PhD Research on Power and Dissent Wins National Competition

Jessica Kennedy, PhD 12, won the prestigious INFORMS/Organization Science Dissertation Proposal Competition on Nov. 12, beating seven other finalists from schools that included MIT, Harvard, and Washington University in St. Louis.

The finalists presented their research during the Institute for Operations Research and Management Science’s annual fall conference in Charlotte, N.C.

“The competition was really about exchanging ideas and finding ways to improve them, but winning was certainly exciting, and hopefully it's a sign that people find the ideas behind my dissertation provocative and interesting,” says Kennedy.

Kennedy's dissertation proposal, “Power and Dissent: Implications for Ethics in Organizations,” deals with how advancement in an organization’s hierarchy affects people’s willingness to dissent from the group. But the panel of eight judges, as well as the other finalists, encouraged Kennedy to consider expanding her focus.

“People helped me see how my theory could apply to other types of business practices and helped me to make my study designs more convincing," Kennedy explains. "For instance, I may explore whether high-power individuals will also fail to dissent when the group is engaging in activities that put profits at risk."

Her experience at the INFORMs competition also broadened her horizons in other ways. “I learned more about strategy and economic sociology − related but distinct areas of organizational research − and got some exposure to qualitative research methods,” she adds. “I think organizational research should strive to be interdisciplinary and multi-method, so I was happy to gain this knowledge and hope to put it to good use going forward."