With a bachelor degree in medicine, a MSc in Health Planning and Financing (1993) and a PhD in Social Policy and Administration (2001) from the London School of Economics, Greek born Marianna Fotaki visited us at the School to advance on projects on which she is working alongside the host professor Emmanouela Mandalaki and to present her most recent research on solidarity responses to refugees and forced migration. We interviewed professor Mandalaki and Professor Fotaki, who shared their research interests and thoughts about the university, the students, food, music, and much more…
Professor Mandalaki, told us about the importance of Professor Fotaki’s visit:
How do you know the professor? What are the main research links?
- I met Marianna Fotaki at the EGOS Colloquium in 2016, in Naples. Since then, we have developed common research interests around critical perspectives in organizational ethics and we have started working on two projects together: an edited book volume and a research article.
What is the main purpose of the professor’s visit?
- Professor Fotaki visited the School in order to meet the Organizations academic area and give presentations on a few research projects that will most likely be of interest to its members. She also gave talks and presentations of her profile and research interests in order to assess the fit between the School and her profile and the possibility of developing links with the School for the future. Marianna has expressed a proactive interest in developing such links with us, and her visit sets this process in motion.
Why is it important to have this professor at the School?
- In recent years, the professor has started developing research interests and projects in the Latin American region. Particularly, she has received funding for a research project on corruption in Mexico. Visiting UASM would be a great opportunity to assess the possibility of expanding those interests to the Colombian region and developing new projects with other interested colleagues in the Organizations area.
What are the expectations in terms of her research contribution to the academic area?
- Developing existing projects as well as developing new lines of research alongside other interested colleagues in the area. Given the professor’s focus on critical ethical approaches and critical management theories, her visit could trigger the development of new research avenues that several professors of the area have expressed interest in. As she has published in top management journals and serves as a Senior Editor of Organizational Studies, one of the top journals in our field, sharing her experience with more junior scholars on the team would be a valuable asset. Also, given the professor’s long trajectory in organizational ethics and her senior role in many institutional initiatives in the Universities where she has worked, her ideas and insights were certainly valuable to the Faculty and School’s Ethical Committee.
Marianna Fotaki is Professor of Business Ethics at Warwick Business School. She was a visiting professor at Manchester University from 2013 to 2016. She holds a Ph.D. in Public Policy (2001) and a M.Sc. in Health Planning and Financing from London School of Economics and Political Science. Previously to this, she worked as a medical doctor in Greece, China and the United Kingdom; as a volunteer and manager for Médecins du Monde and Médecins sans Frontières in Iraq and Albania; and as the EU Senior resident adviser to governments in transition in Russia, Georgia and Armenia.
Among her research interests, she focuses on (i) markets, consumerism and leadership in public services in the EU and economies in transition; (ii) gender and ethics of diversity in organizations; and (iii) business ethics and the impact of business in society with a focus on institutional corruption. She belongs to the Organising Healthcare Research Network, one of Warwick Business School’s leading research institutions for healthcare in the UK.
Professor Fotaki has been Senior Editor of Organization Studies and a member of the Editorial Board for the International Journal of Health Care Policy Management since 2013. In 2015 she also joined the Editorial Board for Organization.
On the lines below, Professor Fotaki tells us about her projects and her visits in her own words:
When and why did you decide to pursue an academic career?
- Well my background is quite unusual for a business school. I was originally trained as a medical doctor, but as I practiced my profession, I soon became aware of the fact that we don’t lack good qualified medical practitioners, what we lack are well organized health systems that are fit to deliver adequate care for everyone who needs it. I wanted to work in a field that would produce as much impact as possible and decided that by moving into policy, I could have a greater influence than I would as a practitioner. I tried to understand how they work and saw that they are very strongly influenced by other political drivers and, of course, money. This realization led me to do my PhD at the London School of Economics and is where I fell in love with academia. Management is an applied field so I tried to combine academic research with how it matters for real life problems such as health care, and the forced migration. More recently, I had the opportunity to work at the School of Management at Manchester University for 10 years, and then moved to the University of Warwick, where I saw that policy matters very much but that the implementation of policy matters even more. This understanding brought me to study organizations where policies implemented and how to motivate individuals in organizations.
Therefore, my work really focuses on three fields: policy at macro level; the organization at meso level; and the micro level, which involves the individual: how do you bring individuals together to work better and in a way that is more useful and meaningful to them as well? This is how organizations can fulfil the bigger goal: translating and operationalizing policies. The other opportunity I found in management is that I could draw from different perspectives: economics, public policy, and my medical knowledge in order to better understand the health context. Of course, management also includes sociology, psychology… It is a truly a transdisciplinary environment, which is very useful when it comes to understanding the very complex issues that society faces.
What are the most satisfying aspects of being a scholar?
- Ok, so for example, if I were not a professor I would not have had the opportunity to meet my colleagues here at Los Andes. The university context gives you the opportunity to meet likeminded people from around the world, exchange ideas and learn from each other. It also allows you to use your social capital as an independent researcher, to make interventions in important debates. So when I am called to comment on the subjects of my research such as ethics for instance, I build on the legitimacy that the status of an independent unbiased knowledgeable professional gives me, and I find this very satisfactory.
The other aspect I find fulfilling is speaking to my students. We are all learners and every year, I find myself facing younger and younger students, so I am constantly exposed to change in real time. My students keep me on my toes as they bring new ideas to the classroom all the time, and in order to communicate with them, I have to follow things very quickly.
What other research areas would you like to develop in the future?
- I currently work on a number of fields: ethics from feminist perspective, concerning practical issues of women in management positions, the gender pay gap, how diversity increases organizational performance and makes organizations better places to work; social justice, including the privatization of public services; whistleblowing; and a very recent topic I am working on and which I have presented here at Los Andes on this trip, has to do with solidarity responses to refugees and forced migration in Europe, which is the geographical area I am more familiar with, but I hope that the conclusions will have much broader relevance. For example one of the countries that faces similar issues is Colombia, through its experiences with Venezuela.
Please tell us a special anecdote from your academic life.
- Well, a gendered anecdote if you allow me! This happened in Singapore in a School of Management. One day the students said that I was very kind because my Greek male colleague did not let them use iPhones in class. Now, I do not want a captive audience but it taught me that having some rules could support the learning environment.
How does your work contribute to the society as a whole?
The more senior I get the more responsibility. Publishing in academic outlets is a very important aspect of our work, but equally or even more important is the work of translation, so we have to write in all sorts of different ways: blogs, speaking to the media; communicating our research to diverse audiences in an accessible way is absolutely crucial. Let’s face it, if one is well regarded within the academic community, it is a limited community, so it is important for people from all walks of life to engage with your work. As academics, we have to get out of our comfort zone to speak to people who might be interested in the work we do, and that is my goal. I am trying to write more popular works for the topics of my research. In the UK, and in many parts of the world, we are paid from public funds so in this sense it is important to give something back to society. Researching and communicating results is an exercise in communication so why not make our conclusions available to as many people as possible.
How would you describe your teaching philosophy?
I try to engage the audience, as it is more interesting for me than having a captive audience. I like feedback and the best way to get it is if people participate. I always try to bring examples that people can relate to, based on their own contexts in order to build an empathetic attitude with students.
What do you learn the most from the interaction with your students?
I teach undergrad, post grad, doctoral students and executives, and the most challenging audience is the undergraduate one. They make you question your assumptions and you have to be able to communicate something that you take for granted. You have to question yourself to do this in a way that they understand and that stimulates them; undergraduate students tend to be very demanding and there is a lot going on in their lives. So this is challenge and it makes you work on how to best convey what you seem to know. They also bring you ideas. If you ask an 18 year old why they think women are paid less than men are, it may be the first time that they think about it, so they may answer something like; because they are not as interested in their work as men are. So how do I communicate that there may be other issues involved such as established practices or power structures. How do I communicate that without bombarding them with jargon but helping them to realize the problem?
During your visit, what surprised you about Colombia?
I am so impressed with the country; I am going to be an informal ambassador for Colombia. Your food is a revelation, the country, the hospitality and how polite people are and how welcoming. Ok, I am a southerner and as southerners, we tend to be polite in a warm, open manner, but Colombia exceeds expectations.
After your visit, what do you take from Colombia back home?
It is not just one special memory, but I mean, I am a foodie, so food would be the first. Ceviche, it is not Colombian I understand but the fresh fish seafood. The whole experience is very sensual, everything, nature, the music… people seem to really enjoy life. The other thing of course is the peace process, which I was so impressed by, and I think that many countries going through a similar experience could learn a lot from Colombia.
What would you highlight from your visit to Universidad de los Andes School of Management?
- What is unique about the campus is the history and modernity coexist so nicely. So much thought must have gone into incorporating these historical buildings so it works well with the purpose of a modern university campus. I was so impressed by your students; they are so super bright and quick. Yesterday I was talking to them about narcissistic elites in the context of leadership. So they were complex issues I was trying to introduce and the students were very quick to grasp new ideas and they had excellent English.