The Ross School of Business

University of Michigan, U.S.A.

Business+Impact Initiative

Update August 2020


At the University of Michigan, the Ross School of Business aspires to be “the world’s most progressive source of business solutions to the global challenges of our generation.” Ross appointed a new Associate Dean for Business+Impact in 2017 to oversee efforts around faculty research, student experience, and outreach to practice. Through its centers and institutes, Ross connects research to practice in domains such as economic development and poverty alleviation (the William Davidson Institute); enhancing environmental sustainability (the Erb Institute); creating more sustainable operations (the Tauber Institute); and developing positive organizations (the Center for Positive Organizations). In each case, faculty research directly speaks to problems on the ground (e.g., how to incorporate small-scale producers in low-income countries into global supply chains; how to remove and re-use harmful ocean plastics). Faculty researchers also serve as guides for students who do field projects that range from supporting entrepreneurs in Detroit to working with social enterprises around the world (e.g., the Aravind Eye Hospital in India).


More recently, the University of Michigan is pioneering conferences that aim to create a more direct link from research to practice by convening scholars, business people, policymakers, and media partners in unique dialogues that identify and publicize approaches to challenges such as job creation and social finance. Regular “Faculty Research For Impact” sessions use a structured design process through which students translate research insights into business practice. Because of the University’s deep strengths across a broad variety of disciplines and professions, from sociology and economics to law and public health, Ross has a unique capacity to convene diverse scholars and practitioners to take on the world’s biggest challenges. Collaborating across disciplines through initiatives such as Poverty Solutions, the University of Michigan’s faculty are able to translate research-based insights into tangible outcomes for practice.


In 2017, the Ross School of Business revised its criteria for assessing senior faculty performance such that contributions in applied research and external engagement activities can be valued comparably to scholarly research and contributions within the Academy. All faculty evaluations now include components for research, teaching, and service (the traditional components), but also practice, aiming to recognize and reward work that connects to the world beyond academia. In 2020 this was updated to include explicit reference to the Sustainable Development Goals.


And in 2019 Ross launched the +Impact Studio, a curriculum and physical space for translating research into social impact by creating enterprises rooted in faculty work. Professional students from across campus work in interdisciplinary design teams that draw on business, policy, social work, education, law, engineering, and more to “create a better world by design.”