iMahal Interview Series:
Joanne Martin
May 4, 2001

Inside GSB iMahal:  Professors at Stanford enjoy a certain prestige. How do you think this prestige is different from the prestige of professors at other top universities? Joanne:  I think it is not that different, frankly. I think the best schools have high prestige, and which is higher in a given field is not that big an issue or that long lasting. Faculty are fortunate to teach at any one of the top universities. Looking more specifically at the differences among business schools, our school is oriented toward doing research and teaching research-based ideas, rather than toward current "best practices." That, I think, is desirable, at least from the point of view of a student who wants training that will not be outdated in a few years.
iMahal:  Would Silicon Valley have grown into what it is today without Stanford? Joanne:  Most people say not. The corporations were given access to land near the university, and there was frequent interaction with the faculty and students at the university. This relationship has been very fruitful over the years, for both groups.
iMahal:  People around the world are trying to emulate the environment of Silicon Valley. Do you think it would be appropriate, or even possible, to emulate Stanford in other places? Joanne:  Yes, it is a fine model, workable elsewhere. To make it happen, you need bold leaders, with good judgment of academic excellence, willing to build a new university around "steeples of excellence," that is, around superlative individual faculty members -- at the beginning, one in each major department. It also takes funding and a lot of land, plus a willingness to partner with corporations by giving them access to land next to the university. Not easy, but possible.
iMahal:  Some people say that California is a place to go to reinvent yourself. Do you think students and teachers go to Stanford for the same reason? Joanne:  I am not sure, but I suspect that people go to Stanford for the same reasons they go to other fine universities. We are proud to have such an international orientation. We have a relatively large proportion of faculty and students from various countries in Asia, in comparison with most of the comparable universities on the east coast of the US. For example, on our faculty of 87, we currently have 4 faculty members from India and 17 who are originally from other countries. Currently we also have two visiting faculty from India, and 6 other visiting faculty from other nations. Each MBA class typically has students from more than 30 countries. As we have become more international, our research and our teaching have become much more interesting, more relevant to contemporary business practices, and more fun.
iMahal:  Those people who read carefully your first statement in this interview might consider your move from studio art to social psychology to be a "reinventing" of yourself. Does your early aesthetic training help you in your current career? And what artistic passions do you continue to pursue? Joanne:  I wish I had positive answers to these questions, but right now I am a fulltime professor with very little leisure time. I am hoping, though, to paint again, when I retire.

Note: iMahal founder Joe Judge conducted this interview with Joanne Martin. In the second year of his MBA at Stanford, Joe took a course titled, Cultures in Organizations, which was taught by Professor Martin. All courses during the second year were selected by the student. Joe had spent years training and working as an engineer, where the questions are logical and the answers are either right or wrong. As an MBA student, he had the chance to move "outside his comfort zone" by taking this kind of course, learning about the psychology of people in groups. With the expert help of Professor Martin, he learned a great deal about organizations -- their practices, policies, and cultures. (It is hoped he has not forgotten all of it.) One thing Joe remembers is that when outside speakers visited to talk to the class, the lecture and discussion were often recorded on videotape. So, if you should in the future enroll in an MBA program and take a class where one of Professor Martin's videos is used, please be charitable to the Irish guy in the blue aloha shirt: he was doing his best.




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