With their long history and passion for promoting services and education in the developing world through various organizations, Robert, MBA ’74, and Elizabeth Jeffe were motivated to bring that focus to bear at the business school. Previously, one of their key personal philanthropic projects had been medical outreach to save lives in rural Africa. Having seen firsthand what impact they could have on a global scale, the couple chose to endow the Robert A.and Elizabeth R. Jeffe Professorship at Stanford GSB to support and encourage faculty members working in developing countries and healthcare. In doing so, Bob says, “We are enthusiastic about supporting faculty who are instrumental in teaching students and pioneering research and programs that address issues that we care so deeply about around the world.”
With Jesper Sørensen as the inaugural chairholder, the school has appointed an expert in organizational behavior and sociology whose work specializes in the dynamics of organizational and strategic change. His research has focused on the impact of organizational structure and culture on organizational learning, performance, and innovation. Currently, he is engaged in a large-scale project on the determinants of entrepreneurial behavior that examines, in part, how work environments shape rates of entrepreneurship.
Sørensen was recently named one of the four faculty directors of the new Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies (SEED). He will lead its education and dissemination function, which will design courses and cases for both students and on-the-ground entrepreneurs. He also serves as the faculty director of the Center for Social Innovation (CSI) and is the Susan Ford Dorsey Faculty Fellow for 2011-12.
He notes, “My wife, Patty, and I have been fortunate to participate in several student study trips organized by the CSI, which focuses on cross-sector solutions to complex social problems. What always amazes me after our trips is that our students are convinced that change can happen — and that they can deliver it. This optimism can be infectious, and it gives me hope that there is an opportunity for business schools to begin to make an impact on the challenges faced by people in developing countries. The opportunity is there, and the time is ripe.”
A popular instructor, Sørensen currently teaches strategic leadership in the MBA program and the elective course Poverty, Entrepreneurship, and Development, which focuses on global poverty as a problem that persists on a massive scale. He also serves on the faculty steering committee of Stanford’s Haas Center for Public Service.
Sørensen also is a member of the advisory team for the Jeffes’ newest philanthropic endeavor, which is dedicated to applying management techniques, technological advances, and innovation to improve healthcare delivery in Central America as a model for other regions. That effort is led by Dr. Paul Wise, who is the Richard E. Behrman Professor of Child Health and Society at the Stanford School of Medicine and a Senior Fellow at the Freeman-Spogli Institute for International Studies. Sørensen adds, “It is a great honor to be the inaugural holder of the Robert A.and Elizabeth R. Jeffe Professorship , and a heavy responsibility. That burden is lightened, however, by appreciating how their determination is mixed with kindness and humor. I can’t help but imagine that we can look at the Jeffes and see what we might accomplish and the impact that we might have.”