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May 25, 2023 2023-05 Business Administration Faculty Research in Education

Ocasio wins 2023 Organization and Management Theory Distinguished Scholar Award

Gies College of Business Professor William Ocasio has been chosen as the 2023 OMT Distinguished Scholar by the Academy of Management’s Organization and Management Division. The award recognizes a scholar whose contributions have been central to the intellectual development of the field of organization studies.

“This is the most significant professional honor I have ever received, and it’s a wonderful piece of recognition for the work to which I have devoted my career,” said Ocasio, the James F. Towey Professor of Business and Leadership and Director of the Illinois Strategic Organizations Initiative. “Not only is this an award based on one’s scholarship, but it is also a community award. The Organization and Management Division is an incredible community of international scholars, and while my formal publications have been impactful, it has been the informal aspects of scholarship such as interactions with the people in this community that I’ve enjoyed the most.”

An internationally renowned organizational theorist and business strategy scholar, Ocasio (left) has made many theoretical contributions to the field. These include the development of the institutional logics perspective, seminal research on organizational attention, and myriad further contributions to understanding strategic processes, corporate governance, and organizational and institutional change. He has won a number of prestigious awards throughout his career including the 2013 George Terry Best Book Award by the Academy of Managment, the 2011 Dan and Mary Lou Schendel Best Paper Prize by the Strategic Management Society, and the 2000 W. Richard Scott Award for Best Paper Published in the Last Three Years by the American Sociological Association.

Ocasio joined the University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business in 2020 after spending 25 years at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. In a rare move, he was tenured and promoted from assistant professor to the rank of professor – skipping the associate professor rank entirely – and awarded the John L. & Helen Kellogg Professor of Management & Organizations chair at the same time. He earned an MBA from Harvard University and a PhD in organizational behavior from Stanford University. Prior to joining Kellogg, he taught strategy and organization studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Throughout his career, Ocasio has been known for expanding the dialogue in his areas of study by bringing junior scholars from a wide variety of ethnic and educational backgrounds into the field and helping to launch productive careers all over the world.

“Publishing research is extremely important, but in many ways, it’s a performative art – a performance shaped by reviewers,” Ocasio said. “Reading someone’s paper and discussing it with them is extremely rewarding for me because in that moment, we have the ability to just be ourselves. Communicating with colleagues and students really allows us to get to know other, and it helps build that community that is so important.”

The latest chapter in Ocasio’s storied career also centers around building community. When he joined Gies, he and a group of scholars at the College launched the Illinois Strategic Organizations Initiative (ISOI) with a mission to conduct, sponsor, and promote world-class transdisciplinary research and thought leadership on strategic organizations. ISOI hosts conferences and speaker series as well as provides funding for both up-and-coming and established scholars who contribute to the field of organizational theory. Later this year, Strategy Science will publish a special issue of their journal on Corporate Purpose, building in large part on work by several scholars within ISOI.

“Throughout my career, I’ve always enjoyed participating in existing communities; ISOI is my first chance to build a scholarly community, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it,” Ocasio said. “We are trying to be transformational in terms of the practice itself, taking a transdisciplinary approach that transcends academia and enables us to make a real impact on organizations. Corporations everywhere are re-thinking their purpose. It’s an area that they’re deeply concerned about, and ISOI can provide thought leadership and make a positive impact on the business community.”