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Professor Jean Bartunek: oration

Read Professor Veronica Hope Hailey's oration on Professor Jean Bartunek for the honorary degree of Doctor of Business Administration in December 2015.


Vice-Chancellor, it is my pleasure to introduce Professor Jean Bartunek, an academic of international renown.

Dr Jean Bartunek is the Robert A. and Evelyn J. Ferris Chair and Professor of Organisational Studies at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College, Massachusetts, USA, where she has taught since 1977. Jean is a former President of the Academy of Management, the largest and most prestigious body of Management Studies scholars whose membership currently numbers over 18,000 members from more than 100 countries.

Jean graduated with a BA Cum Laude in Psychology and Sociology from Maryville University, St Louis in 1966 and went on to attain both an MA and a PhD in Social and Organisational Psychology from the University of Illinois in Chicago in 1974 and 1976. Since then her scholarship has been widely recognised internationally through her service on numerous editorial boards, her appointment as Visiting International Fellow at the Advanced Institute of Management Research, UK, and the bestowal of the Distinguished Service award by the Academy of Management in the USA in 2009.

Over the last forty years Jean has published numerous articles in the highest rated journals in her field. Jean’s research focuses on organisational change and transformation but with related interests in social cognition, sensemaking, affect and conflict. Jean is particularly interested in the interface between academics and practitioners, between theory and practice and rigour and relevance. She challenges us as scholars to think about what makes management research interesting to others, about evidence-based management and about planned and emergent organisational change. In all of these areas Jean has made a substantial contribution to our scholarly knowledge but also to management practice in successful organisational change, a topic of critical importance.

However, as well as being a renowned scholar, Jean goes further. Jean causes us as an academic community to think more deeply about the role of workplaces in society and about the great impact that all organisations have in our lives. In an introduction to a special forum published in 2012 in the top journal Academy of Management Review, Jean and her co-authors ask us to consider the role of care and compassion in organisational life. The article starts by reflecting spontaneous incidents in different workplaces that have illustrated the very best of human spirit. Examples used include the compassion shown by kitchen workers at the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, risking their lives to care for customers under terrorist attack; the acts of kindness shown by traditionally tough talking investment bank traders and Wall Street veterans who showed extraordinary courage and care to one another in the chaos and fear of the 9/11 bombings. Care and compassion are not normally top of the agenda of most executive board meetings and yet Jean and her colleagues present the following argument.

“As organisations, nations, and people become more interdependent, collaboration and coordination become more essential to the achievement of both individual and collective goals. Care and compassion, which are grounded in relationships and relatedness, have much to contribute to an interconnected, suffering and surprising world.”

Jean has been a loyal supporter of the School of Management here at the University of Bath, researching and writing with academics in the School, and supporting our practitioner forums by speaking at events organised by the Change Management Forum. Her visits to the School are enjoyable events precisely because Jean is also known and loved for her own very special blend of care and compassion. Bubbling with enthusiasm and concern for younger colleagues, impressive in her scholarly prowess yet warm in her greetings and strong in her convictions, Jean represents all that is good about academia and humanity.

Whilst Jean is described by her work colleagues as “an academic to her toes”, it will perhaps come as no surprise to also learn that since her teenage years Jean has been a Sister within the Society of the Sacred Heart Community in Boston. Professor Jean Bartunek shows us that a scholarly life spent reflecting upon the theories of compassion and transformation can also be combined with a practical day to day life spent showing care and compassion for others.

Vice-Chancellor, I present to you Professor Jean Bartunek, who is eminently worthy to receive the Degree of Doctor of Business Administration, honoris causa.

Professor Veronica Hope Hailey

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