Face of War” by Svetlana Alexievich
What is your favorite movie and/or television show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?
I recently really enjoyed watching “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” because of how uplifting and smart (at times) it is. Also, although it probably sounds boring, I can’t wait for “The Game Of Thrones” to come out! It keeps me guessing all the time how it is all connected, and what parallels in history I can make.
Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: I like classical music (due to my Russian background, I guess) but also R&B and dance music.
THOUGHTS OF REFLECTIONS:
If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… Experiential learning. By that, I mean company visits and engagements. I just got back from leading MBA students in a Global Immersion Elective in Ecuador and Bolivia. We spent two weeks visiting businesses and learning firsthand what their challenges are, brainstorming to help them and identifying opportunities. I think this kind of learning is the future and it is not possible to recreate it through AI.
In your opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at doing what?
Implementing sustainability. Some firms still symbolically adopt sustainability and do not integrate it into core functions and areas, so it is hard for environmental, social and governance practices to have a positive impact on the company.
Faculty and administrators say:
“Olga is an amazing professor. She’s an asset at the school with her knowledge and background in sustainability. I’ve taken two classes with her. On, in particular, was a global immersion experience in South America, where we visited organizations and businesses to learn about issues and concepts in sustainability. She obviously cares about the topic of sustainability, and I really appreciate that she takes time to do a travel/study abroad experience with students to guide us in conversations and experiences with real businesses incorporating sustainability around the world – domestically and internationally. In the classroom, she does a great job guiding the discussion and facilitating debate. The classroom is filled with people of different life experiences and political thought, and she has done a wonderful job making the classroom a space for which we can have a healthy conversation to understand the role of business environmentally and socially. She’s also well connected in the world of sustainability, and I thoroughly enjoyed the industry experts and professionals she introduced us to in class to speak to the issues they are facing in the real world. For those who are interested in careers in sustainability, she has also been a great support system and resource for helping us to navigate our careers. Olga has been by far been one of my favorite professors while at Kenan-Flagler. I hope to stay in touch with her years after I graduate!”
“Olga takes a fresh approach to teaching sustainability, mixing experiential and classroom learning. Last May, she took 20+ MBA students to Chile and Peru to see sustainability in action, arranging for visits to non-profits, water treatment plants, and social impact startups. In her Strategy and Sustainability course, she combines lecture and case studies with company visits to Burt’s Bees and Unifi. Olga understands how impactful it is to see the methods she teaches put into action, and does an incredible job of showing students from all industries how sustainability is applicable to them. She has also been a tireless supporter of the Net Impact Club, moderating events and participating in our activities over the course of the year.”
“Olga Hawn became the new Faculty Director of the Center for Sustainable Enterprise this academic year. Even with this new administrative duty, she has continued to pursue excellence in her research, presenting papers at top conferences, publishing in top journals, and teaching her award winning classes. This year, 2019, marks the Center’s 20th year and Olga will be chairing and hosting the top academic conference in Corporate Social Responsibility, the Alliance for Research in Corporate Sustainability. Olga is recognized as a rising star here at Kenan-Flagler by tenured faculty for her research and publications, by staff for her strategic vision for the Center, and by students for her classes. She received a 5/5 on both content and teaching from her recent MBA course Strategy and Sustainability.”