WPI Business Professor Michael Elmes Receives a Second Fulbright Scholar Award

Will study food security, sustainability, and social justice in the Netherlands; Business Professor Steven Taylor will spend a month in New Zealand as a Fulbright Specialist
June 11, 2013

Michael Elmes, a professor in WPI's School of Business, has been awarded a grant through the Fulbright Scholars Program to lecture and conduct pioneering research on food security, sustainability, and social justice in the Netherlands during the 2013-14 academic year. This is the second Fulbright award for Elmes, who was a Fulbright Scholar in New Zealand in 2005, an experience that led this year to the establishments of a WPI student project center in that country.

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Through a separate award, Steven Taylor, an associate professor in the School of Business, will spend a month at Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand, as a Fulbright Specialist. Taylor will help that university enhance its arts-based educational programs, particularly through the use of theatre as a learning tool for business students and faculty members.

The Fulbright Program, the U.S. government's flagship program in international educational exchange, is sponsored by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Each year, the traditional Fulbright Scholar Program sends 800 U.S. faculty members and other professionals abroad to lecture and conduct research in a wide variety of academic and professional fields. Thirteen current members of the WPI faculty have served as Fulbright Scholars; Elmes is the first to have received two such awards. The Fulbright Specialist Program awards grants for faculty members and professionals in the United States for short-term collaborative projects at host institutions in over 100 countries.

"These prestigious awards reflect the high quality of our faculty members and the relevance of their research to issues and concerns that span our increasingly global society," said Eric Overström, WPI's provost and senior vice president. "The selection of Professors Elmes and Taylor for Fulbright grants also highlight's the stature and international recognition accorded our nationally ranked School of Business."

Elmes, whose research interests include social entrepreneurship and organizational change, will work at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, which describes itself as the only university in the Netherlands to focus on healthy food and healthy living environments. He will conduct research on social entrepreneurship and its role in addressing the issue of food insecurity in the Netherlands and elsewhere in the world. Food insecurity, which occurs when people do not have physical or economic access to sufficient food or food of sufficient quality, is a growing problem in developing and developed countries alike.

In particular, Elmes will use case studies and ethnographic research to explore how social purpose ventures (for-profit companies that have a social mission and an economic impact) and enterprising non-profits (entrepreneurial organizations that have a social mission and market impact) can be used to address food insecurity. "There has been very little research on social entrepreneurship approaches to food insecurity," Elmes said. "Most of this work in this area looks at food insecurity through the lens of hunger relief or government programs. While these are both important approaches, neither tends to be local and neither considers solutions that are economically sustainable."

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Through his earlier Fulbright Award, Elmes spent six months in New Zealand studying stakeholder views about biotechnology. "Taking into account New Zealand’s unique natural history, I examined how competing constructions of 'nature' and 'place' in that country informed attitudes, hopes, aspirations and concerns about the role of genetic engineering in New Zealand’s cultural, economic, and political future," he said. His experience in New Zealand led Elmes to propose that WPI establish a new undergraduate project center in Wellington. The center was launched this winter with Elmes and Ingrid Shockey, assistant teaching professor in the Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division, as co-directors.

Taylor, the author of the 2012 book Leadership Craft, Leadership Art (Palgrave Macmillan) and the founding editor-in-chief of the journal Organizational Aesthetics, conducts research on organizational aesthetics (applying art-based scholarship and practice to management and organizations) and reflective practice (analyzing one's actions to become a more effective, ethical, and artful manager or leader). At Massey University, Taylor will work with students in a newly established theatre studies program to offer a public seminar combining theater performance with a discussion of the role of the arts in business. He will also offer seminars to business leaders through the New Zealand Leadership Institute and will present a seminar on the role of the arts in building resilient communities in conjunction with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and the University of Canterbury.