Pacey Foster '90 (second from left) and Marc Lavine '93 share a laugh with their Ph.D. students at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Teaching organizational change

January 23, 2014

Peace and Global Studies (PAGS) alums Pacey Foster ‘90 and Marc Lavine ’93, faculty in the Management Department at the University of Massachusetts Boston, have recently helped launch a new doctoral program in Organizations and Social Change.

“When we launched this program two trends seemed clear to us,” Foster says. “First, there seems to be increasing awareness in many circles that current business models are no longer working, if they ever did, to increase peace, prosperity and sustainable human communities. Second, there seems to be a growing interest among students and scholars in identifying the root causes and systematic explanations for these failures and developing new and more sustainable models.

Lavine says the new program has been well received by colleagues from around the world.

Paceymarc1“Many people see that the great challenges facing humanity will require all sectors to play a role,” Lavine continues. “It’s also the case we’re seeing a blurring of boundaries where businesses are started to achieve social outcomes, nonprofits run businesses and all manner of organizations consider their social impact and social purpose.

“These broader trends make the timing good for the new Ph.D. program. Our doctoral students seem to recognize that management schools are an important site for social action — though some may go on to work in policy programs or elsewhere — but they also want a program in accordance with their values and interests. I certainly think it’s the kind of program that Earlhamites coming from PAGS or other interdisciplinary Earlham majors would be well-suited to pursue — or as you can see based on the faculty — to teach in.”

Extending the PAGS education

Foster says that while he may not directly teach from classic peace studies authors such as Mahatma Gandhi, Kenneth Boulding or Johan Galtung, their ideas are clearly evidenced in his courses.

“My teaching is very much influenced by my background in PAGS and conflict resolution,” Foster agrees. “I basically see myself as helping people learn the first, second and third person research/practice skills of effective organizational conflict resolution.”

Lavine also credits his PAGS education for exposing him to theories of both change and action that helped him to be more creative, clear-headed, effective and persistent. He says having this informed sense “aids the ability for high quality, long-haul action.”

“I see that borne out by the number of old PAGS friends doing inspired, path-breaking work and by the level of overlap between what I read as an undergrad and the core texts my colleagues and I draw on to prepare students in our doctoral program,” Lavine explains. “PAGS also creates a community of students and faculty who are interested in and focused on a diverse array of issues. I continue to draw on and learn from that 20 years after finishing at Earlham.”

Lavine says that although certain social concerns matter deeply to him, he is most interested in how people can work together to build great organizations that accomplish important work.

“Perhaps one common denominator between Pacey and I that led to both of us becoming organizational scholars was that we became fundamentally interested in the opposite sides of the same coin,” Lavine asserts. Whereas Foster sought to repair dysfunctional organizations, Lavine had the same essential questions but tended to frame it by asking how organizations could become excellent.

The PAGS network at work

Lavine jokes that he has to be careful about Foster’s next move. Although they first met at Earlham and have had vastly different careers, they followed the same paths with Foster leading the way.

Their relationship began during Lavine’s first year at Earlham when he talked his way into an upper level PAGS class because he wanted “to get to the good stuff to see if he wanted to pursue a PAGS major.” Foster was a junior that year and was so enthusiastic about conflict resolution, he similarly persuaded Professor Caroline Higgins to allow him to co-teach the upper-level course Lavine had talked his way into.

After graduating from Earlham, Foster spent nearly a decade working in alternative dispute resolution (ADR), before becoming a student in the Ph.D. program at Boston College, where he realized there was an entire field of study around creative industries and social networks.

After Earlham, Lavine spent years starting, growing and managing nonprofit endeavors.

It was attending to sales, marketing and production issues that led Lavine to pursue a business management education in a master’s program at the University of Michigan, where he worked with the former Daimler Chrysler to improve employee education and consulted to improve Chiquita’s labor and environmental standards.

“These experiences led me to see the value of rigorous research,” Lavine says. “I followed in Pacey’s footsteps and joined the organization studies Ph.D. program at Boston College.”

“Many years later when Marc was looking for his first academic job, I was already at UMASS and knew we were building a progressive management faculty here and encouraged him to apply,” Foster says. “It’s the PAGS network at work.”

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