Chicago Family Business Council: Could you tell us a little bit about your programs and responsibilities?
Dr. Patrick J. Murphy: Last year I founded the Social Enterprise Collaborative (dpusocent.org), which is a donor-funded operation at DePaul that connects our students who are interested in becoming social entrepreneurs (or working for a social venture) with social entrepreneurs in Chicago. We’ve grown very quickly and have had three events. The last one had 175 attendees, all of whom were DePaul students, faculty, or Chicago social entrepreneurs. Additionally, since early 2012 I have been leading the university’s strategic expansion into China, where we have recently established a university-level relationship with Huaqiao University (http://offices.depaul.edu/president/multimedia-gallery/2013/Pages/huaqiao-univ-visit.aspx).
CFBC: Tell us why you chose to come to DePaul
PJM: I interviewed at 10-12 schools around the world once I completed my PhD, and I think I had 5 offers, including one at a European school and one in Singapore. DePaul gave me the best offer and I was most impressed by the students and faculty here. I did my graduate work right across town (UIC), but geography had little to do with it. I wanted to go to a place where I’d have the freedom to envision and build things and make an impact.
CFBC: What was your first impression of DePaul?
PJM: At first blush, the faculty seemed so senior and experienced. I soon realized that many of them had been here a long time, which spoke volumes to me about what a nice place it’d be to spend my own career. People love it here so they don’t leave. Eventually, I came to realize that we truly are the university OF Chicago. No other university has such deep connections to the culture and the social fabric of our city.
CFBC: What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work with DePaul, and why?
PJM: There have been several such aspects. I have a passion for Social Entrepreneurship, so launching the Social Enterprise Collaborative and seeing it take root has been very satisfying. As well, I was a foreign student in China in college and I speak Chinese, so being given the responsibility of taking DePaul into China and seeing our first-ever formal university-level relationship with a proper Chinese university has been amazing. Finally, I’ve been here long enough now (10 years) to see a lot of my students become entrepreneurs. I’ve kept in touch with many of them, and they can come back and share their knowledge and experience with my current students. I advise a lot of them as they undertake their ventures. It’s all so rewarding because I feel a personal tie to all of these aspects of my work.
CFBC: What has been your greatest lesson you’ve learned through your work at DePaul?
PJM: Theory without practice is pointless, and practice without theory is blind. This mantra is my pedagogical credo. Every entrepreneurship class I teach involves outreach to the community and so does the Social Enterprise Collaborative. However, entering those practical contexts is no reason to lose a rigorous theoretic approach to complex problems. A strong and smart theoretical approach is the only way to separate noise from data and solve problems when common sense doesn’t work. Applying concepts to reality is a big strength of our business school. I regard it as pedagogically far more rigorous than reading and critiquing business cases in a classroom.
CFBC: What do you wish CFBC members knew about your work, and why?
PJM: I wrote a book with my colleague Ray Coye that mines old logbooks and journals from seafaring ventures 500 years ago in the Age of Discovery (http://amzn.com/0300170289). The book is called Mutiny and Its Bounty: Leadership Lessons from the Age of Discovery (Yale U. Press, 2013). In short, mutineers in those days were far more sophisticated than those who might wish to remove their leader today. Much can be learned from them. And the first-person primary source accounts offer amazing qualitative data.
CFBC: How could you serve as a resource for the CFBC members, and how could they serve as a resource for you?
PJM: Let’s connect and undertake some outreach consulting projects involving a student team. Probably 25% of the ventures (more than 100 since I’ve been here) that I’ve consulted to with student teams are family businesses. If your family business has a social purpose embedded into its operations or wishes to move in that direction, please tune into the Social Enterprise Collaborative or contact me to work with a student team. Please also attend the Social Enterprise Collaborative events (more info at the website). Our next big one isn’t until autumn but they’re free admission and have been very successful.
CFBC: Tell me about someone who has influenced your decision to do the work you do?
PJM: It’s hard to identify just one. My Dad is a retired railroad executive and he compelled me, by how he approached his work, to do only what I love to do and not to compromise on that principle. His Dad was the mayor of Whitefish, MT. I did not know my grandfather really well because we moved a lot but I can tell he influenced my Dad in the same way. I also had an advisor in college, whom I still keep in touch with, who reinforced the notion that it’s easy to good work without loving one’s job, but it’s impossible to do excellent work. So if I don’t love something, then I try to learn to love it or I don’t do it unless I have to. I didn’t expect to be a career academic until I was more than halfway through my doctoral studies; I was following my path in academia because I had a passion for scholarly work. In fact, I worked at a large company (Schneider Electric’s North American Headquarters in Palatine) for two years before I knew that I did not love working in a large company and understood that my passion for academia was too intense to ignore. I had to be a professor or an entrepreneur. By the way, there are a lot of commonalities between those two careers.
CFBC: What would you tell our members who are thinking about working with DePaul?
PJM: We’re a very friendly place. Reach out to anyone here directly.
CFBC: What do you do when you aren’t working?
PJM: Play guitar. I used to run in all types of weather but now I only run outside when the weather is warm, and travel a lot.
CFBC: What one book would you recommend to our members?
PJM: Mutiny and Its Bounty: Leadership Lessons from the Age of Discovery. Aside from my own book, of course, then I’d recommend Conjectures and Refutations by Karl Popper. My greatest intellectual and scholarly influence came from Popper.
CFBC: What in your early work life had an impact on you or motivated you?
PJM: I love to publish my work. Scholarly articles are powerful in a very subtle way. For example, they influence the way courses are taught and how books are written, which influences how students eventually conduct business. If you publish a good scholarly article, other scholars around the world will cite it and use in their business schools for many years. Once I made that linkage, I acquired a creative spark that still drives me now and will always drive me.
CFBC: How does your department celebrate successes? And can we be invited?
PJM: We usually send a group email blast. We also give high fives in the hallways. Not much actually – I think everyone’s too busy working to take time to do things like that. Maybe the CFBC can help us with that (?)
CFBC: What are your plans for the future?
PJM: I plan to earn promotion to full professor and then to develop the Social Enterprise Collaborative into a world-class Center for Social Enterprise at DePaul University. I’d like it to have an international component, as per the China project I noted above – so much of social enterprise activity is international by nature, and a clear international element would be a phenomenal way to engage our international students and increase DePaul’s impact in Chicago and beyond. DePaul is going through a period of internationalization right now. We must effectively engage students and partners across all kinds of boundaries and do it in a way that doesn’t clash with our culture, but reinforces our culture and our impressive strengths.