The Journey as the Destination – A Distinguished Scholar-Teacher Lecture

The Journey as the Destination – A Distinguished Scholar-Teacher Lecture 

by | Jun 4, 2018

Rajshree Agarwal, a University of Maryland Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship and the Director of the Ed Snider Center for Enterprise and Markets, spoke last October about entrepreneurship, her research journey, and her collaborations with her students.

The talk, entitled “Fostering Enterprise: The Journey as the Destination,” was her Distinguished Scholar-Teacher lecture. The Distinguished Scholar-Teacher award recognizes UMD faculty who display excellence and passion for both research and teaching. Recipients are chosen by a panel of former awardees and the Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs. Each recipient gives a lecture on their research and career for the Distinguished Scholar-Teacher lecture series.

Agarwal focused on her career path and how her research has been shaped by her colleagues, mentors and students. “I stand here today … in gratitude for all of you, many of you who are here today,” she said. Several times throughout the lecture she directly addressed students and coauthors of hers who were in attendance.

Dr. Agarwal highlighted the evolution of her research interests. She first studied economics, then moved to business strategy, then entrepreneurship, and now focuses on enterprise and markets. She described her goal of discovering why and how new firms are created. She cited Joseph Schumpeter’s ideas of “creative destruction” and related entrepreneurship to Greek mythology, asking, “how did Athena come out of Zeus’ brain?…Where do these entrepreneurial entrants come from?”

Summarizing her research journey, Agarwal said that “industries don’t make decisions, firms don’t make decisions, individuals do — but they take into account not only their operational context, and their abilities, but also their aspirations.”

Dr. Agarwal spoke fondly about her experiences with her students, who she referred to as “my dream team.” “They’re awesome,” she said. “They do make the journey my destination.”

The talk also featured a video of several of her former students, who described working with Agarwal.

Brad Greenwood, now an associate professor of information and decision sciences at University of Minnesota, said that “she doesn’t see different roles on a paper as beneath her.”

“She’s extremely dedicated to the learning process during that partnership,” he said.

Makha Moeen, associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at University of North Carolina, said that “it doesn’t matter whether you are a student, whether you are a junior faculty, which school you are coming from — she listens to you as equal status contributors.”

Moeen and Martin Ganco, assistant professor of management and human resources at University of Wisconsin, agreed that “she matches effort with effort.”

Justin Frake, a UMD doctoral candidate in strategy and entrepreneurship describes how Agarwal taught him to collaborate and synthesize ideas.

“We weaved the sociological and economic theories together,” he said, and “made a better paper than either of us could have made on our own.”

“Rajshree has this hot potato method of writing a paper … it’s totally exhausting but … it allows me to learn how to write a paper better,” Frake said.

Agarwal also commented on her experience with the Ed Snider Center for Enterprise and Markets.

“As the director … I’m fortunate that I was given the opportunity to really think about, ‘what does this mean?’ not just scholarship-wise, but as it relates to applications, as well as it relates to learning and teaching,” she said.

In closing, Agarwal said “my destination is here, not just in this country, but in Maryland, where there is a culture of excellence, [and] colleagues who nurture each other as they strive for excellence … this is the place where I have made my home.”

Nathan Stiff is a University of Maryland student and a freelance reporter.