Taking care of business, doctoral students, and junior faculty: Business professor receives national educator award

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KINGSTON, R.I.,– July 20, 2011 – The Academy of Management has honored University of Rhode Island Professor of Entrepreneurial Management and Law Ken G. Smith with its Distinguished Educator Award. This marks the first time a URI College of Business Administration professor has been honored by this organization, which has recognized one professor a year since 1989.

Smith came to URI last year from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business where he held the dean’s chair and was a professor of business strategy. The Academy of Management, the oldest and largest scholarly management association in the world with nearly 20,000 members, selected Smith for his work developing doctoral students and junior faculty.

“The College of Business is very fortunate to have Ken on its faculty,” said Mark Higgins, dean of the URI College of Business Administration. “Not only is Ken an internationally recognized scholar but, as this award demonstrates, he is an outstanding teacher and educator.”

During his career, Smith has published in premier journals with more than 40 different doctoral students and junior faculty, helping many in their career development and professional success.

“Researching and publishing with doctoral students and junior faculty has been a joy,” Smith said. “It typically involves a five-to-seven-year time commitment involving significant mentorship and training.”

Smith is well-known in business circles for his groundbreaking research on all areas of competition and competitive advantage. He has published widely in academic journals and co-authored three books on competition in business. With a long list of academic honors, Smith was a Fulbright Fellow in Strategic Management at the University of Limerick in Ireland, an Academy of Management Fellow, and a visiting professor in strategy at INSEAD, one of the world’s largest graduate business schools, in France. He was honored as the University of Maryland’s Distinguished Teacher/Scholar in 1996.

But Smith also knows about entrepreneurship and competition from his experience owning and running three small businesses in Pawtucket, R.I., in the 1970s. With a BA and MBA from URI and a Ph.D. from the University of Washington, Smith, who lives in Wakefield, said his initial strength as a professor came from his hands-on experience in the business world, which he called all consuming.

After entering academia, he focused on researching competition and worked with doctoral students and young faculty to discover different ways to study competition. Soon his strength as a professor expanded to his research topics and methods. He examined how rival companies respond to each other’s new products and services and how an up-and-coming competitor can dethrone an industry leader.

“It’s like war,” he said. “There are the actions of one firm, then there are the reactions of the other firm. We understood the principles but they had not been measured in terms of results.”

His research and new ways of examining competition were published in papers, which became books, which evolved into his most popular course offerings. One of his courses became the most popular business elective at the University of Maryland and his courses at URI are coveted. URI and the state of Rhode Island hold many fond memories for Smith, who is an avid sailor.

“This place meant so much to me,” he said of URI. “I always knew I would return here.”

He will accept the Academy of Management award at a reception in San Antonio next month.