August 05, 2022 • By The UCI Paul Merage School of Business
The Academy of Management has recognized two of the Merage School’s most distinguished professors for their contributions to the teaching and research of business strategy.
Professors Philip Bromiley and Margarethe Wiersema will be honored at the 82nd annual meeting of the Academy of Management, which takes place from August 4 to 10 in Seattle.
Wiersema will receive the 2022 STR Irwin Outstanding Educator Award, which recognizes an established strategy scholar who has demonstrated a long-term commitment to and expertise in educating strategy students and have made strong contributions to MBA education. Bromiley was elected a Fellow of the Academy. Both were chosen from among the Academy’s 18,000 members.
Additionally, the Merage School had a record-high 15 presentations accepted for this year’s meeting.
“Despite the twists and turns of the pandemic, our faculty’s research productivity has remained strong, and our contributions to scholarship are not going unnoticed,” said Professor Emerita Mary Gilly, who is also Associate Dean of Research and Doctoral Studies.
Being elected a fellow is one of the highest honors that the Academy offers. For Bromiley, it’s evidence of his commitment to research over his career.
For four decades, Bromiley has spent much of his time trying to decipher the inner workings of powerful organizations.
“We have to understand how these organizations that dominate our world actually operate,” Bromiley said. “A lot of what thrives out there is based on beliefs about how the world works.
“For example, the pressure to have more diverse top management teams partially rests on a belief that more diverse management teams are more effective. That's an empirical question that a company is never going to study, it’s not a company's problem to study that. That question, whether more diverse teams improve or decrease performance, is a critical issue in society. So, if we want to understand how this really works, we need to study that.”
Bromiley is particularly proud of his contributions to the development of behavioral research and strategy under the Behavioral Theory of the Firm tradition, which provides a realistic characterization of firms as a basic for strategic management studies.
His drive to do research hasn’t slowed over the years. He’s usually working on about six projects at once. One of the projects he’s currently working on analyzes the impact of ethnic diversity on top management teams. He’s also doing some work on economies of scale in production facilities, specifically focusing on whether increasing or decreasing the number of lines in a production facility increases or decreases the plant’s efficiency.
“I’m always doing a pile of different things,” he said. “I get bored if I don’t.”
Bromiley’s ongoing goal has been to grow an approach to understanding organizations that was created by Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon and James March in the mid-1900s. The two renowned experts helped push the study of organizations into mainstream academia with their book, “Organizations.”
Bromiley said the area of research used to be nearly defunct, but it was resurrected by researchers like him who saw value in the book’s findings. Bromiley helped in its resurgence by figuring out a testing methodology that used archival data. Also, Bromiley’s thesis was one of the first that used econometrics to research the Behavioral Theory of the Firm. Econometrics utilizes statistical methods to develop theories or test existing hypotheses in economics or finance.
“The methodology I developed made it easier to do research on it, and it made it easier to communicate the research,” he said. “That's basically what I've done my entire career, to sort of build on that.”
Bromiley said it is unusual for two professors from the Merage School to have received prestigious honors from the Academy in the same year because there are hundreds of organizations that could have been given the awards.
The awards are confirmation that the Strategy and Entrepreneurship academic area has significantly evolved over the last few decades.
“It has become an exceedingly good group of scholars,” Bromiley said of the area.
Wiersema was chosen for the Outstanding Educator Award due to the rigor and success of her courses, the breadth of outlets that her research and teaching activities have been disseminated to, and many statements of support from colleagues and students. She was nominated by her colleagues for the award.
Wiersema has been teaching strategy for 30 years at UCI, using a case approach, which stems from Harvard.
“It's a very different approach to teaching business,” she said. “But for things like strategy, it works really well. Strategy is all about the overview of the company rather than a very specific technical aspect. So, if you're trying to get people to think strategically, you have to bring in real life organizations and have them understand what they face and how they have to make decisions.”
Wiersema also utilizes the Socratic approach to teach cases, which requires the instructor to ask questions to generate discussion in the classroom. She said that most professors at UCI use a more traditional lecture-based form of teaching, so students tend to be unfamiliar with her teaching method when they initially enter her classroom.
The approach can make students uncomfortable because they can be called on at any moment, but it requires them to be alert and up-to-date on the issues that are being discussed in class.
“The reason I use that approach is that it forces learning,” Wiersema said. “So the learning takes place in the classroom, not during reading or studying before the class. All of the learning really takes place in the classroom.”
In addition to her contribution to teaching, Wiersema has made a foundational impact at UCI through helping devise the strategy of the School over the years.
When she came to the School in 1987, the Merage School was not ranked or well known. Considering her background, Wiersema knew that the School needed a solid strategy to improve its reputation, so she and a colleague put together a proposal which led to a strategic retreat where the faculty developed a strategy for the School that focused on technology management. Due to this strategic focus, applications to the MBA programs increased substantially in quality and quantity over the years, resulting in the School being ranked as a Top 50 Business School. Then in 2017, she and a colleague led the charge to develop the Merage School’s current strategy around developing Leaders for a Digitally Driven World. The implementation of the strategy required a substantial revision to the core curriculum across all programs which Wiersema oversaw. UCI Paul Merage School of Business’s programs are unique in providing students with the strategic thinking skills and understanding of how digital technologies are disrupting industries and impacting companies’ competitive positions and operations.
In a video that was created for the awards ceremony, many of Wiersema’s colleagues shared their high regard for her.
“What's remarkable about Margarethe is her dedication to students and her work as a leader here at the School,” said John Joseph, Associate Professor of Strategy at the Merage School. “On the one hand, she successfully mentors her students through her particular brand of, I would call it tough love, but with an emphasis on the latter. And at the same time, she's a leader at the School who works damn hard and mostly behind the scenes.”
Deborah Wing, a former student of Wiersema’s and a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UC Irvine, said in the video that Wiersema taught her about the importance of planning, monitoring and analyzing progress, and reviewing plans and strategies so that organizations meet their goals and objectives.
“Her classes were intense, some might even say demanding, though no student I knew complained about the challenge she presented to us,” Wing said. “Most, including myself, were enthusiastic about the curriculum and inspired by the probing questions Margarethe asked in preparation for her lectures or during them.”
For more information on the Academy of Management awards ceremony, visit https://aom.org/events/annual-meeting.