Call for Applications: CASBS Summer Institute on “Organizations and Their Effectiveness”

Fellowship Opportunity

Application portal can be accessed starting November 27, 2018, at

Summer Institute for Behavioral and Social Scientists
Organizations and Their Effectivness 
July 8 through July 20, 2019

Robert Gibbons (, economics and management, MIT
Woody Powell (, education and sociology, Stanford University

The fourth annual CASBS summer institute on Organizations and Their Effectiveness will occur from July 8 through July 20, 2019 at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences on the Stanford University campus. Fifteen fellowships will be awarded to cover tuition, room and board, and travel.

We will begin reviewing completed applications on December 17, 2018. The application portal will remain open until January 14, 2019. Fellowship awards will be announced by email no later than February 22, 2019.

Organizations are all around us: not just firms, plants, and work groups, but also hospitals,schools, and governments. Furthermore, by construing an “organization” as something that can be first organized and then managed, one can also include certain contractual relationships—not only between firms (such as some hand-in-glove supply relationships, joint ventures, and alliances) but also between a government and a firm (such as some regulatory relationships and public-private partnerships). Indeed, noting that the examples above are all opportunities to collaborate, one can move beyond formal organization charts and formal contracts to include communities, networks, social movements and other less formal institutions as organizations.

Given such a broad domain, a huge fraction of economic activity, as well as much political and social activity, is undertaken in, with, or by organizations. Put differently, if organizations are how we collaborate, it is important to get them right! For example, the gains from improving production activities and supply chains in low-income countries could be enormous. Also, learning from the “bright spots” among hospitals, schools, and governments, and understanding how these successes might be spread, could be immensely valuable. Finally, although industrial productivity in high-income countries may seem mundane to some, improving the effectiveness of such firms might nonetheless allow substantial improvements in the quality of life—both for the workforces in these firms and for the communities that experience the products and externalities these firms produce.

If organizational effectiveness is so important for innovation and social impact, one might think that academics would be studying the issue actively. To some extent, this is true, but the field is badly fragmented: different disciplines operate mostly in isolation; many professional schools focus on only their own kind of organization (e.g., hospitals, schools, public agencies, businesses). Meanwhile, social-science departments often regard organizational effectiveness as outside their purview; and doctoral training in professional schools sometimes lacks the depth available in social-science departments.

As one response to this situation, the summer institute begins with presentations about how different disciplines approach the study of organizations—about a day each on economics and sociology, and introductions to ethnography and political science. The second week includes several day-long visits from senior faculty who discuss both their fields and their own work.

Throughout both weeks there are frequent group discussions and group projects (“hacks”) on thorny organizational ideas and problems, as well as dinner conversations with scholars and practitioners who have been deeply involved in the worlds of politics, the law, journalism, and business. In sum, the summer institute is a very intensive experience.

Beyond the directors, the full-time participants will be young scholars (ranging from late-stage graduate students to advanced assistant professors) whose careers studying organizations are underway, and who have demonstrated an interest in and an aptitude for expanding their thinking about organizations towards other disciplines.

Those eligible to apply include advanced graduate students and junior faculty from the social and behavioral sciences and allied professional schools. We are also interested in applications from scholars affiliated with four-year colleges and with colleges and universities attended predominately by minority students.

Accepted applicants will be expected to come prepared by having read a syllabus of about 30 key papers and surveys.

The Center is located on a hillside overlooking the Stanford University campus. Excellent local library resources will be available to the participants. Comfortable studies in beautiful surroundings will be provided.

Admitted applicants will be offered a fellowship that will fully cover all expenses, including transportation (within the usual university-mandated constraints on travel expenses). Lodging will be provided and meals will be covered. Though not required, any financial contribution from a participant’s home institution would be greatly appreciated.

The first two pieces of the application are only an indication of interest and are due on December 15, 2018: (i) a cover letter providing contact information and the name of the recommendation writer; (ii) a curriculum vitae (for faculty, this should include not only research but also courses taught; for doctoral students, not only research but also courses taken).

The second two parts of the application are due on January 15, 2019: (iii) a two-page essay explaining how the institute will advance the applicant’s research; and (iv) one letter of recommendation, which will be treated confidentially and submitted through our secure application system.

Gibbons and Powell both have one foot in their respective disciplines and the other in professional schools. Gibbons has appointments in the Sloan School of Management and the Economics Department at MIT, and he regularly teaches organizational economics to PhD students from economics and a variety of disciplines. Powell has an appointment in the Graduate School of Education at Stanford, as well as sociology, business, engineering, and communication. He, too, teaches an organization theory seminar annually that attracts PhD students from more than a half dozen departments and schools. Both Gibbons and Powell have previously been CASBS fellows, and co-directed previous summer institutes at CASBS (including this summer institute in 2016-18). Additional guest senior faculty will be likeminded scholars from other social science disciplines.

Consuelo Amat, Political Science, Yale and Stanford – “I learned an immense amount and enjoyed every moment. My scholarly career now has a strong link to a community of scholars – organizational scholars – that I did not have before.” (2016)

Charles Angelucci, Economics, Columbia Business School – “Allow me to thank you once more for two *fantastic* weeks. I have chosen to be an academic because of these (rare) moments. I feel truly fortunate and am immensely grateful. Many of the readings have made a deep impression on me and I have written down at least a dozen ideas for potential future projects. I have no doubt that I will embark on a few on these projects (two in particular I cannot stop thinking about). I hope one day to be able to give to others what you have given us.” (2018)

Angela Aristidou, Organizational Behavior, Warwick Business School – “We received encouragement to think beyond disciplinary boundaries. This understanding changes one’s mind on what a scholarly career should aim at: big ideas and real world impact. The effect of the CASBS summer institute is like a “greenhouse effect”: thinking that would otherwise take years to develop, is expedited through the purposeful interactions within the group, and the targeted and immediate feedback to budding ideas by Woody and Bob.” (2017)

Valentina Assenova, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania – “The institute – and meeting all of the amazing scholars with whom it has been a privilege to interact these last two weeks – has completely changed the way that I view my work and my purpose as a researcher. I have realized that the potential audience for work in organizations is much larger and more diverse than I imagined. This realization has given me inspiration to write more simply and use less jargon, to facilitate greater inter-disciplinary collaboration and make it easier for a broader audience to read my work. I have also realized that I can really benefit from sitting in on seminars in political science and economics at my university and interacting with a diverse set of scholars. Some of the biggest breakthroughs in organizational sociology have come from people with very open minds and eclectic interests outside of the canon of accepted work and methods.” (2017)

Richard Benton, Industrial Relations, University of Illinois – “The informal discussions with participants led me to think about my own work and career differently. Meeting young scholars,at a similar career stage as myself, across disciplines also exposed me to more career opportunities and pathways within academia. The structure of the cross-disciplinary groups worked well – the discussions of what could be borrowed from other disciplines was a great invitation for us to really engage with work outside our home discipline but avoid growing defensive or somehow enforcing disciplinary boundaries.” (2017)

Christof Brandtner, Sociology, Stanford – “Organizations nerd camp was the best two weeks of my academic life thus far.” (2016)

Giulia Cappellaro, Social and Political Sciences, Bocconi University, Milan – “Besides the what of research, I also learned important aspects of the how to do research. The institute fosters an open dialogue where ideas and concepts are analyzed and reanalyzed through multiple lens over two weeks and this allowed developing a critical and well-rounded understanding beyond single disciplines.” (2018)

Jillian Chown, Organizational Behavior, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern – “The institute encouraged me to think across boundaries and to be less conservative in my research objectives. It also encouraged me to think longer term” (2018)

Russell Funk, Sociology, University of Minnesota Business School – “The summer institute introduced me to (and got me excited about) current work in organizational economics. Even though I could have accessed relevant materials before hand, the summer institute gave me the opportunity to do the reading, and most importantly, learn it together with outstanding colleagues and leaders in the field.” (2016)

Claudine Gartenberg, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania – “This institute has definitely made a large impact. First and foremost, the quality of the research was so incredible that it was very inspiring. I have seen so much satisficing over the years to get numbers of publications up, or get into conferences or get citations – it is such a breath of fresh air to see such beautiful research that has intellectual value for itself, and that makes you understand the world differently after you read it and really think about it. I want to make sure my research can have similar impact over the long run.” (2017)

Manuel Grieder, Economics, ETH Zurich – “I enjoyed these two weeks immensely, it was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun, and I am excited about putting the new ideas developed during these two weeks to work in my own research. My perspective on organizational research got both broader and deeper. I believe I will benefit for a long time to come from my participation in the workshop.” (2016)

Jennifer Hadden, Political Science, University of Maryland – It is unlikely that I would have encountered this kind of discussion at my institution, where disciplines tend to work in silos. I appreciated that this interdisciplinary conversation was both substantive and meaningful, but also conducted in a spirit of genuine openness.” (2017)

Mai Hassan, Political Science, University of Michigan – “The ideas/approaches that were both new to me and the most useful for my research are those that focus on the importance of interorganizational dynamics. Before this fortnight, I hadn’t thought too much about relational contracts within and between organizations, and how relationships are built/sustained, and how they vary. I could probably have learned about this at my home school, but I didn’t know what I should’ve been looking for and I wouldn’t have learned it in the same way.” (2018)

Dan Honig, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University- “These two weeks felt about as open and collaborative as with any group I’ve ever been exposed to. I take away a sense there are many others engaged in similar efforts to my own, interested in borrowing (and stealing) from across traditional boundaries in pursuit of knowledge and tools for better understanding the world.” (2018)

Hongyi Li, Economics, University of New South Wales – “I found the mix of activities to be a fantastic combination. The summer institute allowed us to develop a clear sense of each disciplinary approach and its strengths. It then showed how an interdisciplinary approach – combining ideas and techniques from multiple perspectives in tackling difficult organizational problems – may add immense value, especially for applied problems where organizational leaders must put insights into practice. I plan to continue to engage with organizational research from other disciplines in my scholarship – both by “stealing” valuable conceptual insights and by being more open-minded about methodological choices in my own work.” (2017)

Alessandro Piazza, Strategy, Rice University – “The institute encouraged me to think more broadly and to tear down more disciplinary walls, adapting a more comprehensive perspective. It is incredibly easy to get lost in the minutia of academic life and lose track of the bigger picture. My two weeks at CASBS encouraged me to keep an eye on the important problems, rather than just the countless demands of an academic job.” (2018)

Henning Piezunka, Strategy, INSEAD, France – “The institute was incredibly rich and refreshing. I learned about concepts that were completely new to me, and also saw ideas that I already knew in a new light.” (2018)

Mike Powell, Strategy, Kellogg School, Northwestern – “My view of interdisciplinary research has changed a lot as a result of this summer institute. In the past, interdisciplinarity seemed sold as an objective in itself, rather than as a means to achieve an understanding of complex social phenomena by going beyond my own discipline’s boundaries. This experience will make me much more likely to find common ground with other academics who are studying fundamentally similar questions but through different lenses.” (2018)

Andrea Pozas-Loyo, Law, National Autonomous University of Mexico – “ I learned not only new ideas and approaches, but I think I acquired a complete new way of thinking about problems I’ve been working on for years. I found all the visitors and organizational leaders very inspiring and thought provoking. I also deeply appreciated the presence of women leaders.” (2018)

Chris Rea, Public Policy, Ohio State – “The workshop was absolutely not a space for intellectual boxing matches, to see whose ideas could knock down the competition and better explain this or that about the way the world works. Instead, it was a space for rabid crossdisciplinary stealing, intellectual construction, and collaborative, collective inquiry using lenses from across the social sciences in service of understanding how organizations work, where they come from, and how we might make them work better. I can’t imagine a better way to spend two weeks.” (2017)

Celene Reynolds, Sociology, Yale University – “It was an incredible experience- the best two weeks of my academic life. I had high expectations going in, but they were exceeded in every respect. The group was exceptional. The vibe was not at all competitive; it was clear that we were all there to learn from one another and to build a community. I loved hearing how people from different disciplines responded to the ideas- this was educational in itself” (2018)

Erica Robles-Anderson, Media, Culture and Society, New York University – “I think one of the most important aspects of this workshop was settling in to embrace the kind of scholarly career I’m going to have. Bob and Woody, and all the guest chefs are expert border crossers; all have a sparkle in their eye. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to see people really dive into their enthusiasms, work hard, and keep smiling. We think a lot in academia about the field changing ideas, but this felt like getting a moment to absorb the habitus of field changers, folks invested in a way of being as part of the scholarly life.” (2018)

Ben Schneer, Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School – “These two weeks reminded me that ultimately my career should be about exchanging ideas and trying to get people to think about things in a new way. It also reminded me that it can be a social / collaborative endeavor. Especially as someone just starting out, I think it is easy to focus myopically on cranking out work and to lose sight of what the larger goals are. This experience reminds me of those ideals.” (2017)

Daniela Scur, Economics, Oxford and Sloan School of Management, MIT – “I feel a lot less alone, and look forward to many interesting discussions with my fellow scholars in the future.”(2018)

Aaron Shaw, Communication Studies, Northwestern – “I enjoyed and benefited from every aspect of the summer institute, including the challenging conversations, the generous mentorship of the leaders, the collaborative spirit of the participants, and the extraordinary support of the center staff. As junior faculty, the opportunities I have for sustained engagement with big ideas in a small group of extraordinary interlocutors are limited. I am deeply grateful to have been a part of the institute.” (2016)

Melissa Valentine, Work, Technology, and Organization, Stanford School of Engineering – “I do interdisciplinary work, but with computer scientists. I think this institute has made me crave the discipline and creativity that can come from thinking hard across disciplines. The institute made me want to be a deeper and more reflective scholar.” (2016)

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