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Walsh, President of the Academy of Management, Comes 'Home' to UAlbany

Conference Speaker at UAlbany Sept. 25-26 Links U.S. Demand with Working Conditions Around the World

September 21, 2009



Employee making transistors in Myanmar.

An employee makes transistors in a dimly-lit, overheated workspace in Myanmar. (Photo Lee Turner)

James P. Walsh, B.A. '75, travels the world teaching students from the University of Michigan about how the products we buy in America may come from places where safe working conditions are not a given.

He has taken them into facilities where workers run machinery but lack eye and ear protection. Instead of protective shoes, employees wear flip flops on the factory floor. Workers may even have a makeshift bed at work as they work around the clock. This sheds a different light on the subject of corporate social responsibility. He shows his students how our demand for the lowest priced products impacts the lives of people around the world. Corporations and consumers alike may have a role to play in making a better world.

Walsh is looking forward to visiting UAlbany on Sept. 25-26, where he will be the keynote speaker at a School of Business conference on corporate social responsibility.

"Call me sentimental, but it will be fun to wander around my 'own' campus for a change. I'm thrilled that [School of Business Dean]  Don Siegel gave me this opportunity to come back," he said.

"Jim is a preeminent scholar on corporate social responsibility and corporate governance who has deep roots at the University at Albany. He is one of the world's most widely cited academics. His outstanding achievements constitute the quintessential example of how our students can leverage a public university education to prepare themselves for success in life," said Siegel.

Walsh deals with many complex global topics as the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, Gerald and Esther Carey Professor of Business Administration, Professor of Management and Organizations, and Professor of Strategy at Michigan's Ross School of Business. He is also the 65th president of the Academy of Management, the world's premier association of management scholars, with more than 19,000 members from 108 nations.

He has many fond memories of UAlbany. One of his most memorable stories about UAlbany is the one that he missed. "My sophomore year roommate and a woman from down the hall were caught up in the streaking craze of the time," said Walsh. "I remember seeing them both buck naked on the cover of the Albany Student Press."

Walsh grew up in Delmar, N.Y., and still has family in the area. His father once said he hoped his son would go to UAlbany for his undergraduate education and then to a private school for graduate school.

"He passed away before I even enrolled at Albany but it turns out that my life unfolded exactly as he imagined," said Walsh, who went on to earn a master's from Columbia University, a master's from the University of Chicago, and a Ph.D. from Northwestern. 

James Walsh shows his students the complexities of corporate social responsibility.

James Walsh shows his students the complexities of corporate social responsibility. 

Walsh was a psychology major at UAlbany. He credits social psychologist Bruce Layton with being his first mentor.

"The fact that he affirmed and encouraged me as he did was huge," said Walsh. "Now that I am on the other side of the desk, I can see what a gift that was…He changed my life. I can never repay him, but I really do try to honor him by 'paying it forward.' "

Walsh remembers the "great adventures" of piling into old cars and driving south for winter and spring breaks. "I swapped my car for a motorcycle in my junior year," he said. "I lived on Quail Street during my senior year. I remember some bone-chilling drives to campus that winter."

He also had a part-time job on campus working with campus security as a student patrolman.

After graduation, Walsh switched to business in graduate school and became intrigued with how work affects people. "And then I came to appreciate just how much business itself defines our lives, not just as employees, but also as customers, investors, and citizens."

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