The Fox School’s status as a leader in research is driven by the work of talented faculty, students and alumni. The Office of Research and Doctoral Programs supports the Fox School and the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management by encouraging, facilitating and promoting the work of its diverse network of scholars. The Office encourages undergraduate students to pursue research opportunities, promotes the published work of faculty and connects faculty and alumni with events, sponsored projects and collaborations with universities and local organizations.
Sunil Wattal was recently appointed the new associate dean of research and doctoral programs. Wattal answered questions about his research background, the role of research in universities and his vision for building on the successes of the research center.
Can you share a bit about your background? Why were you originally interested in information systems?
I first earned an engineering degree followed by an MBA, after which I started working as a business development executive at a company creating markets for technology products and services. I became extremely interested in how technology was shaping business and society because at the time the Internet was only a few years old. I thought that there had to be a better way of making decisions about technology investments because there were a lot of sub-optimal decisions being made all around during the dot com crash. Those were some of the questions in my mind when I went to do my PhD. Since then, I’ve looked at different aspects of how technology is changing business and society – especially in areas like social media, sharing economy, and marketing.
What role does research play in business schools?
Research helps generate meaningful insights and knowledge which could be valuable for scholars, local government and industries. Given the headwinds that higher education is facing, research leadership can create vital opportunities for business schools to navigate this extremely critical time and differentiate themselves from the competition. Intellectual leadership in cutting-edge topics such as artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML), diversity and inclusion, digital transformation, changing nature of work, sustainability and globalization, among others will not only cement our reputation as a top business school but also serve as a magnet for students, faculty and executives the world over.
What are some of your major goals as associate dean of research and doctoral programs?
Research Leadership is a strong core competency at the Fox School as well as one of the key goals for our Strategic Plan 2025. Research cannot exist in a vacuum, so the challenge and the opportunity is to make research more available to constituents that might not be able to access it now, as well as involve more stakeholders such as teaching, administration, fundraising, alumni activities, and marketing in our research endeavors. My role is to build bridges and show people the possibilities and value of pursuing research. I want to help grow a community of researchers that extends beyond the Fox School, developing university-wide centers that can draw in more talent to collaborate on research. I am also committed to attracting and retaining world-class researchers and creating a diverse and inclusive environment for research to flourish in. Finally, I am also committed to strengthening our doctoral programs and providing guidance and resources to train our students to be world-class researchers, teachers and thought leaders.
How would you like to see Fox School research evolve in the future?
I want to continue to grow Temple’s recognized status as an intellectual leader, and as a vibrant community where people can gain broader perspectives. The best part of being faculty is you can work on whatever areas you are passionate about, and create new knowledge to benefit business and society. Students, Fox faculty and even faculty from other schools have the potential to plug into our research infrastructure and be part of this process of creating impactful research outcomes. My vision for research at the Fox School is to make it more inclusive of many different forms of scholarship, including top journal publications, books, case studies, partnerships and media articles. We live in a fast-changing digital world that needs thought leaders to provide guidance on how to navigate multi-faced challenges and opportunities, and I see many faculty here who are experts in communicating on cutting-edge topics and sharing their research.