Five Faculty Members Win Gabelli Chair Challenge
Announcements Gabelli100 | Oct 15, 2019 | Claire Curry
Five Gabelli School faculty members won this year’s Gabelli Chair Challenge and accepted two-year endowed chair positions that will enable them to make intensive contributions to academic research and industry.
The Chair Challenge was made possible by a Gabelli Foundation gift given during the Excelsior Ever Upward The Campaign for Fordham, which raised $540 million for the University. The Foundation gift engaged five matching donors to fully fund each chair. Winners receive a one-course reduction in their teaching responsibilities along with research and conference travel funds during the academic year or a stipend package that supports summer research.
The latest round of faculty selected as Gabelli Chairs are: Miguel Alzola, Ph.D, associate professor of law and ethics; Benjamin Cole, Ph.D, associate professor and area chair of strategy and statistics; Hye Seung Lee, Ph.D, assistant professor of accounting and taxation; Michael Pirson, Ph.D, associate professor of leading people and organizations; and Yi Tang, Ph.D, associate professor of finance and economics.
Miguel Alzola, who joined the Gabelli School in 2008, has made business ethics his life’s work. He views the endowed chair as an opportunity to make inroads in bringing the study of ethics from political philosophy to managerial ethics—that is, toward the decision-making process at the individual and organizational levels.
“I see this as an opportunity to engage in high-impact research, to integrate academic scholarship into innovative character-based teaching, and to honor the Jesuit tradition of service in the business ethics community,” says Alzola, a native of Argentina. Jesuit universities have played a major role in business ethics, he adds, and he plans to use the endowed chair to further the Gabelli School’s commitment to the “virtue approach”, which emphasizes character and the virtues and vices that are part of it and it is only secondarily about the acts that character causes —acts that may or may not conform to some principles and rules of action.
Alzola’s long-term goal is to write a book that advocates the character-based approach to business. “Business ethics is not only about abstract principles and rules of action to guide decision making, but also about the excellences of character that make a businessperson good as a person, and this approach contributes to a broader understanding of the responsibilities of business firms and business executives in the community.”
This summer, he participated in conferences in Edinburgh, Boston, and New York City, and worked with Fordham MBA students in Buenos Aires. Off hours, he enjoys spending time with his wife and three children playing fútbol and making music. “I play the guitar, my son plays the saxophone, and my daughters play the piano, so we have a band at home,” he jokes. He is also a tango singer and has a passion for opera. His favorite? Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.
Before Benjamin Cole entered academia, he lived in Japan for nine years, where he worked as a translator for Toyota Motor Corporation. It was the perfect fit at the time because he earned his bachelor’s degree in Japanese language and culture.
Cole later returned to school to pursue an MBA and doctorate in strategy, planning for his shift into academia. Over the years, he says his work has evolved to become much more grounded in organizational theory. “By that, I mean that my work focuses less on trying to explain firm performance per se,” he says, “and more on exploring and theorizing the processes by which organizational outcomes unfold.”
Cole’s recent research in such organizational paradoxes provided the basis of the 2019 article, “A Model of Competitive Impression Management: Edison versus Westinghouse in the War of the Currents.” Coauthored with David Chandler of the University of Colorado Denver, the study became only the third publication in the history of the university to be accepted to the Administrative Science Quarterly.
Currently, Cole teaches courses in strategy and blockchain, a vast subject area that will provide context for future research. “In general, research in this space has been dominated by finance scholars interested in cryptocurrencies,” he explains. “But blockchain is much, much more. The trick will be finding the proper theory to explore through the blockchain space.”
Cole, who also received an endowed chair in 2015, is originally from Indiana. He is grateful for this opportunity to learn the latest in his field by attending additional conferences, such as an upcoming blockchain conference in Osaka, Japan.
Strategy isn’t the only thing Cole teaches. In his free time, he is a martial arts instructor, and four Fordham alumni are among his students.
In her recent research, Hye Seung (Grace) Lee has made some interesting discoveries that yield practical implications in today’s business world. For example, she and her colleagues learned that firms with more female directors and executives are more likely to be matched with female audit partners—in other words, such appointments aren’t random.
Other research investigating the background of CEOs revealed that generalists are the most successful. “CEOs with experience in more companies and positions over time are highly valuable for corporations,” Lee explains. “The hypothesis that it pays to specialize is not as important for CEOs given the diverse set of skills that are necessary for today’s successful CEOs.”
These are among the topics of three papers that were accepted for publication last year, and Lee plans to put the endowed chair to use to move full speed ahead on other projects that are already in the works.
Lee, who earned her doctorate at the University of Arizona, joined the Gabelli School faculty in 2015 and says she appreciates the students and the support her research efforts have received. “Fordham is a diverse and active learning environment,” she says. “I’m always looking to work on the best possible ideas. The life of research is uncertain but exciting because it’s always changing.”
Pilates, golf, and skiing are among her favorite pastimes, and she also enjoys exploring the culture and cuisine of New York City.
Michael Pirson is a scholar of humanistic management, a concept based on the idea that business should advance human dignity and society. Since he joined the Gabelli School faculty in 2008, he helped establish an undergraduate sustainable-business concentration, taught classes in social entrepreneurship and management at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and served as program director of the MS in Management program.
“My work has mainly focused on developing the conceptual foundations of humanistic management, a form of organizing that projects the dignity and pricelessness of life and promotes well-being and thriving.” With the endowed chair, Pirson says he plans to focus on the empirical aspects of his research. To that end, he will use some of the funding to travel and work with global partners on various projects.
A native of Germany, Pirson has lived and worked in many countries, including Switzerland, France, China, and Costa Rica. He spends every summer coaching his three sons in soccer and traveling in Europe with them. “Two years ago, we explored Leonardo da Vinci’s life,” he says. “Last year it was Michelangelo, and this year it was Rafael and Galileo. I learn a lot with them, and it makes history and traveling as a family fun and exciting!”
Pirson is grateful for the support he has received at the Gabelli School. “It has been a blessing to have the freedom to do what I am doing, which is rather atypical work for a business school professor,” he says.
Yi Tang’s research interests span behavioral finance, corporate finance, and international finance. Currently, he is studying how social interactions affect retail investors’ attraction to lottery stocks—stocks that have yielded extremely positive returns. It turns out that social networking increases the attraction, which in turn drives demand and leads to overvaluation and future underperformance.
“The findings send a warning message to those investors who utilize information transmitted through social interactions in making investment decisions,” Tang says, adding that he looks forward to continuing his research and attending more academic conferences thanks to the resources provided by the endowed chair.
“It will allow me to direct more time and energy to investigate important issues that have profound academic and practical implications,” he says. “It will also allow me to better understand the trends of research directions and methods, and help bring these new changes and trends into the classroom.”
Since he joined the Gabelli School more than a decade ago, Tang has published 16 peer-reviewed journal articles, six in Financial Times Top 50 journals. Also a previous endowed chair winner, he’s taught about a dozen courses at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels.
Tang spent this past summer putting the final touches on the lottery stock research and moving ahead with two other projects.
Since the Gabelli Chair Challenge was established, 10 endowed chair positions have been awarded to faculty members, with the most recent group publishing seven articles in Financial Times Top 50 journals.