Get to know SCANCOR/Stanford's new director - Chiqui Ramirez

Q: What kind of research are you conducting currently? How does it tie in with your new role at SCANCOR?

A: I have been comparing the organization of universities across different countries. The underlying strategy is to assess how much universities are shaped by historical legacies and organizational path dependencies relative to the influence of world models of what constitutes a good university and the homogenizing impact of a global educational environment. I have several papers that in different ways address this issue.

More recently some of my students and I are examining a national probability sample of American universities. The goal is to trace organizational changes, both at the structural and discursive levels. We especially focus on the emergence and expansion of university development and communications offices, diversity or inclusion offices, student counselling offices, and lastly, internationalization offices. These structural developments co-vary with discursive emphases that extoll the virtues of entrepreneurial universities, empowered individuals, and universities as world class problem solving global actors. To be sure each of these virtues becomes a serious shortcoming in ongoing critiques of university developments, e.g. academic capitalism, erosion of faculty authority, etc.  Both defenders and critics agree on one point: these developments took place earlier and are more evident in the United States.

We seek to contribute to this literature by addressing two questions: What is it about American society that facilitated these developments?  Which of these developments is more likely to be adapted in other societies? What country or university level factors will predict earlier and more extensive adaptation or alternatively, resistance? 

Q: Do you recall your first interaction with SCANCOR? What was your impression of the organization then?

A: I have a distinctive recollection of Jim March in an elegant dark suit looking for the Prince of Denmark who needed to cut a ribbon to launch SCANCOR in the GSE. I also recall sipping wine from a box while enjoying conversation and company in the pillow room.  So, my first impressions of SCANCOR included a royal connection but more importantly real camaraderie. 

Q: What kind of research collaborations have you had with SCANCOR  scholars in the past?

A: I have two papers in Higher Education, one with Dijana Tiplic and another with Tom Christensen. Both endeavors reflect my ongoing interest in comparative higher education organization: why and in what ways are there are differences across countries and why and in what ways are they becoming more similar.  I also have multiple EGOS related scholarly links to Lars Engswall.  I hope to further interact with him in SCAS in the fall. One of my earlier papers on the rationalization of universities was a chapter in a book edited by SCANCOR friends, Kerstin Shalin and Marie-Laure Djelic.   My last book looked at higher education and health as organizational fields in comparative perspective and this too involved colleagues from Scandinavia.

Q: SCANCOR will celebrate its 30th Anniversary under your leadership. What is your vision for the future of SCANCOR at Stanford?

I am tempted to say that I need to consult with a management guru to figure out the core values of SCANCOR and how these core values inform its vision and thus its mission. But management consultants are costly and some would say cost ineffective. So, my starting point will be an exercise in camaraderie: listen to the many who have shaped SCANCOR over the years.

SCANOR future will involve a great deal of continuity with its past, though increasingly better integrated with the Graduate School of Education.  Many of the ideas that guided its evolution—organizational learning, organizational anarchies, loose coupling, institutional isomorphism—were ideas hatched with university organizations in mind. SCANCOR in the future will involve a revitalization of scholarly interest in educational organizations, institutions, and networks.