Dear friends:

We’re so thrilled to welcome our 14 new and 47 returning PhD students to campus. After working from home for 16 months, it’s great to be back in Todd Hall! Of course, it’s not so much the building itself as the students, faculty, and staff inside. While Zoom helped us maintain communication tremendously, it’s still not the same. Making an appointment to chat through the computer is not the same as knocking on a door or seeing someone in the hallway.

We’re fortunate in the Carson College of Business that a lot of our research can be conducted from an office (even the “good old days” of PhD students stuck in the library late into the night have been replaced with electronic versions of journals and books.) As a result, many of our students continued to make outstanding progress during the pandemic, culminating with the awarding of nine new doctoral degrees this past spring and summer. Nevertheless, the temporary closing of the Center for Behavioral Business Research lab caused significant disruption to student progress, and we are pleased that it is up and running again.

The other major missing piece during the pandemic was the myriad of informal conversations that occur during normal times. The importance of being able to share ideas with classmates or simply to converse with them cannot be overstated. Certainly, when I was a student, sharing joy and pain in real time was so important to my psyche. And when my advisor wanted to see me, he wanted to see me now. His every bit of advice, however painful at times, was invaluable to my progress.

Now that I’m on the other side of that relationship, I very much want to see my advisees regularly. I think it’s important to keep encouraging them to make progress, but I have also found that informal conversations over lunch or in the hallways often lead to breakthrough research ideas. From my experience, many little conversations lead to more creativity than one major brainstorming session.

Moving forward, an unintended consequence of COVID-19 is a plethora of ideas for business research focused on managing organizations during pandemics or other major disruptions. (I’m working on two such projects myself.) From supply chains, to working from home, to surviving in the hospitality industry when nobody is traveling, many new issues have arisen that are ripe for deep study. Ideally, several of our own PhD students will examine some of these issues so that during the next pandemic (perhaps in another 100 years?), organizations will be better able to adapt nimbly. Sometimes out of tragedy, opportunity emerges.

Chuck Munson,
PhD Program Director