Doctoral Student

Curtis Kwinyen Chan

Curtis K. Chan is a Ph.D. student in the Organizational Behavior program jointly offered by Harvard Business School and the Department of Sociology at Harvard. Curtis’s research interests include the social and cultural processes of meaning-making, job quality, and inequality as they relate to the lived experiences of workers in organizations and occupational groups.

Currently, Curtis has research in two streams of work. His first stream considers processes of inequality. In an inductive, qualitative case study of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), he theorizes a mechanism called task segregation, where a subgroup of workers is disproportionately allocated to spend more time doing particular tasks within a job. The basis of this theorization is the observation of gender inequality between female and male security screening officers at the TSA, and the disproportionate allocation of female screeners to the task of conducting passenger pat-downs. His second stream of research considers cultural processes of meaning-making. He is conducting an ongoing inductive case study of a consulting firm, examining what makes certain kinds of work meaningful and what role interpretation of organizational communications plays in this meaning-making.

Curtis K. Chan is a Ph.D. student in the Organizational Behavior program jointly offered by Harvard Business School and the Department of Sociology at Harvard. Curtis’s research interests include the social and cultural processes of meaning-making, job quality, and inequality as they relate to the lived experiences of workers in organizations and occupational groups. 

Currently, Curtis has research in two streams of work. His first stream considers processes of inequality. In an inductive, qualitative case study of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), he theorizes a mechanism called task segregation, where a subgroup of workers is disproportionately allocated to spend more time doing particular tasks within a job. The basis of this theorization is the observation of gender inequality between female and male security screening officers at the TSA, and the disproportionate allocation of female screeners to the task of conducting passenger pat-downs. His second stream of research considers cultural processes of meaning-making. He is conducting an ongoing inductive case study of a consulting firm, examining what makes certain kinds of work meaningful and what role interpretation of organizational communications plays in this meaning-making.

Curtis was awarded the 2014 Best Student Paper Award from the Organization and Management Theory (OMT) Division of the Academy of Management (AOM). His research is forthcoming in Administrative Science Quarterly.

Before joining the doctoral program in 2011, Curtis worked in the management consulting industry. Earlier on, he graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College in 2008 with an A.B. in social anthropology and a secondary field in psychology, and he was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society since his junior year. In college, he conducted ethnographic research on the cultural values of street dancers in New England and Miami, and the undergraduate thesis he wrote on this topic under the advising of Professor of Anthropology Michael Herzfeld was awarded a Thomas T. Hoopes Prize for outstanding thesis research. 

  1. Overview

    by Curtis Kwinyen Chan

    Curtis K. Chan is a Ph.D. student in the Organizational Behavior program jointly offered by Harvard Business School and the Department of Sociology at Harvard. Curtis’s research interests include the social and cultural processes of meaning-making, job quality, and inequality as they relate to the lived experiences of workers in organizations and occupational groups. Currently, Curtis has research in two streams of work. His first stream considers processes of inequality. In an inductive, qualitative case study of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), he theorizes a mechanism called task segregation, where a subgroup of workers is disproportionately allocated to spend more time doing particular tasks within a job. The basis of this theorization is the observation of gender inequality between female and male security screening officers at the TSA, and the disproportionate allocation of female screeners to the task of conducting passenger pat-downs. His second stream of research considers cultural processes of meaning-making. He is conducting an ongoing inductive case study of a consulting firm, examining what makes certain kinds of work meaningful and what role interpretation of organizational communications plays in this meaning-making.

    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.