Ross J. Gittell
Outstanding Associate Professor
James R. Carter Professor of Management
Whittemore School of Business and Economics
Photographed on August 4, 2004, in Manchester, N.H.
When he was a graduate student at Harvard, Ross Gittell’s adviser asked him where he wanted to be in 15 years. He vividly recalls saying a public university with a triple mission—education, intellectual inquiry, and serving the state.
Fifteen years later, that’s exactly where he is. “I came to UNH because I wanted to make a difference and affect people’s lives to make them better. It’s very inspiring to see how a first-generation college student with a business background can really change his or her own life and the lives of those around them. It’s also exciting to see that your research can make a difference. I like the synergy of a land-grant institution; there is a lot of socio-economic diversity and opportunity to have your research effect public policy.”
The University’s new tenure and promotion requirement that faculty show integration of their teaching, research, and service could have been modeled on Gittell’s example. His seemingly effortless ability to do just that led to his recent promotion to full professor.
Gittell attributes his success to his willingness to take risks and be a team player. “Reciprocal relationships make this all happen,” he says. “If you’re always contributing, people are willing to give back. The main thing is to do the right thing: give, and treat people with respect. If you do these things, the right thing happens.”
Happen they do. Every student entering the Whittemore School of Business and Economics is required to take an Introduction to Business class taught by Gittell. This is no ordinary introductory class thanks to Gittell’s own research and service to the state. For the last decade he has been part of an advisory team that prepares analyses and makes presentations on Wall Street that affect the state’s bond ratings. As a result, Governor Craig Benson, co-founder of networking giant Cabletron Systems, is a guest lecturer in the class, as are executives from leading companies around the state and the region, including Cisco Systems, Velcro, Citizens Bank, and Liberty Mutual.
After three years of providing its top executives as a resource for students in the class, Fidelity Investments established a Community Service Awards program to recognize the volunteer activities of the students. The class requires them to do eight hours of community service as part of learning about corporate social responsibility, and the Fidelity commitment means they are eligible to win a $1,000 grant—not for themselves, but for the nonprofit organization where they do their work.
“It is important for businesses to realize they operate in a larger society and that they have an obligation to think beyond their self to help others,” Gittell says, “and it’s also critical for students to understand the importance of that, and to feel the excitement of giving back.”
Gittell’s desire is to affect larger societal issues through his research, providing data and analysis for policy and decision makers. His work impacts the community and the state where he and his wife, Jody Hoffer Gittell, live and raise their two daughters, 10-year-old Rose and Grace, 6. “The things I talk about that bring people to New Hampshire are the things we do as a family—visit historical sites, enjoy local arts and culture, engage in politics, go to the beach, hike, and share food, conversations, and time with our neighbors and friends in our backyard, in our home, and in local restaurants and coffee shops.”
One to practice what he preaches, Gittell is himself an active volunteer, serving as vice president of the New England Economic Partnership and in various roles for the Children’s Alliance of New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, and NetworkNH.
Gittell is also a firm believer in collaboration. He has published articles with more than a dozen co-authors. He co-teaches an internship course with colleague Jeff Sohl and a Management of Technology class with a former executive from Autodesk, one of the world’s leading computer system design and content companies. Gittell is currently involved in a three-year project to improve understanding of air quality funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.