The Whitman School is full of brilliant minds and amazing research, but of the faculty’s shining stars, two were recently named to the top 2% of the most impactful researchers globally, based on a PLOS Biology study, “Updated science-wide author databases of standardized citation indicators,” published by Mendeley Data, Version 2. The database includes 100,000 top scientists and covers all of the sciences (business, social science, humanities, etc.), taking into account differences when comparing disciplines, such as self-citations, citation farms, etc.
“Whitman is proud to have two scholars listed here: Johan and Maria!” says Associate Dean for Undergraduate and Master’s Education and Professor of Entrepreneurship Alex McKelvie. “It’s not just that they are top scholars in entrepreneurship or management—but in all of science! This designation only adds to the richness of our program and the thought leadership that is transferred to our students at the Whitman School.”
Maria Minniti is the founder and director of the Institute for an Entrepreneurial Society (IES), professor and Bantle Chair in Entrepreneurship and Public Policy at the Whitman School. She has published more than 100 academic articles, monographs and book chapters in leading entrepreneurship, management and economic publications, and her work has been featured in media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal and Forbes. Her recent research investigates entrepreneurial solutions to social problems, the relationship between entrepreneurship and institutions and the effects of regulations on innovation.
Her interest in entrepreneurship is rooted in her childhood in Italy in the 1970s. According to Minniti, at the time, Italy was going through a challenging period of unemployment, inflation and social unrest. She recalls that these challenges translated into a lot of other societal problems. That made a lasting impression that stuck with her as she later earned a Ph.D. in economics.
“I always had an underlying concern for understanding the complexities that surround these issues and an interest in people who create their own jobs and jobs for others,” she says. “Entrepreneurs are problem solvers, and entrepreneurship is about much more than starting businesses. It’s the innate wish to do new things or do things in a better way. This characteristic of human action is especially effective in finding innovative solutions to complex problems. I’ve been inspired by that spirit of innovation. This is what motivated me to create IES. My team is doing research that offers entrepreneurial solutions to difficult social problems, such as sustainability, homelessness and crime. Our work is getting attention. This shows how timely and needed they solutions are.”
As the founding director of IES, Minniti says she is at the stage in her career where she “wants to be an enabler to the younger talent.” She works closely with Ph.D. students and considers herself a mentor and someone showing them the do’s and don’ts of their profession.
She is flattered by the designation as one of the top 2% of researchers in the world. “I’m very grateful for the recognition of my research and the work we’ve done in the first five years of IES,” Minniti says. “I consider myself privileged to have a great job at a great university. This designation shines a nice light on the entrepreneurial conversations and solutions that are coming out of the work the IES team is doing.”
Johan Wiklund is the AI Berg Chair and professor of entrepreneurship. He joined the Whitman School in 2008 and has 23 years of entrepreneurial research to his credit. For the past decade, he has been focusing his time on the psychological aspects of entrepreneurship, particularly in the areas of mental disabilities, mental disorders and psychology. One of his current projects is focused on people with ADHD and how many with this psychological disorder seem to be well-suited as entrepreneurs. Despite the often negative stereotype of ADHD, Wiklund’s research focuses on “pulling out the positives” that many with ADHD have, he says, a high activity level, impulsivity, the need for action and the “ability to get stuff done.”
“I’ve been working to establish this intersection of business and clinical psychology,” he explains. “One important insight into ADHD is that you’re usually really good at what you enjoy and really bad at what you don’t enjoy. It’s proven by science that this is linked to brain structure. People with ADHD are often dyslexic, too, so they tend to thrive in more hands on work and small groups. They hate lectures and quizzes. Often, business is teaching people the discipline to be ‘good factory workers,’ but not everyone thrives that way. It’s a shame when people don’t reach their full potential because they don’t fit in.”
“Sometimes it can be difficult for a business school to invest in research, but I am fortunate to have a lot of support here,” he adds. “ There is evidence that the research we do at the Whitman School is impactful. We are influencing the field of entrepreneurial research.”
Wiklund’s plan is to take some of this research right into Whitman classrooms to motivate students who learn differently and allow them to learn the way they function best. He is optimistic that a more diverse society will recognize that all people don’t learn the same way. “We are thought leaders, and the hope is that what we’re discovering will benefit our students —and eventually extend to those everywhere,” he says.
Wiklund takes his designation as being in the top 2% of all researchers in stride. “It’s always nice to be recognized,” he says. “It feels good to know what you have some impact on the world.”