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Powell to Lead Stanford's Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences

The multi-disciplinary social scientist and two-time fellow has forged deep connections with CASBS throughout a distinguished academic career

Stanford, CA, April 5, 2022 – Renowned Stanford University scholar Walter W. “Woody” Powell has accepted an appointment as interim director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS). Powell succeeds Margaret Levi, who will step down at the end of August after more than eight years as CASBS director. He takes office on September 1, 2022.

Powell will serve a one-year term while a selection committee completes its comprehensive search to identify and evaluate candidates for the permanent director position.

“I have a deep affection for the Center and its many remarkable contributions to the vitality of the social sciences,” said Woody Powell. “I take special pleasure in helping it flourish.”

Powell is very familiar with CASBS, and its community with him. He has been a CASBS fellow twice, first in 1986-87 and again in 2008-09. He served on the Center’s Fellowship Selection Committee from 2012-14 and co-directed a Summer Institute on Economy and Society in 2006. In 2016-17 he was appointed as a CASBS research affiliate and, since 2017, has served as a CASBS Stanford faculty fellow. Since 2016, he has co-directed (with two-time CASBS fellow Robert Gibbons) the CASBS summer institute on Organizations and Their Effectiveness. The institute is helping revitalize and transform the cross-disciplinary field of organization studies through its collaborative training of more than sixty late-stage graduate students and early-stage faculty from across the social sciences.

“No one better exemplifies what a faculty fellow – and, indeed, a scholarly community member – should be,” said Margaret Levi. “Woody engages with our fellows, mentors them, and links them with others in his vast network at Stanford and throughout the world. And he is also an invaluable sounding board and advisor to CASBS leadership, putting to good use his skills as an observer of organizations. Woody is a superb choice to lead the Center as it enters its next chapter.”

Powell and Levi are expected to coordinate and collaborate extensively over the summer to facilitate a smooth leadership transition.

“Margaret Levi has been a magnificent director, reinvigorating and reimagining CASBS while retaining its best features. She is an exceptional scholar of leadership, and has put those lessons into practice with ease and wit,” added Powell.

Powell is the Jacks Family Professor of Education, and (by courtesy) professor of sociology, organizational behavior, management science and engineering, and communication at Stanford University. He earned his PhD in sociology at SUNY Stony Brook in 1978. He joined the Stanford faculty in 1999, after previously teaching at the University of Arizona, MIT, and Yale University. He served as an external faculty member of the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) from 2001-13, and remains involved with SFI today. His interests span the areas of organizational theory, economic sociology, the sociology of science, and institutional analysis. His research focuses mainly on processes through which ideas and practices are transferred across organizations, the role of networks in facilitating or hindering innovation, and the manner in which institutions codify ideas and practices. His most recent books include The Emergence of Organizations and Markets, with John F. Padgett (2012), which won the 2012-13 Best Book Award from the Political Networks section of the American Political Science Association, and The Nonprofit Sector, co-edited with Patricia Bromley (2020). He is the author or coauthor of numerous influential articles. Among them, “Network Dynamics and Field Evolution: The Growth of Inter-Organizational Collaboration in the Life Sciences,” (2005) published in the American Journal of Sociology, received the Viviana Zelizer Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in Economic Sociology. Administrative Science Quarterly recognized “Technological Change and the Locus of Innovation: Networks of Learning in Biotechnology,” with Kenneth Koput and Laurel Smith-Doerr (1996), with its ASQ Award for Scholarly Publication.

Notably, Powell’s collaborations with former CASBS fellow (1984-85) Paul DiMaggio are considered seminal within organizational theory. Their now-classic book, The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis(1991), was initiated at a conference during Powell’s first CASBS fellowship. Powell wrote his influential article, “Neither Market nor Hierarchy,” winner of the 1991 Max Weber Outstanding Scholarship Award from the Organizations and Occupations section of the American Sociological Association, during the same year. Both works have been cited more than ten-thousand times. And the Powell and DiMaggio article, “The Iron Cage Revisited: Institutional Isomorphism and Collective Rationality in Organizational Fields,” (1983) is the most cited article in the history of the American Sociological Review.

In recognition of his intellectual contributions, Powell has received honorary doctorates from Uppsala University, the Copenhagen Business School, and the Helsinki School of Economics. He is an elected foreign member of the Swedish Royal Academy of Science and The British Academy. In recognition of his teaching and mentoring, he received the 2018-19 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford.

Powell’s academic accomplishments combine with administrative experience. He has served as faculty co-director of the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS) since its founding in 2006, and currently shares the Marc and Laura Andreessen Co-Directorship of PACS. He has served as a Member of the Governing Board of Stanford University Press since 2020. From 1999-2010, he served as director of the Scandinavian Consortium for Organizational Research (SCANCOR) at Stanford, where he succeeded the incomparable James G. March, himself a two-time CASBS fellow. He also has served on the board of the Social Science Research Council since 2000. He has acted in a service capacity on dozens of steering, advisory, search, and other committees at Stanford and other universities and research institutions throughout his career. Among them are numerous editorial roles, including as editor of Contemporary Sociology, U.S. editor of Research Policy, editorial board member of the Annual Review of Sociology and the American Journal of Sociology, and editorial or governing board member of university presses at Yale, Arizona, and Stanford.

“Woody Powell is widely admired as a creative scholar, generous mentor, and a leader of great integrity,” said Abby Smith Rumsey, chair of the CASBS board of directors. “The board welcomes his appointment and looks forward to working with him.”

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Founded in 1954, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Stanford University is renowned as a place where deep thinkers from diverse disciplines and communities come together to confront critical issues of our time. At CASBS, boundaries and assumptions are challenged and cross-disciplinary thinking is the norm. The Center has hosted generations of distinguished scholars and scientists who, in the spirit of collaboration, form an enduring community that advances our understanding of the full range of human beliefs, behaviors, interactions, and institutions.

Contact: Mike Gaetani, CASBS Communications |  | (650) 736-0119

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