- Patrick Shulist
I am an Assistant Professor of Sustainability in Business, sitting in Aalto University School of Business’s Entrepreneurship Unit. I received my PhD in Business Administration from the Ivey Business School in 2016, and held an academic position there until making the move to Finland in 2018. I have also worked at Western University’s Africa Institute, and also taught in the Global Health Systems in Africa program there.
My research has two main streams, both of which focus on international development and poverty alleviation in sub-Saharan Africa. First, I take a qualitative approach to understanding the “natural” course of entrepreneurship in Ghana; that is, how entrepreneurship happens in the absence of international development efforts. This research stream grew out of my frustration with seeing development organizations consistently teaching entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa in much the same way it is taught in Canada, Finland, or elsewhere in the Western World. In doing this, organizations essentially say that an entrepreneur in the subsistence context has to let go of the current way they do business, so they can take up an entirely new system. Yet, the cultural, institutional, and economic context is not supportive of the “Western” way of entrepreneurship. Instead, business as an economic undertaking is inextricably intertwined with social systems. It is thus no wonder that most entrepreneur training programs show minimal, if any, benefits to participants. With this in mind, my research strives to understand the natural course of entrepreneurship, so that we might design training programs that respect both the socially-grounded nature of entrepreneurship in Africa, and the fact that many entrepreneurs can perform better if they learn certain business fundamentals. For this line of work, I have collected six rounds of data in Ghana, having also made eight trips there.
My second research stream focuses on collaboratively working with international development organizations to solve their pressing challenges. This generally involves using randomized field experiments to test designed solutions under real-world characteristics. The goal here is to bridge the gap between producing work that is theoretically interesting, and producing work that is practically important. Two ongoing projects of this nature are happening in Ghana and Tanzania.
I am also actively engaged in disseminating the case-based pedagogy to African Universities, having taught case-teaching and case-writing workshops at a number of universities in Ghana and Kenya. Moreover, I support supports African faculty in writing their own teaching cases. Finally, I have also been a visiting professor at multiple African universities, focusing on bringing the case-based methodology to the classroom.
At Aalto, I teach Sustainability in Business, as well as Sustainable Entrepreneurship. In both of these classes, I aim to bring the real world into the classroom as much as possible, as it is only through doing this that students can truly appreciate the complexity of balancing the three pillars of sustainability.
In my free time (of which there is fleetingly little), I enjoy hiking, camping, snowshoeing, and the wilderness in general. I look forward to adding skiing to that repertoire as well. Finally, as a Canadian, I’m ashamed to say I’ve never played Ice Hockey, though to make up for this Patriotic shortcoming, I enjoy copious amounts of maple syrup, make a habit of apologizing for things that weren’t my fault, am an amateur lumberjack, and often wear plaid. In short: I hit four of the five main Canadian stereotypes.