Get to Know a Wharton Prof: Lori Rosenkopf

By Nadine Kavanaugh, Associate Director, Wharton Entrepreneurship

In this series, Get To Know A Wharton Prof, we do brief interviews with our professors in order to give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse of these amazing scholars, teachers, and entrepreneurs. Today’s interviewee, Lori Rosenkopf, is the Simon and Midge Palley Professor at the Wharton School and the Vice Dean and Director of the Wharton Undergraduate Division.  Learn more about her here.

Lori-Rosenkopf quotation

Briefly describe your professional background.

I was trained as a systems engineer and worked for Eastman Kodak and Bell Labs before taking the Ph.D. in management.

What is your field of expertise?

I’m interested in how organizations shape technology (and vice versa).  I study it by examining networks between people and firms, using these relationships to explore how knowledge moves and which people, firms, or technologies are more successful.

How long have you been at Wharton?

21 years

What classes do you teach?

This year:

MGMT 265 (Culture and Institutions of the Tech Sector: Bridging Research and Practice)

WH 297 (Wharton Industry Exploration Program:  The San Francisco Bay Area Tech Sector)

MGMT 935 (Network Theory and Applications)

I’m also covering WH 299 and 399 (our Research and Scholars seminars) while we search for a replacement.

In the past, I’ve taught MGMT 101 (Introduction to Management), MGMT 802 (Innovation, Change and Entrepreneurship); MGMT 803 (High-Tech Entrepreneurship), MGMT 952 (Macro-Organizational Behavior).

Describe a recent exciting teaching moment.

Every session in MGMT 265!  We brought in one Bay Area alum each session through sophisticated teleconferencing technology and discussed a research article as well as hosting questions from the students in a town hall format.  The students, the guests, and I were all delighted with the interaction.

Why is your research important?

Coming up as an engineer, I frequently assumed that the best technologies, companies, and people would dominate:  After some time in the field, it was much clearer that choices and outcomes were shaped by the networks of relationships surrounding these players.  My work sheds light on some of these processes.  For example, while conventional wisdom suggests that firms losing technical employees lose knowledge along with these employees, I’ve shown that these firms also learn more from the companies that their employees join!

How have you seen students or alumni take action based on your research or teaching?

I developed the new MGMT 265 and WH 297 courses because so many of our students were expressing interest in the tech sector but feeling uncertain about forgoing the typical on-campus recruiting processes in order to seek jobs on the West Coast.  These courses give students the opportunity to increase their knowledge about the Silicon Valley ecosystem while connecting with our ever-growing set of alumni out there.  Already students are reporting how this initiative is helping them follow this path!

What made you choose an academic career?

I always loved school so much, more so than working at a company.  But I knew I didn’t want to get a Ph.D. in engineering even though my two earlier degrees were in it.  Working at companies helped me see that management of technology was a field I could spend the rest of my life studying and teaching.

What do you like most about your career as an academic?

The variety of experiences – research, teaching, and now my newest role as an administrator (Vice Dean of Wharton Undergrad) – and the wide set of people I’ve gotten to know through these experiences.  There’s always something new to learn and do.

What do you like least?

There’s so much I want to learn and do that I find it hard to take a real break to replenish.

Tell me one surprising thing about you.

I’ve never had a cavity!  My dentist doesn’t get much business from me.