Doctoral Student

Curtis Kwinyen Chan

I am a Ph.D. Candidate in the Organizational Behavior program jointly offered by Harvard Business School and the Department of Sociology at Harvard University. I am an ethnographer and field researcher studying how people experience and interpret their work and cultural contexts, as well as how this shapes inequality and organizational outcomes like normative control. I specialize in utilizing in-depth, inductive field studies—including studies of screeners at the Transportation Security Administration and consultants at a strategy consultancy—to discover and theorize novel, hidden, and nuanced processes in these areas of inquiry. I was awarded the 2014 Best Student Paper Award from the Organization and Management Theory (OMT) Division of the Academy of Management (AOM). My scholarly research is published in Administrative Science Quarterly and the Academy of Management Annals, with written pieces also appearing in the Academy of Management Best Paper Proceedings, Work and Occupations, and the Industrial and Labor Relations Review. 

Please see my personal website for my CV and other information.

  1. Overview

    by Curtis Kwinyen Chan

    I am an ethnographer and field researcher studying how people experience and interpret their work and cultural contexts, as well as how this shapes inequality and organizational outcomes like normative control. I specialize in utilizing in-depth, inductive field studies to discover and theorize novel, hidden, and nuanced processes in these areas of inquiry. Currently, I focus on three research streams: (1) how organizational culture is double-edged; (2) processes and mechanisms of work inequality; and (3) the role of occupations and professions in people’s lived experiences. With an eye towards harnessing theoretically generative field sites, I conduct my research across a variety of occupational contexts, including occupations that are knowledge-intensive (e.g., consulting), highly routinized (e.g., security screening), or informal (e.g., street dancers). I also conduct my research in a range of organizational settings, including a bureaucratized government agency as well as a non-elite consulting firm that strongly featured culture in its recruiting process. My research contributes to literatures on culture, organization theory, inequality, and the sociology of work and occupations. I was awarded the 2014 Best Student Paper Award from the Organization and Management Theory (OMT) Division of the Academy of Management (AOM). My scholarly research is published in Administrative Science Quarterly and the Academy of Management Annals, with written pieces also appearing in the Academy of Management Best Paper Proceedings, Work and Occupations, and the Industrial and Labor Relations Review. Please see my personal website (www.curtiskchan.com) and CV (on my personal website).

    Keywords: qualitative research; ethnography; corporate culture; organizational behavior; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Theory; Working Conditions; Consulting Industry;

  2. Transportation Security Officers’ Work, Motivations, and Practices Study

    by Curtis Kwinyen Chan

    Because of its unique history, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is a strategic setting to explore employees' possible distinct and evolving relation to their work.  Since its inception in the wake of 9/11, the TSA has hired thousands of individuals, many of which have joined at the Transportation Security Officer (TSO) level. These TSOs comes from a variety of backgrounds. The goal of this study is to better understand the TSOs relation to their work, particularly variations in such relations.
  3. The Meaning-Making of Meaningful Work

    by Curtis Kwinyen Chan

    This stream of research considers cultural processes of meaning-making. In an ongoing inductive case study of a consulting firm, I examine what makes certain kinds of work meaningful and what role the interpretation of organizational communications plays in this meaning-making.