For one management professor, research is a family affair
November 21, 2019
Collaborating on research publications is nothing new in the world of higher education; making it a family affair that spans generations, however, is a unique attribute one Pamplin College of Business professor brings to his work.
Richard Hunt, an assistant professor in the Department of Management, received – along with his co-author Angelique Ortiz-Hunt – the Outstanding Paper Award from the Healthcare Management Division at the Academy of Management Annual Conference in August 2019 for the research paper “Sustainable human healthcare: The centrality of intrapreneurial nurses.”
That Hunt’s research was awarded should be no surprise, as he has received more than two dozen best paper awards, becoming the first three-time winner of the Academy of Management’s Entrepreneurship Division “Best Conceptual Paper,” the first two-time winner of Emerald Publishing’s Award for “Best Published Work on Innovation and Entrepreneurship,” as well as receiving the Academy of Management’s “Outstanding Dissertation Award.” That his co-author, Ortiz-Hunt, is his wife, while definitely unique, should not come as much of a surprise considering her background in finance and nursing – not to mention industrial engineering – makes her the prime candidate with whom to partner for research centered on intrapreneurship and healthcare.
What is surprising, and unique to Hunt, is that this marked the fifth different research paper he has submitted with a fourth different family member as a co-author, none of whom work in academia. “All four projects have involved family members with different passions, yet mutual interests, where there is an opportunity to work together in pursuing a cool, novel question,” Hunt explained. “What could be better than that?”
The idea to partner with his family on research first came in 2015 when his oldest daughter, Lauren Ortiz-Hunt, was a junior in high school. Lauren was working on two in-depth projects simultaneously – one in calculus and one in Advanced Placement U.S. history. “It was literally a couple of school projects that were turned into scholarly research,” said Hunt.
For U.S. history, Lauren was writing a paper which studied entrepreneurship on western U.S. waterways. “She was already about halfway through with her work when we had the idea to combine the assignments into a bigger research question,” Hunt explained. By utilizing the research she had already completed for her U.S. history project, Lauren was able to devise a formula to isolate the financial returns garnered from novel inventions, thus creating a mathematical proof for her calculus class.
Lauren eventually presented the duo’s research, “Entrepreneurial Round Tripping: The Benefits of Newness and Smallness in Multi-Directional Value Creation,” at an academic conference while still a high school student. The paper was published in a leading, peer-reviewed journal and is already being widely cited by other scholars.
She also received A’s on both papers.
Not to be outdone, Avery Ortiz-Hunt, Hunt’s youngest daughter, paired with her father for a research project in 2017, while she was also still a high school student. Avery, who, according to Hunt, has always had an interest in business as well as ethology (the study of animal behavior), was interested in challenging the idea that entrepreneurship is solely the domain of humans. Their research paper, “Can Non-Humans Be Entrepreneurs?”, elicited widespread interest among conference attendees when it was presented at the Babson College Entrepreneurship Research Conference, the premier annual gathering of entrepreneurship scholars.
“After Avery and I presented our research, Ronald Noë, a retired primatologist, behavioral ecologist, and a leader in his field, wrote us a note stating that ‘I think we have to thank you and your daughter for bringing our kind of message to the attention of people at the outskirts of our discipline,’” Hunt explained. “Of course, we were thrilled to have provoked consideration of entrepreneurship as an activity that may have deep biological origins.”
Hunt stated that he doesn’t specifically look for research projects that could involve family members, rather, it is something that happens organically. “We don’t just sit around and talk about research projects. We also play Cards Against Humanity,” he joked.
“All of us have opinions and love to learn. And we all love to generate debate. Since research generally needs to say something that is counter-intuitive in order to make a contribution, the debates lead to great research questions,” Hunt continued. “Each of us have areas of interest that, through conversation, we discover overlaps with another area of interest, all of which make for interesting collaborations.”
The most interesting collaboration so far may have come when Hunt decided to work with his father, David Hunt, on the research paper “Assessing the Long-term Viability of Social Enterprises: The Illuminating Case of Quaker Entrepreneurs, 1650 – 1850.” That research earned the Hunts and co-author David Townsend, an assistant professor in the Department of Management, recognition at the Sustainability, Ethics, and Entrepreneurship Annual Conference this past May.
Hunt’s father, a retired electrical engineer, has had a life-long interest in his family’s genealogy, writing over 4,000 pages on the subject. “The legacy my father is providing is a remarkable achievement in genealogy,” explained Hunt. “He has given context to the time in which our family lived, capturing more than three centuries of our family’s American experience.”
By utilizing the daily journals and meeting house minutes of their Quaker descendants, Hunt and his father were able to piece together the successes and failures of entrepreneurial efforts from the past. “We were very fortunate in that Quakers had a long tradition of keeping voluminous records of their daily lives, religious experiences, and business transactions,” added David. “Our research benefited immensely from their combined, multi-generational efforts.”
With his most recent research papers making the rounds at symposiums throughout the country, Hunt sees room for further research opportunities with his family. “Angelique and I see the healthcare field as an amazing context for research on innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Hunt. “Likewise, Avery – now an undergrad at Baylor University – has been kicking around some new ideas as well.”
He continued, “Non-scholar co-authors used to be commonplace in the field of management, but scholar-practitioner teams have become rare. That’s a shame since non-scholars bring a different kind of expertise and knowledge to a project. It’s always good to bring fresh eyes to questions as that leads to novel perspectives.”
For Hunt, when it comes to working with his family, the result is not nearly as important as the process itself. “I love the story telling aspect that comes with research projects, even those that employ quantitative analysis of sprawling, complex datasets, as have many of our family collaborations,” he explained. “Knowledge-seeking is a journey, and journeys always make the most exciting and enduring stories.
“Every research paper begins with a novel idea, compelling findings, and a blank laptop screen. To be able to build something for which we have a shared passion – building something together from the ground up that contributes to human knowledge – that is special.”
— Written by Jeremy Norman