Profile with Jennifer Howard-Grenville

Jennifer Howard-Grenville (Alberta & New College 1990) is the 2013 Lundquist College of Business Thomas C. Stewart Distinguished Professor at the University of Oregon. She holds a PhD in Technology, Management and Policy from MIT, an MA in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from Oxford University, and a BSc in Engineering Physics from Queen’s University. Next year, Jennifer will spend her sabbatical in Canada and Oxford with her two children.

Rhodes Project: Where do you call home?

Jennifer Howard-Grenville: Where I live right now – Eugene, Oregon.

Rhodes Project: Who is your favorite author?

Jennifer Howard-Grenville: My reading is mostly work-related, so I tend to start books and not finish them. Or I read books that my children are reading, which is fantastic. My daughter is almost done with Harry Potter 5 – I have to catch up with her!

Rhodes Project: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Jennifer Howard-Grenville: I knew a few things that I didn’t want to be, because my dad was a doctor and my mom was also trained as a doctor. I was the kid who would faint when we went to visit the hospital or nursing home with our Girl Scout troop. I would literally be sitting on the floor because I couldn’t stand the smell, sight, or thought of blood. I knew that was not for me.

Rhodes Project: What’s the best part of your job now?

Jennifer Howard-Grenville: My research. I get to gather data, and learn about how people are doing things and what they’re doing - completely out of my own initiative. And then I get to write that up for arcane journals! It’s very autonomous and very satisfying.

Rhodes Project: What’s the most challenging part of your job now?

Jennifer Howard-Grenville: Saying ‘no’ - figuring out how to decline projects and making sure you’re not over-committing. The feeling of being torn between multiple different projects, and all the other daily bits of being an academic. Trying to figure out how to fit all those things in while still keeping sane and a manageable schedule so you can feel like you’re enjoying it all.

Rhodes Project: Can you tell me about a favorite past project?

Jennifer Howard-Grenville: Most people don’t know that our town is the birthplace of Nike. There’s a huge track and field history here that went dormant for a while, but in 2008 the US Olympic track and field trials returned to Eugene for the first time since 1980. Some of us in the business school kept walking past the field where they do the track and field events and saw all of this activity, and there was all this excitement because there were selecting the team to represent the US in Beijing. So we started thinking about this track and field history and how interesting it was that it used to be part of the community identity and whether we could resurrect an identity at the community level. So we interviewed people and reporters who had been active here in the '60s and '70s, and it was just a fascinating story. The irony was that since articles in our field take so long to get through the journal process, by 2012 when the trials came back to select the team to go to London, we had only just heard that our article had been accepted by the journal!

Rhodes Project: What advice would you give to a young woman pursuing a career in business or management?

Jennifer Howard-Grenville: Find a network of mentors, because a single mentor isn’t necessarily going to be able to help you with every aspect of your life. Find people who can be a sounding board on what to avoid, how they did what they did, etc. Because it’s a fact of life that you’re going to be in a room full of more men than women for most of your career, so find women who have navigated that.

Rhodes Project: If you had unlimited resources to address any one issue, global or local, what would it be and why?

Jennifer Howard-Grenville: Climate change, because that is the big one. In the next generation or two, it’s going to massively change life on earth. Part of the solution is not just through regulation, but people innovating and caring about the issue - wanting to put their time and energy into it.

Rhodes Project: What’s something you’re looking forward to right now?

Jennifer Howard-Grenville: I have sabbatical this coming year, and I will be heading to Canada for the fall and Oxford for the winter and spring and part of summer. I’m really excited, and my kids are going to come with me. It’s going to be a great adventure.

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