Setting a Good Foundation
Baylor Hankamer School of Business scholars pave the way for future entrepreneurs
By Kathryn Herd
Jiaju Justin Yan
After months of observations, surveys, writings and rewritings, Baylor Assistant Professor Jiaju Justin Yan and PhD graduate Russell Browder achieved what many in business academia deem one of the highest accolades: the doctoral dissertation award from the Academy of Management. One of the largest professional associations of scholars, the Entrepreneurial Division considered hundreds of dissertations from candidates across the globe before picking its two winners.
“This is the biggest award that you can win in the entrepreneurship field,” Professor and Chair of Entrepreneurship and Corporate Innovation Department Peter Klein said. Yan received the 2021 Heizer Best Doctoral Dissertation Award for his paper, “Exploring the Unknown Requires Leveraging Uncertainty: Two Essays on A Real Options Perspective on the Pattern and Decision-Making of Entrepreneurial Internationalization.” After completing his PhD program at the University of Tennessee, Yan joined the Entrepreneurship and Corporate Innovation faculty in July 2020.
For Yan, achieving this honor not only allows him national recognition but a sense of legacy for him and his advisors, Denis Gregoire and David Williams, who received the same award years prior. Yan notes that the two served as role models for him throughout his research process, where he studied how uncertainty impacts the internationalization process for business owners.
“Winning the Heizer award is a great honor and recognition of the research I do,” Yan said. “I am extremely grateful to my dissertation advisors, my alma mater and the scholarly community of entrepreneurship. Such an award will further motivate me to conduct impactful and relevant research that can contribute to entrepreneurship theory and practice.”
Ultimately, he hopes to integrate his findings into public policy, thereby easing the transition for business owners as they explore moving their ventures abroad, especially considering the COVID-19 pandemic.
Russell Browder earned the NFIB Best Dissertation Award for his research titled, “Intermediation and Disintermediation of Resources for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Maker Movement,” where he examined through hours of hands-on observation how small business owners are democratizing tools of innovation within makerspaces.
“Walking into these spaces sometimes is like walking into makers’ happy place,” Browder said. “It is walking into their world. It is interesting to see what makes them tick, what brings them alive and what places they can escape to in order to find community, meaning and inspiration.”
Browder continues to explore how small business owners are adapting within the current climate of the business world. He attributes his drive for research to the encouraging faculty and staff he grew close to as he pursued his PhD. After completing his doctorate degree at Baylor, he accepted a faculty position as an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma.
“I am extremely grateful for the many different people at Baylor that supported me in the research,” Browder said. “I was a part of the very first cohort of PhD students. It was a brand-new program. I am really excited that this award recognizes the investment that Baylor made in me by the attention that’s been given to the research that came out of my time there.”
Both Yan and Browder’s accomplishments continue to spur Baylor’s Entrepreneurship and Department of Entrepreneurship and Corporate Innovation forward as more research is conducted throughout its programs.
“We are very proud of the achievements both Justin and Russell received from the Academy of Management,” Sandeep Mazumder, William E. Crenshaw Endowed Dean of the Hankamer School of Business, said. “Here at Baylor, we strive to produce impactful scholarship with the purpose of human flourishing, and these young researchers have done just that. Producing and recruiting research talent such as Justin and Russell is evidence of Baylor’s progress in becoming the leading Christian R1 research institution.”