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Distinguished Scholar-Teacher Rajshree Agarwal Celebrates Enterprise

Oct 20, 2017
World Class Faculty & Research

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Upward mobility for the masses starts with enterprising individuals who know how to harness the human potential within market systems, Distinguished Scholar-Teacher Rajshree Agarwal said on Oct. 19, 2017, at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Agarwal, one of six UMD Distinguished Scholar-Teacher award recipients for the 2017-18 academic year, addressed about 200 guests as part of the program’s annual lecture series. She is the founding director of the Ed Snider Center for Enterprise and Markets and the Rudolph P. Lamone Chair and Professor in Entrepreneurship at the Smith School.

Many people believe that business leaders succeed by destroying the competition, but Agarwal’s body of research shows the real driver of market growth is collaboration. “High-performing individuals succeed not because of their own ability, per se, but because they are able to convince other high performers to join them,” she said. “And that is what matters in terms of their ability.”

What gets destroyed, in the end, is outdated business solutions that hinder economic growth. "It’s people inside the economic structure who bring about change rather than it coming from outside." Quoting the late economist Joseph Schumpeter, Agarwal continued, they "incessantly destroy the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of creative destruction is an essential fact of capitalism."

She said innovation has accelerated in recent decades as employee mobility has increased. “As tenure of individuals within firms was shrinking — as there was more and more mobility — these individuals were acting as conduits of knowledge transfer,” she said.

The lecture, “Fostering Enterprise: Where the Journey Is the Destination,” traced the evolution of Agarwal’s research from the industry level to the firm level to the individual level. “Industries don’t make decisions,” Agarwal said. “Firms don’t make decisions. Individuals do, but they take into account not only their operational context and their abilities, but also their aspirations.”

Agarwal shared the spotlight with her co-authors and PhD students, including many who were in the audience. She called these collaborators her "dream team." Drawing parallels with the entrepreneurial teams she studies, Agarwal said each of her collaborators made her own journey as rewarding as the destination because they combined talent and a growth mindset with a work ethic that "matches effort for effort."

Agarwal, an immigrant from India, also noted her love for the United States and connection to UMD. "I journeyed to the U.S., founded on principles of free enterprise and free markets, so I would be free to make my own mistakes, free to chart my own path forward," she said. "My destination is here, not just in this country but in Maryland, where there is a culture of excellence."

The Distinguished Scholar-Teacher award, launched in 1978, honors UMD faculty members who excel in academic research and classroom instruction. The award is vetted by a panel of former Distinguished Scholar-Teacher awardees and the Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs.

Smith School dean Alexander Triantis introduced Agarwal and described her as an accomplished researcher and master teacher. “She does it all with a great deal of passion and energy,” he said.

Smith School Honorees

The Smith School has produced 17 Distinguished Scholar-Teacher award recipients.

2017: Rajshree Agarwal

2014: Gilad Chen

2013: Michel Wedel

2011: Ritu Agarwal

2010: Curt Grimm

2004: Michael Fu

2002: M. Susan Taylor

2000: Bruce Golden

1998: Saul Gass

1997: Anil Gupta

1995: Ken Smith

1994: Maryam Alavi

1993: Lee Preston

1989: Kathryn Bartol

1984: Samuel Kotz

1983: Edwin A. Locke

1979: Stephen Carroll

 

About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business 

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty masters, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.