Find Events Find People Find Jobs Find Sites Find Help Index


October 29, 2001

Spring 2002 sessions to tackle 'corporatization' of the academy

By Michael Terrazas


Applications are being accepted for next spring’s Gustafson Seminars, in which the topic will be “Scholarship, Entrepreneur-ship and the Corporatization of the Academy,” according to Gustafson fellow Laurie Patton.

Patton, associate professor and chair of the Department of Religion, said the theme grew out of past topics—such as “Disciplines in Disarray” and “The Fate of Scholarly Writing”—and touches on many of the same issues that will be addressed in next April’s Sam Nunn Policy Forum, being organized by Candler Professor of Psychology Don Stein.

“When disciplines are in disarray, much of that comes from outside pressures—including pressures from the corporate world, from funding organizations—to move in one direction or another,” Patton said.

Launched in 1998, the Gustafson Seminars are the intellectual heirs to the Luce Seminar, which former Woodruff Professor James Gustafson headed from 1987–96 to provide an interdisciplinary forum for faculty to explore how issues of academia cut across and between fields. Each year, three Gustafson fellows organize the seminar, select participants from the application pool and lead the discussions.

Joining Patton as Gustafson fellows are Richard Rothenberg, professor of family and preventive medicine in the School of Medicine, and Steve Walton, assistant professor of decisions and information analysis in the Goizueta Business School. The trio of disparate scholars anticipates a lively intellectual discussion next semester that will touch on numerous, and perhaps unexpected, implications of corporate influence on the academy.

“The fact that commercialization is taking place is something that pervades the University but is particularly significant in the medical school,” Rothenberg said. “Medical research leads to patents, to all sorts of potentially commercially useful materials. All of that is right up front in the medical school, frequently much more than in other [disciplines], where the product isn’t as obvious.”

“What kind of access do you grant companies into a campus, and what does that mean?” Walton said. “For example, Coca-Cola is very active on our campus. In the business school, we do research into company performance and decisions that drive company performance; what if we find that Coca-Cola did something wrong? Are we shackled by a potential conflict of interest?”

Each of the three fellows—along with each of the dozen or so faculty chosen to participate during the spring seminar—will bring a unique scholarly perspective to the table, and that is exactly why the Gustafson Seminars were created in the first place. Walton said he relishes the opportunity to trade ideas with professors about whose disciplines he knows little.

“There are two things that can happen [in interdisciplinary settings],” he said. “One is you simply can’t share a common language and you get nowhere. The other is that you’ve got enough common ground so that you can start a dialogue, and it’s the differences that make everything interesting. We’re that second type. I’ve never thought about Hindu or Buddhist philosophy, and I know almost nothing about Rich’s work, but [Patton’s and Rothenberg’s] perspectives on how business and the academy interact are challenging for me.”

Patton, who is in the final year of a three-year appointment as a Gustafson fellow, said she and her colleagues will decide on seminar participants in late November. Interested faculty should contact Patton via e-mail at


Back to Emory Report October 29, 2001