Since arriving at WPI in 1990, I have had the great pleasure of teaching a variety of organization studies undergraduate and graduate courses, engaging in organization studies research and theory development, and offering service to the university, the Business School, and my field. With respect to teaching, I have framed my role in the classroom as helping technically-minded students become more cognizant and mindful of themselves and of the human and behavioral dimensions of organization life. I engage students via experiential methods including digital storytelling, classroom-as-organization designs and reflective learning activities. I invite them to process these experiences through journaling, case-in-point listening activities, immunity mapping, and learning memo writeups. I have found that these powerful forms of experiential pedagogy enable students to become more aware of themselves and of the complex human and technological challenges they will encounter at the interface between the future of work and complex organizations. Each term I try to make my classes feel fresh and new and encourage meaningful dialogue among students as they make sense of key concepts and emotions that arise during the term.
With regard to my research, I have published over 50 papers in top journals, conference proceedings, and books on a range of topics including organizational change, classroom and organizational learning, dissent in organizations, high altitude mountaineering (the May ’96 Everest climbing disaster), discourse and narrative in environmental management and strategy, enterprise system implementation, and social entrepreneurship and innovation. These papers have generally assumed a non-realist ontological perspective including critical, critical realist, narrative, aesthetic, dramaturgical, and communications frameworks. Most recently, I have been engaged in research that focuses on social innovation and ethical sensemaking at food banks and other food-related enterprises; inequality in the industrial food system; sensemaking and identity in organizational change; social drama and institutional preservation work; and the role of place in social innovation and environmental management.
For over 30 years, I have participated in a wide range of faculty committees at the institutional, school, and departmental levels. In 2005, I was a Fulbright Senior Scholar to New Zealand and in 2010 cofounded and now direct (with Ingrid Shockey) the Wellington, New Zealand Project Center. In this role I have helped to develop sponsor relationships and projects that focus on climate change and flooding, sustainability, conservation education, human-wildlife interaction, earthquake and tsunami issues, museum studies, alternative energy innovations, and indigenous Maori concerns. In addition, I founded the Nantucket Project Center on Nantucket Island in 2007 and, since my arrival at WPI since 1990, have been an active advisor at project centers across the globe. I have received four best paper awards – two in important organization studies journals (Journal of Management Inquiry and Academy of Management Learning and Education) and two at the Academy of Management Annual Meetings (1996 and 2005). I am affiliated with Victoria University in Wellington, NZ, the Taos Institute, and UMASS Chan Department of Psychiatry.
In May 2022, I was very honored to receive the WPI Board of Trustees Chair’s Exemplary Faculty Award that recognizes a WPI faculty member who excels in all relevant areas of faculty performance, including teaching, research and scholarship, and advising.
- Visit Digital WPI to view student projects advised by Professor Elmes
- Visit Digital WPI to view student projects completed at the Wellington NZ Project Center
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Professional Highlights & Honors
The Worcester Business Journal sought insight from Michael Elmes, professor of business, for its article.“Given how easily this virus is transmitted via aerosol droplets in closed spaces, it is not clear to me how many customers will risk eating in restaurants in spite of the precautions that restaurants are taking,” he told The Journal.