20 Dec 2016

Five Harvard Business School Doctoral Students Win Prestigious Research Awards


The Harvard Business School Doctoral Programs and their faculty chair, David Scharfstein, the School’s Edmund Cogswell Converse Professor of Finance and Banking, have announced four recipients of the 2016 Wyss Awards for Excellence in Doctoral Research as well as one winner of the Martin Awards for Excellence in Business Economics. The prizes are presented each year based on excellence in innovative dissertation research.

Wyss Award for Excellence in Doctoral Research

Andrew Brodsky (DBA, Organizational Behavior)

Brodsky’s research focuses broadly on workplace communication and explores topics such as employee voice (idea raising), managerial communication, and virtual communication. Utilizing data collected from diverse samples, including an international school system, a Big Four accounting firm, call centers, and a technology company, he examines which communication strategies are most effective for achieving work-based goals.

Brodsky’s current projects on managerial communication involve testing the most effective ways to frame incentives and work tasks to increase employee productivity and satisfaction. He is also studying the factors that drive employees to challenge the status quo in their organizations, and how they can best communicate their ideas persuasively to resistant superiors. Lastly, he is exploring how communication technologies are changing the nature of work-based interactions, and how resulting technology-based communication obstacles can be overcome. Across the various domains, Brodsky consistently finds that employees and managers alike unknowingly utilize communication strategies that end up undermining their own goals.

Curtis K. Chan (PH.D., Organizational Behavior)

Chan’s research examines how organizational culture can be double-edged—that is, how a strategic, intentional use of an organizational cultural resource can have both intended and unintended effects. In a two-year ethnographic study of consultants at a strategy consultancy, incorporating interviews, participant observation, and archival analysis, he induces a process model that shows how the ambiguity of a cultural expression can allow it to be double-edged. He finds that an ambiguous expression can powerfully resonate with a broad swath of organizational members, but members can come to interpret the ambiguous expression in ways that diverge from what managers intended.

Given the proliferation of ambiguous expressions in organizational communications of their mission, culture, and identity—such as “impact,” “value,” or “innovation”—Chan’s research suggests that managers consider potential unintended consequences due to audiences’ divergent interpretations around the expression. His broader research agenda seeks to use field research to illuminate how people’s interpretations of their work and organizational contexts can relate to how meaningful they find their work and to patterns of workplace inequality.

Ryann Manning (PH.D., Organizational Behavior)

Manning seeks to understand the organizational and contextual factors that shape shared understandings of right and wrong and influence both individual and collective behavior. She uses a combination of in-depth qualitative field research and visual and textual archival data to examine moral action at multiple levels of analysis. In one study, she examines how culture, space, and emotion shape moral decision making and action by nurses providing care to critically ill children in public pediatric hospital wards in Sierra Leone. In another, she examines how Sierra Leone’s global diaspora communities mobilized to respond to the unprecedented public health crisis caused by Ebola.

Ovul Sezer (PH.D., Organizational Behavior)

Sezer's research offers the first empirical investigations of three impression management tactics: humblebragging, or bragging masked by a complaint or humility; backhanded compliments, or praise that draws comparison with a negative standard, and namedropping, or the casual mentioning of social ties with high-status people. Using datasets from social media, job interviews, and diary studies, she documents the ubiquity of these strategies in real life across several domains.

In laboratory and field experiments, Sezer simultaneously examines the underlying motives for these self-presentation strategies and others’ perceptions of these strategies—allowing for an analysis of their efficacy—as assessed by the opinions targets hold of the would-be self-presenter. Her research contributes to the study of self-presentation by identifying and unpacking ubiquitous yet previously unexamined strategies, generating theory about the motives underlying self-presentation strategies, as well as social and behavioral consequences.

Martin Award for Excellence in Doctoral Student Research in Business Economics

William F. Diamond (PH.D., Business Economics)

Diamond's research develops a model of how the financial system is organized to most effectively create safe assets and analyzes its implications for asset prices, capital structure, and macroeconomic policy. In the model, financial intermediaries choose to invest in the lowest risk portfolio available in order to issue safe assets while minimizing their reliance on costly equity financing. The model provides a general equilibrium framework that explains why banks invest almost exclusively in debt, why risk is priced more expensively in debt markets than in equity markets, and why banks are much more highly levered than non-financial firms.

In addition, the model explains how a growing demand for safe assets may have fueled the 2000’s subprime boom and illustrates the effects of the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing policies on risk taking in the financial sector and its macroeconomic implications.

About the Awards

The Wyss Awards are named in honor of Hansjörg Wyss (MBA 1965), who established the Hansjörg Wyss Endowment for Doctoral Education in 2004. The Wyss Endowment supports a broad range of efforts to strengthen the HBS Doctoral Programs, including fellowships and stipends for doctoral students, increased support for field research, new doctoral course development, teaching skills training, and the renovation of doctoral facilities on campus.

The Roger Martin Fund for Doctoral Research was established in 2006 through the generosity of Roger Martin (MBA 1981), former dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. The fund was created in memory of HBS professor John Lintner, a world-renowned expert in finance and one of Martin’s mentors. Harvard Business School grants the Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) in five areas of study: accounting and management, marketing, management, strategy, and technology and operations management. It also offers Ph.D. programs in collaboration with the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in business economics, health policy management, and organizational behavior. At any given time, approximately 130 HBS doctoral students are completing course work or working on their dissertations at the School.


Cullen Schmitt

About Harvard Business School

Founded in 1908 as part of Harvard University, Harvard Business School is located on a 40-acre campus in Boston. Its faculty of more than 250 offers full-time programs leading to the MBA and PhD degrees, as well as more than 175 Executive Education programs, and Harvard Business School Online, the School’s digital learning platform. For more than a century, faculty have drawn on their research, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and their passion for teaching, to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. The School and its curriculum attract the boldest thinkers and the most collaborative learners who will go on to shape the practice of business and entrepreneurship around the globe.