Steven F. Freeman

Case Centre award statement

page created: 04/11/2015
page last modified: 05/07/2015

What this grant means to me and what it will permit me to do

Most schools that identify as elite research institutions do not value case-writing. Neither MIT, from which I received my PhD ('98), nor Penn, where I've worked the past 15 years, provide institutional support. 

Still, like most of my colleagues, and especially those who strive to be good teachers, I use teaching cases. I have good training and experience with case instruction. While still at MIT, I sat in on Harvard Business School classes to learn how to teach, and did case teaching/writing workshops. Subsequently, I’ve worked at institutions based on the HBS model in Central America and Argentina. 

So it’s disappointing not to have any support to write cases when I come across a situation that really does illustrate a teaching point I’d like to make, especially, as is often the case for teachers trying to break new ground in their courses, no good alternative can be found.

Yet that’s not why I applied for the grant . Despite the disincentives and lack of support, I do use my own cases, many of which work extremely well. The reason that I did apply and am greatly appreciative of receiving it is that I hope it permit me to begin to develop and publish these cases so that others may use them also.

With all due respect to HBS – a great institution – it's a travesty the way other schools rely so heavily on HBS teaching cases. In the vast majority of these cases the protagonist is either at the pinnacle of the corporate world or on track to be. As such, these cases not only present situations the vast majority of our students are unlikely to face, but implicitly and uncritically take a Harvard MBA aspirational perspective. Even for the elite student for whom the situations may be apt, excessive reliance on HBS cases presents an exceedingly narrow frame of and on organizational life as though it were the entirety of it.

This scholarship will provide, I hope, the critical support I need to develop at least one first case for publication and dissemination. Hopefully, it’s a first step towards helping contribute to a case base representative of the situations, aspirations and perspectives for the rest of us.

So, thank you for this opportunity. I’m most appreciative; perhaps at least a few students throughout the world may ultimately have cause to be appreciative as well.

Steve Freeman
February 26, 2015

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