A professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business collected two awards but celebrated three at the 2016 Strategic Management Society conference in Berlin. Rajshree Agarwal, director of the school’s Snider Center for Enterprise and Markets, won two best paper prizes at the annual gathering in September. Then she cheered from the audience when one of the papers, co-authored with a pair of her graduate students, earned additional recognition as the best conference submission led by PhD candidates.
“Working with doctoral students is what I treasure most about my job and career,” says Agarwal, who collaborated with Smith School PhD students Heejung Byun and Justin Frake on the double-award winner.
Their paper, “Leveraging Who You Know by What You Know: Returns to Relational and Human Capital,” was voted the Best Interdisciplinary Paper by the Strategic Human Capital interest group for integrating insights from sociology, economics and strategy. The bonus prize recognized the best overall paper with PhD students as lead authors.
One judge lauded the paper for addressing “an important and timely issue — the interactive effect of human and social capital and their influence on performance.” Another judge called the paper a “fascinating study with a rigorous design and compelling sample.”
Agarwal also won the Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal’s 2016 Best Paper Award for an earlier paper with separate co-authors. The award recognizes research published at least five years ago for substantial and ongoing influence. Agarwal’s 2007 paper, “The process of creative construction: Knowledge spillovers, entrepreneurship, and economic growth,” is one of the journal’s most-cited papers.
“This paper helped to change the way that strategy scholars think about entrepreneurship,” one nominator wrote about the 2007 research. Another praised the paper’s framework for analyzing the creative and destructive aspects of entrepreneurship: “It offers a new way of thinking about the entrepreneurship process,” the nominator wrote. “The paper provides a multi-level, multi-dimensional view of the implications of entrepreneurship for individuals, industries and economies.”
Agarwal said her frequent collaboration with PhD students is what keeps her going, allowing her to win awards for two papers written nearly a decade apart. “We, as scholars, keep our minds young and active through our work with doctoral students,” she said.
During her career, Agarwal has mentored 10 PhD graduates and has another six candidates in the pipeline at the Smith School. “All of them become my teachers, too,” she said. “I am always learning and growing because of them.”
Agarwal said her goal with each student is to be enabling and demanding at the same time. When new students walk into her office, she makes them promise to see themselves as her intellectual equals and to push back when they disagree with her. “It’s not who is right that matters,” she tells them. “It’s what is right.”