How Scholars Can Help Businesses Be Good Citizens: Student Commencement Speaker

June 8, 2023

Junghoon Park (Ph.D. ’23, Business), who spoke at Commencement last week, shared his advice on finding a tenure-track position.

Junghoon Park speaking at the 57th Commencement at Lincoln Center
Junghoon Park (Ph.D. ’23, Business) at the CUNY Graduate Center Commencement on June 2, 2023.

In his speech last week before the Class of 2023 graduating class, Junghoon Park spoke about the importance of inspiring and engaging with the next generation. That is part of the reason why he decided to join Loyola Marymount University, an institution that focuses on both research and teaching, as a tenure-track professor this fall. During his time at the Graduate Center and Baruch College, Park focused on strategic management and business sustainability, including how businesses can help fight climate change and public health problems through their strategies. He recently spoke to the Graduate Center about his academic journey and goals.

The Graduate Center: Why did you decide to pursue a doctoral degree in business?

Park: My primary areas of research are strategic management and business sustainability. I’m intrigued by how businesses can design and implement strategies that integrate sustainability at their core. Such strategies are crucial in addressing pressing societal issues like climate change and public health deficiencies. Given their significant societal influence and resources, businesses often find themselves at the center of these discussions. They possess the potential, through their financial resources, technological expertise, and human capital, to lead sustainability efforts. However, they also face challenges such as short-term financial pressures and a lack of expertise in sustainability. Advancing sustainability requires a shift from traditional business paradigms. It demands strategies that aim to create and share value with and for society, which in turn requires different capabilities and mindsets. Recognizing the immense potential that companies hold for instigating change, it felt natural for me to pursue a Ph.D. in business.

Learn More About the Ph.D. Program in Business

GC: How do you see businesses as being able to help address climate change and other sustainability issues?

Park: Indeed, we are in an era in which the definition of business success is transforming. It’s no longer solely about profitability; sustainability is becoming an equally crucial factor. Businesses are gradually realizing the importance of integrating environmental, social, and economic considerations into their core strategies. They’re acknowledging their responsibility to address current societal needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.

Yet, despite this shift in perspective, substantial sustainability challenges persist, in part due to a short-term profitability focus that often overshadows the long-term implications of business activities on sustainability.

It’s important that businesses shift this mindset and prioritize their sustainability initiatives. They’re uniquely positioned to use their resources innovatively, such as investing in technologies that capture greenhouse gas emissions, to positively influence these pressing societal challenges. As scholars, our role is pivotal in guiding businesses along this path. We shed light on the practical solutions that academics can provide to sustainability concerns related to business activities. This synergistic collaboration between scholarship and business is where I believe we can make significant strides toward a sustainable future.

2023 Commencement speakers
Speakers at the 2023 Commencement.  (L-R) Provost Steve Everett, honorary degree recipient George Takei, President Robin L. Garrell, and Junghoon Park 

GC: The question of whether businesses should or should not have an ethical or societal outlook has become particularly fraught in recent months. Is this a difficult time to argue that businesses should be more involved in fighting climate change or improving public health?

Park: I want to clarify that my position does not favor an unchecked expansion of corporate power, as this could result in multifaceted issues if businesses acquire excessive political influence. Instead, I advocate for a nuanced understanding that positions companies as key contributors to societal solutions, not merely as economic units. Amid the escalating debates surrounding corporate roles, it is vital not to view them merely as causes of various sustainability issues but rather to recognize their potential to evolve into problem solvers. I believe this is the area where scholars can offer unique and critical insights. Given the pressing concerns of our time, such as climate change and public health deficiencies, it has never been more critical to engage in these discussions.

GC: You received a handful of job offers for faculty positions. What do you think made you stand out in the academic job market?

Park: It’s important to acknowledge that my field, business, generally has more tenure-track positions available than some other disciplines due to the high demand in undergraduate and M.B.A. programs. However, the academic job market is quite challenging for Ph.D. students because existing professors also seek to move to other institutions.

In today’s academic environment, at least in my field, both research-focused institutions and those that balance the importance of research and teaching expect Ph.D. graduates to have publications in top-tier journals. I’m fortunate to have several such publications in my field, which undoubtedly strengthened my standing in the job market. Yet it’s not just about existing publications. Having an impressive research pipeline, indicative of the potential for future scholarly contributions, is also important. Hiring institutions aren’t just looking at what you have already achieved; they are also interested in what you are likely to accomplish in the future. This pipeline serves as a strong signal that you could be a successful tenure-track candidate at their institution.

When institutions receive hundreds of applications, they often first look at the publication section of a candidate’s CV. However, a paper close to publication, or under revision at a top-tier journal, also sends a powerful signal about a candidate’s potential to conduct high-quality research.

GC: Is there anything you wish you’d known when you were just starting out in the Ph.D. program?

Park: One thing I wish I had understood at the start of my Ph.D. journey is the critical role of networking and finding your academic home. Ph.D. students are presented with numerous opportunities to submit proposals, abstracts, or full papers for conferences, seminars, and other academic events. Being proactive in participating in these academic gatherings is crucial for career advancement. I did participate, but in retrospect, I wish I had done more. You never know when a connection you make might prove beneficial. For instance, a person you met years ago at a conference could be at an institution where you’re now applying for a job.

Moreover, finding your academic home is essential. When you’re working with a specific theoretical lens or a phenomenon, finding scholars with similar interests can offer invaluable academic support. Establishing these connections and being part of an intellectual community that shares your research interests not only enriches your academic journey but also creates avenues for collaboration and growth. So, the importance of networking and finding one’s academic home are two insights I would underscore for anyone starting a Ph.D. program.

Junghoon with his adviser, Ivan Montiel, in the background
Park at his dissertation defense with a tribute to Montiel on the screen

GC: Ivan Montiel, your adviser, passed away early this year. How did he help you during your time at the Graduate Center?

Park: I was paired with Ivan when I first entered the Ph.D. program in 2018, so we worked together for five years until his passing. His unwavering support and mentorship were invaluable, and we also considered each other friends. His friendship helped me navigate many challenges during my Ph.D. journey.

As a native Korean speaker, I found communicating in English quite daunting. The stress of coursework, readings, term papers, and coming up with my own research questions was immense during the first few years. Ivan was a great source of comfort and guidance during those times of stress. I still have a screenshot of a text message where he told me, I really want you to be happy at Baruch College and the Graduate Center. He once invited me to an informal gathering when I was particularly stressed, and looking back, I realize that without that night, I wouldn’t have made it through the semester.

And in addition to that kind of support, we also collaborated professionally. We co-authored several papers, which we successfully published in top-tier journals in our field. As a Ph.D. student, this sort of support is indispensable because publishing work in a top-tier journal is a daunting task.

Ivan often told me, Junghoon, I have your back. Don’t worry about your journey, your career. I will always have your back. This kind of support is rare and incredibly valuable. I am profoundly grateful for it.

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