Spreading the Seeds of Knowledge

By Nancy Moffitt

Fall_2005_CoverWharton educates the professors whose teaching and research are transforming business around the world.

As a young engineer managing crews of steel and petrochemical workers in his native Monterrey, Mexico, Jaime Alonso Gomez found that he worried as much about his employees’ ability to advance and better their lives as the engineering tasks at hand.

SeedsFor Gomez, GrW’90 (Wharton PhD ’90), this urge to focus on the personal as well the mechanical was a harbinger of things to come. “As a good engineer, I did my tree analysis, and thought of three options for myself going forward,” says Gomez, 48. “I could work in an NGO, become a preacher in a particular religion, or I could become an educator.”

Today, Gomez leads EGADE (The Graduate School of Business of Technológico De Monterrey), the top business school in Latin America, a school routinely described as among the best business schools in the world. As the school’s founding dean and professor of Strategy and International Management, Gomez was this year named Dean of the Year by the Academy of International Business.

Few would dispute the influence of Wharton alumni and faculty throughout the financial services, consulting and corporate marketing fields. Less widely recognized, however, are the legions of Wharton-trained academics like Gomez who teach, research, and lead at business schools across the world—at top international programs like Wharton, EGADE, INSEAD, and Harvard, as well as nascent regional business schools in developing economies.

“Our goal isn’t simply to be ‘the best’ among a thousand business schools,” says Wharton Dean Patrick Harker, himself an educational product of Penn’s undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs. “We want to be the global hub for business research and education. If you walk onto this campus, you will find students from all over the world who will graduate and become business leaders and educators around the world.”

Future educators have been inspired by the intersections of theory and practice in Wharton’s undergraduate, MBA, MBA for Executives, and doctoral programs. Some came to academic life after decades in senior Wall Street posts, searching for intellectual challenge and influence. Others, taught as children that education was the most honorable of professions or inspired by an exceptional professor, were resolute from the start in their pursuit of a career as a business researcher and educator. In the pages that follow, the Wharton Alumni Magazine shares the pathbreaking stories of some of these professors.

Creating New Centers of Business Education:

Jaime Alonso Gomez, Dean of EGADE

Jaime_Alonso_GomezIt was the early 1980s, and Jaime Alonso Gomez had spent seven years working at home and abroad as an industrial engineer, time that had included graduate school in Canada and post-graduate research in Tokyo. Gomez found himself in a problem-solving mode, having witnessed a host of companies struggling to solve a variety of problems. He read books and talked to colleagues in his search for answers, then attended a business conference in his native Monterrey, Mexico, where he heard Wharton professors Russell Ackoff and Hasan Ozbekhan speak.

“It was then that I realized that a natural evolution for me was not to gain and apply knowledge, but to create it,” Gomez says. He applied and was accepted into Wharton’s PhD program, cobbled together scholarships from the School and the Mexican government, packed his bags, and flew to Philadelphia. “It was the most intellectually pleasurable experience of my life,” Gomez said. “I consider Wharton my intellectual home.”

Gomez earned the nickname “The Philosopher” at Wharton for his studiousness—he read more than 250 books his first year on campus—and for his listening skills, honed during his studies in Japan. “One of the most important things I learned in Japan was that, in addition to innovation, a key to success in business is tenacious behavior,” Gomez says. “Things do not happen overnight, especially when you want something sustainable, like the notions of core competency and trust. We in the Western world tend to be in a hurry. I also learned how to listen. We Westerners interrupt each other—we don’t let people finish their thoughts. In Japan, you wait, you respect, you listen, you process information. My time in Japan was not only culturally rich, it was formative for me.”

This ability to thoughtfully listen and process information, Gomez says, has helped him tremendously as a business school dean. “When you have highly educated, highly intelligent, highly critical people working and studying with you, they want to be listened to,” Gomez says.

Almost immediately after finishing his PhD at Wharton, Gomez’s work as business school administrator began, first as Director of Graduate Business Programs at ITESM Campus Monterrey, part of a Mexico-wide university system with 33 campuses in 26 cities, then in 1995 as founding dean of the Graduate School of Business Administration and Leadership (EGADE).

Gomez’s international work history and educational training—he has worked as a consultant for more than 100 major corporations in 40 countries—are pivotal to EGADE’s strong focus on international students and learning experiences. By design, nearly 70 percent of the school’s full-time students are from nations other than Mexico. As well, EGADE maintains alliances with 130 universities in 31 countries, allowing students to study abroad. “And in order to make our research and teaching relevant, we encourage our professors to interact with companies and organizations around the world,” Gomez says.

“To a great degree, the design of EGADE has been influenced by what I learned at Wharton,” Gomez adds. “It’s based on the three I’s—innovation, international, and intense. Everything we do here is intellectually demanding.” Gomez maintains close collegial ties to Wharton and cites five Wharton professors who were central to his development: Paul Kleindorfer, Ackoff, Howard Perlmuter, Ken Smith, and Ozbekhan.

One of six children, Gomez grew up in a close family, with his father, an entrepreneur, and his mother at home. “We learned about hard work, thrift, and meritocracy, that nothing is free and we are not the children of privilege, we are the children of work and merit and effort,” says Gomez, who earned his undergraduate degree at age 20. “All important decisions are always paradoxical,” Gomez says of where he is today. “On the one hand, I am very happy and I am in the place I want to be and see myself always being in education. But being in education is a tremendous moral responsibility, because you teach, and people listen to you. So teaching is a privilege, but it’s also a tremendous moral responsibility.”

Beyond the Nuts and Bolts of Research:

Gerard Cachon, Wharton Professor of Operations and Information Management

Gerard_CachonAs a child, Gerard Cachon most admired the Carl Sagans and Jacques Cousteaus of the world and knew early on that a PhD was the path for him.

A first-generation American with a French father and Italian mother, Cachon watched his father develop patents and design semi-conductor equipment for IBM despite having only a high school education. “My father knew that a college education was the ticket to success in society,” says Cachon, W’89, E’89, GrW’95, and the Fred R. Sullivan Professor of Operations Management at Wharton. “So he always told me that he would support me 100 percent in my education no matter how high I want to go… and he did.”

Cachon’s fascination with operations grew by talking to his father about the key issues and challenges of high-tech manufacturing. “As I was growing up, I had a window into the high-tech world,” says Cachon, who was born and raised in New York’s Hudson Valley. “I was able to tour the manufacturing facilities and see how complex the process was. I was able to observe it through him. Even though he didn’t have a college education, he really loved knowledge and learning and creating things. It sounds a little silly, but I always knew, even from the time I was very young, that I wanted to be a scientist.”

He enrolled as an undergrad in Wharton’s Jerome Fisher Management and Technology program, a natural fit for his interests in both engineering and economics. Cachon found himself pulled towards the Wharton side of his studies when he became energized by courses on cognitive psychology and game theory. When it came time to apply to graduate school, Cachon applied to Wharton and Stanford and was admitted to both. He expected he would attend Stanford, assuming a change of environment would do him good, but changed his mind after visiting the school. “So I immediately decided to stick with what I already knew was an excellent choice, Wharton,” he says.

Cachon entered the PhD program interested in studying how people behave in competitive interactions, a focus that shifted as he began to research supply chains. “My emphasis became firm-to-firm—IBM negotiating with its contract manufacturer, Apple negotiating with its distributor. People still managed these negotiations, but their work now represents firms, not just themselves,” Cachon explains.

He credits his first PhD adviser at Wharton, Colin Camerer, now a chaired professor at Cal Tech, with instruction that went beyond the nuts and bolts of conducting research. “In doing research, one of the key things is not really doing the mechanics or the math,” he says. “It’s learning how to tackle interesting, important research problems. You do have to teach students the mechanics of how to do research, but teaching them how to find really interesting research projects is something that makes top institutions like Wharton particularly valuable if you’re going to get a PhD.”

Cachon, 38, began his academic career at Duke, returning to Wharton again in 2000 after six years as a professor in Durham, NC. “They asked me to come back and I jumped on the offer immediately,” he says.

Ever the operations guru, Cachon’s research explores supply- chain management with a specific focus on information sharing to improve supply-chain inventory management. A prolific scholar, his articles have appeared in Harvard Business Review, Management Science, and Manufacturing and Service Operations Management, offering managers new ways to use technology to improve the flow of goods throughout the supply chain as well as algorithms and equations needed to better manage supply chains during uncertainty.

Cachon’s emphasis on problem-solving also extends to the classroom. With Wharton colleague Christian Terwiesch, Cachon recently published an operations management textbook, Matching Supply With Demand: An Introduction to Operations Management, for use in Wharton’s Core Operations Management course.

“We wanted to write materials that were Wharton-designed for the strengths of the Wharton student,” Cachon says. “The text is mathematically rigorous, but also relevant for managers in the real world.”

Research Impacting Financial Institutions:

Michael Goldstein, Associate Professor of Finance, Babson College

Michael_GoldsteinFor Michael Goldstein, the idea of a career in academia began percolating during a Wharton undergraduate work-study research project calculating bank capital requirements for then- Finance Department Chair Anthony Santomero.

Goldstein, W’86, WG’91, WM’92, GrW’93, had done it all as an undergraduate work-study student, from the night watch at McClelland Hall to helping faculty and staff learn Lotus 123, an early computer spreadsheet application. Santomero, whom Goldstein had worked with since his sophomore year at Wharton, asked Goldstein to examine the nation’s top ten banks’ solvency under old versus new capital requirements. “It was the first real research project that I’d done,” says Goldstein, now a finance professor at Babson College. “And I liked it. And I think Tony thought I was good at it.”

When Goldstein went off to Wall Street after graduating a year later, he began thinking about returning to Wharton for an MBA or, perhaps, a PhD. He called Santomero (then Vice Dean and Director of the Wharton MBA program and now the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia) to discuss the idea with him, telling him he was considering applying to some PhD programs. “Within a split second, Tony said, ‘If I got you money, would you come here?’ I thought, ‘Wow, yeah, sure.’ But I stopped myself, thinking that that wouldn’t show him I’m a very well-trained Wharton graduate. So I said, ‘I’m inclined to, but it depends on the terms.'”

Ultimately, Goldstein returned to Wharton as the School’s first Geewax-Terker Fellow, maintaining a breakneck pace as a graduate student. He wrote a column for The Daily Pennsylvanian and served on the University Council, the Provost’s Committee for Academic Planning and Budget, the Trustee’s Committee for Student Affairs, and the Safety and Security Committee. He also produced several plays, created and was President of the Wharton Doctoral Council and was elected the chair of the Graduate and Professional Student’s Association, representing 11,000 graduate and professional students at Penn. “When I came back as a grad student, I had a lot of freedom because I knew where to eat, where to go, and what to do,” he says. “I already knew the community, and so I became very involved in community things.”

After a year or so in the PhD program, Goldstein noticed that many of the School’s most successful finance professors had MBAs in addition to their PhD. He also felt uncomfortable potentially conferring a degree he didn’t have. He applied and eventually began the Wharton MBA program while a doctoral student, earning his MBA in 1991, his MA in finance in 1992 and finally his PhD in 1993, giving him an impressive total of four degrees earned from the Wharton School. He first joined the faculty of the University of Colorado at Boulder, then in 2000, Goldstein returned to his native Massachusetts to join Babson. He has also served as a Senior Fellow at Wharton’s Financial Institutions Center. Goldstein’s research focuses on market microstructure, privatization of formerly communist countries, and real estate. He’s perhaps most proud of a widely cited measure he helped create with his dissertation adviser, Wharton finance professor Marshall Blume, that is now used by all major markets as mandated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Goldstein then wrote his dissertation using this measure to examine the differences in trading costs between the NYSE and NASDAQ, paving the way for an eventual SEC investigation of NASDAQ, an investigation that led to regulatory changes. “It’s all because of Tony, really,” Goldstein said. “Had he not given me good research projects as an undergrad I wouldn’t have started thinking about becoming a professor. He was always behind the scenes taking care of things, pushing me along in good ways.”

Today, Goldstein, 40, spends the first 30 minutes of his class talking about The Wall Street Journal, as Jeremy Siegel does. “He (Siegel) teaches an amazing MBA class where he talks about the markets,” Goldstein says. “It’s so outstanding that a lot of MBA students who have already taken the class come back for the first 10 minutes of his lecture just to hear him give the market overview. I have emulated this approach, talking about what’s happening in the markets for the first 10 minutes of my classes, because people are drawn to that information. And why not learn that way—why not be drawn in by what is relevant, today.”

From the Business Environment to Academia:

Margaret Cording, Assistant Professor of Strategy, Organization and Environment, Rice University Graduate School of Management

Margaret Cording was ready for a change. She’d become a Managing Director for Chase Manhattan (now JP Morgan Chase) and had survived two mega-mergers in the span of four years. But just shy of 40, found herself intellectually bored and feeling somewhat sheepish about her contribution to society.

Margaret_CordingFor more than a year, Cording, WG’89 (WEMBA), had been asking herself “If not this, then what?” and found that academia continued to top her career-change wish list. She had been exposed to business research through her Wharton professors, and it continued to intrigue her. “It’s the only profession that I’m aware of where you can pursue the questions that you are interested in—where no one else one is setting your intellectual agenda,” Cording says. “And the idea of teaching and providing that service, benefiting others through my experience, was compelling to me. And so I decided to take the leap.”

Just prior to taking that leap, however, Cording returned to Wharton to meet with her former Wharton economics Professor David L. Crawford, who took her to lunch at the Faculty Club and gave her a reality check about her somewhat naïve view of academic life—a meeting she remains “eternally grateful” for. “He said to me, ‘Margaret, do you really think we sit around thinking big thoughts?’ And I said ‘Well, yes, I guess I do, Dave.’ He was very forthright with me about the realities of academic life, which allowed me to make a much more educated decision.”

That was in 1998, and today, Cording just finished her second year as an assistant professor of strategy and environment at Rice University’s Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Management. At Rice, Cording finds herself on the other side of the executive MBA equation—this time, as teacher. “I felt that my professional experience would help me tremendously in translating strategy and ethics theory into something that an executive could understand,” Cording says.

At Wharton, Cording opted for the MBA Program for Executives (then known as WEMBA) because she didn’t want to disrupt her career, a choice she now believes was formative in her career evolution. A 29-year-old New York investment banker at that time, Cording assumed she would always be an investment banker. But her Wharton courses, she found, piqued her interest in general management and the complexities of running a business. Cording recalls a Marketing Strategy course taught by Tom Robertson that “wasn’t just about the four Ps. It was a much more complex value proposition that one needed to wrestle with, and I was really drawn to the complexity of the decision process in business.”

“When I came out of the program, I went to the senior manager that I respected the most and basically told him that I wanted to change my focus. It really triggered a career change for me.”

The senior manager was Donald Layton, who retired last year as vice chair of JP Morgan Chase. Cording became Layton’s senior staff person and began traveling the world to the bank’s underperforming units, creating an internal strategy group that overhauled the laggards and improved productivity and efficiency of a diverse set of businesses, including capital markets globally and wholesale banking activities in Europe and Asia. “We really turned around the performance of those units,” Cording says, “and that was a wonderful introduction to how to run a business.” As Managing Director, Cording ran Chase’s Foreign Exchange Sales business.

Intrigued by the notion that business, boiled down, is about getting people to work together toward a common goal, Cording chose to study strategy and business ethics as a PhD candidate at the University of Virginia’s Darden School. As her career has evolved, Cording has developed a particular interest in mergers. Her research focuses on the role of organizational integrity—defined as consistency between espoused and enacted organizational values—in influencing performance outcomes of mergers and acquisitions. This definition of integrity, she argues, is a foundational ethical and strategic issue because it captures the concepts of promise-keeping, trust and stakeholder cooperation.

A Los Angeles native, Cording, 47, grew up the daughter of a serial entrepreneur whose start-ups included successes and failures. “My father was horrified when I graduated from college and announced I was going to work for a major global bank in New York City,” Cording said. “He said to me, and I’ll never forget this, ‘Margaret, before you know it you’re going to be attending meetings just to decide whether to hold the meeting.’ Six months into the job I called him and said ‘You know, you were right.'”

“I love my job,” Cording says of her switch to academic life. There are times, though, while teaching executives and listening to their war stories, that she misses the adrenaline rush of the corporate M&A world. “I’m grateful that I get to work with executives and stay in those conversations. Especially because of my experience at Wharton, teaching the executive MBA students is especially gratifying. My years in industry allow me to teach in a way that applies theory to practice, and the students really benefit from that,” Cording says. “And in my research, the question that I constantly ask myself is ‘How can this line of inquiry affect the practice of business?’ Esoteric research is really not for me. I try to ask and address questions that are pressing concerns to senior managers.”

A Mentor Inspires Research Career:

Frances Frei, Associate Professor, Harvard Business School

Frances Frei, C’85, GrW’96, had a secret when she became a Wharton PhD student in 1989: She hadn’t yet given up her dream to become a college basketball coach—a plan she never admitted to her adviser Patrick Harker, now Wharton’s Dean.

“I had friends getting PhDs in other disciplines,” she says, “and I knew of a Division I college basketball coach who had a PhD, so I thought, ‘Well, if he can do it, I can too.'”

Indeed, Frei, 42, is the first to admit that her path to becoming the widely cited and award-winning Harvard Business School professor that she is today began modestly. “I felt completely over my head in the program,” she recalls. “But one of the gifts that the Wharton PhD program gives its student is the gift of high expectations with the understanding that it’s safe enough to find yourself and make your way through. That’s its genius, because we all come out better than we possibly could have if we had just been in a program where we could easily excel.”

Frei, a lifelong athlete and Penn basketball player, began to doubt her plan during her second year in the program, when she injured her knee while playing pick-up basketball. “I had this crisis of having to give up this lifelong view of myself as an athlete,” she says, and make the switch to academics, a change she says terrified her. “At that point in my life, no one knew me as an academic. They only knew me as an athlete. It taught me a lesson about giving up my current version of myself to achieve greater things.”

Today, Frei often calls upon the difficulty of this time in her life when teaching business students at Harvard, encouraging her students to have the courage to push away long-held views of themselves and be open to new ones. Now an associate professor at HBS, Frei developed a second-year elective on Managing Service Operations, a course that focuses on creating service excellence. Her research focuses on developing strategies to help firms be deliberate about their service design with a particular emphasis on the critical role of customers. As Frei often tells her students, “If it weren’t for those pesky customers, service firms would have a much simpler time delivering excellent service.”

Frei, 42, grew up on Long Island the youngest of six children. Her mother communicated self-reliance and generosity with no strings attached, making for a “safe environment to experiment,” Frei says. Although she wanted to attend Penn as an undergraduate immediately after graduating from high school, she didn’t get in, so transferred as a sophomore from Brandeis University. She majored in math at Penn’s College of Arts and Sciences because she was good at it, she says, playing basketball her entire three years on campus and serving as co-captain her senior year.

While getting her master’s in engineering at Penn State’s Great Valley graduate campus in suburban Philadelphia, Frei took her first class in mathematical modeling and was hooked, seeing, for the first time, a useful application for math. A PhD in Operations and Information Management at Wharton, where theory is tied to practice, she reasoned, seemed a logical next step.

She joined the University of Rochester’s Simon School of Business after completing her PhD, then went to Harvard as an assistant professor at HBS in 2002.

In all, Frei published three research papers and four book chapters with Harker, including her first research project as a PhD candidate. Harker, who himself was a Penn athlete who played football during his undergraduate days, was perhaps the perfect academic mentor for Frei in temperament as well as research interests. “Pat is not one to coddle,” she says. “And that again is a privilege. There is an unstated confidence he has in you that you feel when he tells you to go do something or figure something out. I now embody that and it permeates every pore of my being. It’s a gift to have high expectations set for you, and I learned this at Wharton generally and from Pat in particular.”

Nancy Moffitt, a former editor of the Wharton Alumni Magazine, is a frequent contributor.

Wharton Doctoral Programs: Intellectual Fuel for World Business

Supplying other universities with world-class researchers is part of the Wharton’s core mission: to create and disseminate critical business knowledge. While Wharton’s undergraduate and MBA programs have inspired many alumni to pursue PhDs or teach what they have learned as adjunct instructors, Wharton’s doctoral programs are the School’s primary engine for producing the educators that influence business practice through the world’s schools of management.

Wharton has produced more than 1,500 doctoral alumni teaching and researching at least 150 universities worldwide, as well as government, think tanks, and private industry. In recent years Wharton alumni have taught at all top-rated U.S. and international business schools, including schools of management in Africa, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. According to Dean Patrick Harker, raising the level of other business schools does not create competition. Instead, it spreads the availability of business expertise, multiplying the number of managers, entrepreneurs, and workers worldwide who build companies that become trade partners and global allies for Wharton alumni.

Says Dean Harker, “There is an insatiable demand for business knowledge. Half the world’s population is just emerging into the global business economy—in my lifetime, Wharton alone could never educate enough people.”

Wharton doctoral programs offer unique resources for research, collaboration, and connections to real-world business practice. Students benefit from a breadth of faculty and peers for interdisciplinary insight, learn research early in the curriculum, collaborate on current faculty research, and measure research questions against real-world issues.


Programs offered in Accounting, Business & Public Policy, Ethics and Legal Studies, Finance, Health Care Systems, Insurance & Risk Management, Management, Marketing, Operations & Information Management, Real Estate, and Statistics.

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