Michael B Elmes


Since arriving at WPI in 1990, I have framed my role in the classroom as helping technically-minded students to become more cognizant and mindful of the complex human and behavioral dimensions of life in organizations. I have done this in a variety of ways from experiential exercises to digital storytelling to classroom-as-organization designs. In all cases, I have tried to encourage students to engage in a variety of experiential methods and reflective activities including journaling, case-in-point listening activities, immunity maps, and learning memos to help them become more thoughtful about the complex human and technological challenges they will face in modern organizations. Because I experiment with new course designs every term, each class feels fresh and different and I believe challenges students (and myself) to learn about themselves and others in complex organizations.

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 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. These papers have generally assumed a non-realist ontological perspective including critical, critical realist, narrative, aesthetic, dramaturgical, and communications frameworks. Consistent with a social-constructionist research orientation I became a Taos Associate in 2011. 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 and the industrial food system; sensemaking and identity in organizational change; and the role of place in social innovation and environmental management.

I was a Fulbright Senior Scholar to New Zealand in 2005 and have been a co-author on 2 Best Paper awards at the Academy of Management Annual Meeting (1996 and 2005). I was also the lead author for a paper on social innovation and place that won the 2012 Best Paper award in the Academy of Management Learning and Education. My roles as project advisor and project center administrator are equally important to me. In 2010, I founded and now direct (with Ingrid Shockey) the New Zealand Project Center in Wellington, NZ (http://wp.wpi.edu/newzealand/). In this role I have developed sponsor relationships and projects that focus on conservation education, human-wildlife interaction, climate change and flooding, earthquake and tsunami issues, alternative energy innovations, diabetes and other food-related diseases in New Zealand, and Maori issues. I also founded the Nantucket Project Center on Nantucket Island in 2007 and have been active as a project advisor across the globe and in Worcester since arriving at WPI over 25 years ago.

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