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Understanding What Stalls or Supports Social Change - Meet New Faculty Member Madeline Toubiana


Man with shadow of a hand over his face

Madeline Toubiana joined the Telfer School of Management in January as an associate professor and the Desmarais Chair in Entrepreneurship. She completed her PhD at the Schulich School of Business and was previously the A. F. Collins Chair of Business at the University of Alberta. We interviewed her to learn more about her research interests in entrepreneurship and social change.

Why did you choose to study entrepreneurship? Any Madeline Toubianapersonal motivation behind your research interests?

My research at its core is about social change. More specifically, it is about better understanding what stalls and supports social change. After I had finished my business degree and was out working in the world, I started becoming frustrated with so many of the social problems we were facing, why there was so much resistance to change and the fact business seemed to be causing many of these problems. This motivated me to go back to school and think about ways in which business could be part of the solution, drivers of social change. This led me to discover the power of entrepreneurship, among other things.

How does your PhD training inform your current research program?

My dad used to joke that PhD stands for “piled higher and deeper”… And there is truth in that. My PhD training was about getting deep engagement with the theories that management scholars have been using to explain the social world and businesses’ role in it. My supervisor was a well-known institutional theorist, Christine Oliver. Her influence led to my more “macro” or sociological approach to studying social change. So, I look at people, but I look at how they are embedded in social systems — institutions — that shape the way they see and react to the world.

Do you have any new research highlights to share?

This month I had two great pieces published – one in Harvard Business Review on how we can manage and overcome change in our careers and another in Administrative Science Quarterly on how the dynamics of stigma can stall social change efforts.  I have published a paper in Academy of Management Journal where my colleagues and I reveal the ways in which entrepreneurship can be an engine for positive social change,  even in a very stigmatized context. In addition to continuing my work in examining the potential of entrepreneurship, I have a lot of new and exciting ongoing research projects that relate to my broad objective of studying social change. For example, I have work that looks at how fly fishing practices were transformed to protect freshwater fisheries and a very new project that looks at innovations in the death-care industry that are changing the way we grieve, die and are buried.

How can your research influence businesses in Canada?

My work reveals what can stall social change — for example, emotions or stigma — and outlines pathways to potentially overcome these issues. I also reveal ways to move forward towards change. I think that given the climate crisis, rising inequality and social unrest, we need change — but we have to be ready for it, both as organizations and as people. My research sheds light on both of these elements and thus has impact for businesses — and for society more generally.

About the Author

Rania Nasrallah a rejoint le bureau de recherche Telfer en 2019. Elle a obtenu son doctorat en médecine à l'Université d'Ottawa et apporte à ce rôle plus de deux décennies d'expérience en recherche. Rania participe à tous les aspects du mandat du Bureau de la recherche et est responsable de fournir un large éventail de services aux membres du corps professoral et aux étudiants de recherche de deuxième et troisième cycle. Elle gère les subventions internes et les bourses d'études, et participe à la stratégie de communication de la recherche. Elle fournit également un soutien aux chercheurs avant l'attribution des subventions afin de maximiser le succès du financement au niveau national et international. En outre, elle travaille en étroite collaboration avec le Vice-doyen à la recherche pour élaborer et mettre en œuvre des stratégies visant à améliorer le financement et la vélocité de la recherche à Telfer, conformément à notre vision pour créer un meilleur Canada et un meilleur monde pour tous.<br/><br/>Rania Nasrallah joined the Telfer Research Office in 2019. She completed her PhD in Medicine at the University of Ottawa and brings over two decades of research experience to this role. Rania is involved in all aspects of the mandate of the Research Office and is responsible for providing a wide range of services to faculty members and research based graduate students. She manages internal grants, student awards, and participates in the research communication strategy. She also provides pre-award support to researchers to optimize funding success nationally and internationally. In addition she works closely with the Vice Dean Research to develop and implement strategies to enhance research funding and intensity at Telfer following our vision to create a better Canada and a better world for all.

Profile Photo of Rania Nasrallah