Marc J Ventresca [marcjventresca]
What is your profession? What is your title printed on your business card?
I work as a research faculty and teacher, based at Oxford University and with various affiliations, some for executive education, some for research. My basic training is in organizational and economic sociology. I had the opportunity to read widely in grad school in the social science, history, and philosophy of science, and I worked with faculty supervisors who themselves were eclectic in their intellectual energies.
My title exemplifies the curious governance arrangements at Oxford. As are most research faculty, I am appointed both in a (social science Division) Department, the Said Business School, and as a fellow of Wolfson College, one of th component colleges of Oxford.
What is expected of you in your job, and how do you accomplish it?
Expectations for faculty vary in some ways in different institutions and between the US and the UK. The formal terms specify teaching of various sorts at high levels of quality, along wiht less well-specified but professionally more impactful expectations about original research and publication. The current round of UK REF also emphasizes research 'impact' as an important criterion, part of a curious ideology of 'value for money' that is animating UK public and policy life. Beyond the institutional expectations are the richly varied ways we all build professional communities to advance ideas we care about, to complete research on issues in the world, and to teach and support younger scholars and professional students (MBAs in my case).
Which goals have you focused on in your professional career?
My own academic career has taken me to a variety of institutions, content areas, and opportunities I would not have anticipated in my early life or even in graduate school. My own purposes were always to satisfy a sense of curiosity about the social world, coupled with early if inchoate sense of social justice. This basis, coupled with acquiring a skill set in social sciences research, allowed me to contribute in an active community of research sociologists.
As as researcher, I had the good fortune to work with researchers and teachers who imagined a richly organizational and empirical form of sociology and who embodied the gist of Weber's spirit of vocation and purpose. I am grateful to these people for the careers they forged and their willingness to engage regularly with us as graduate students.
When I started working in business schools, I had to learn a new idiom of teaching and engagement. in the 1990s and since, b-schools have been important sites for debates about commonwealth as well as individual wealth. This view of how to analyze and understand the changing relations of business and society (and likely culture as well) is a broad frame for much of my current research and teaching.
Do you have a website or blog? How was the process in making it? Does it accomplish the purpose for which it was created?
In the last two years or so, I have started to read and pay attention to blogs and also to new social media. Twitter and similar are fun venues to experiment with short points of view and also to develop 'distributed' longer comments. For me, the social media work in ways similar to teaching -- means to try out ideas, to reframe my thinking, to reconsider what assumptions I start from. I find Twitter also a useful way to tap into different worlds related to my work on system building and innovation and to keep in touch with others who write and think about these issues.
I am a fan of these social media, much as I am for PowerPoint, because when used with a purpose, they provide us new affordances for language and thinking. Pace to all these wonderful colleagues who detest PowerPoint.
How do you feel about speaking in front of an audience? What experience have you had in this arena?
I find teaching nourishing and overall a chance to learn, speak back and forth, and try out ideas. I credit my time at Kellogg Graduate School of Management/ Northwestern and a key set of colleagues there with building my competence as a teacher. Coming out of grad school, I had very let's say preliminary notions about teaching and largely was trying to package XX years of grad school into one MBA lecture. Not a good goal.
After getting beaten up some by MBA evals, I started to find a classroom voice and presence. Colleagues helped regularly and generously. At some point, I found the being-in-front-of-an-audience liberating and lively. I also built content that brought something analytically fresh, actionable, and concept-rich to the students, which is a mix that is important to me.
The opportunity last year to do a TEDx talk sponsored by our Oxford MBAs was a highlight -- bringing my research ideas about 'Be a system builder, not an entrepreneur' to a wider audience and then the YouTube community was a clarifying moment.
Besides your current profession, what other things would you have liked to have been?
Rocket scientist, tango dancer, er, no. I started out thinking I would become a diplomat, studied languages and political philosophy, then bumped into Reager-era efforts to redefine the US state departement and the professional diplomatic corps. Then, I found an engaging vocation in studies of organizations and policy, then as a univerity faculty. Recently, for lots of reasons, I am fascinated by the bits of science I am learning as academic director for an Oxford program that brings doctoral students from the natural and exact sciences into conversation with entrepreneurial MBAs. The forms of knoweldge and the way 'science' works' is increasingly fascinating to me. Would that I had sought out more college geology or biology more.
Thank you for these moments to reflect some on my professional journey.
Marc J Ventresca