Organizational Behavior Scholar Sarah Soule Named Next CASBS Director

Headshot of Sarah Soule with Stanford buildings in background
(Photo: Elena Zhukova/Stanford)

Stanford University scholar Sarah A. Soule has accepted an appointment as the next director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Stanford. Soule takes a position endowed in 2015 by Sara Miller McCune, the philanthropist and founder of SAGE Publishing, and will hold the title of Sara Miller McCune director.

Soule will begin the CASBS leadership role on September 1, 2023. She succeeds Walter W. “Woody” Powell, another Stanford scholar, who has been serving as CASBS interim director. Powell succeeded Margaret Levi, who served as CASBS director for more than eight years.

“I have long admired the center, both for its contributions to the social sciences and to Stanford University and am honored to help continue its tradition of excellence,” said Soule. “It is a thrill to follow Margaret Levi, whose vision helped guide the Center to where it is today, and Woody Powell, a longtime collaborator and friend whose contributions to the Center have been enormous, especially during this year of transition. I hold both in such high regard and am honored to be part of this esteemed institution.”

Soule joined the Stanford University faculty in 2008 after serving as a professor in the sociology department at Cornell University. She began her professional academic career as an assistant professor, then a tenured associate professor, at the University of Arizona. Trained as a sociologist, Soule completed her master’s and PhD degrees at Cornell University. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Vermont and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Soule has held the title of Morgridge Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business (GSB) since 2009. She has served as GSB’s senior associate dean for academic affairs since 2016. Soule is also a professor of sociology (by courtesy) in the university’s School of Humanities and Sciences.

“Sarah is a dynamic educator and leader who will bring visionary ideas to the CASBS community of scholars,” said Kathryn “Kam” Moler, vice provost and dean of research, to whom Soule will report. “We are fortunate to have attracted Sarah to this role. Given her stellar track record and reputation at Stanford, I am confident she will guide the Center into the next stage of impact in knowledge creation through its distinguished fellowships and programming.”

Soule teaches courses on social movements; diversity, equity, and inclusion; organizational strategy and design; and design thinking. Her research draws on organizational theory, social movements, and political sociology and applies these to questions of organizational and policy change. The cross-disciplinary nature of her research fits well with the Center’s nearly seven-decade ethos and track record of interdisciplinary interactions in service of advancing understanding on questions and challenges of major societal consequence. More specifically, Soule’s research builds on foundational scholarship in the field of organization studies conducted at the center by CASBS fellows. This includes both 20th-century field-building work as well as 21st-century field-revitalizing work taking place within the Center’s summer institute on Organizations and Their Effectiveness, co-directed by Powell.

“[Soule] brings a formidable intellect, enormous energy, and a remarkable record of administrative accomplishments, tackling some of the most challenging issues in the academy today,” Powell said. “Personally, Sarah has been a dear friend for years, and we have taught together in many programs. I have always been impressed by her thoughtfulness. I am sure CASBS will thrive under her leadership.”

Soule is the author of the book Contention and Corporate Social Responsibility, coauthor of A Primer on Social Movements and Diffusion and Social Movements, and co-editor of The Blackwell Companion to Social Movements.

She received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award (1999) to investigate the diffusion of collective protest over a two-decade period in the U.S. She is an elected member of the Sociological Research Association. At Stanford, she has received multiple fellowships and grants from GSB (including a recent award from the Business, Government, and Society Research Fund), and the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research. She also has won several teaching awards in her career.

Soule currently serves the profession as deputy editor of Sociological Science and as a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Conflict ResolutionOrganizational StudiesMobilization, the Cambridge University Press Series on Contentious Politics, and the Stanford University Press business series. She formerly served as editor-in-chief of the Cambridge University Press Series on Contentious Politics, associate editor of Social Problems, consulting editor of the American Journal of Sociology, and a member of the editorial boards of Research in Political Sociology, the American Sociological Review, and Sociological Perspectives.

In terms of university administrative service and leadership, as GSB’s senior associate dean for academic affairs Soule oversaw the school’s executive education unit as well several academic areas within the school. She led GSB’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, launched the school’s annual DEI report, and created research-based programs and initiatives to increase the diversity of the GSB faculty, staff, and student populations. GSB measurably increased its percentage of students who are people of color or otherwise underrepresented over just a few cohorts, and the school has moved the needle noticeably in terms of faculty diversity.

“But the progress lies not only in the statistics,” Soule noted. “We have also worked hard to promote a culture of inclusion and psychological safety in order to promote an environment of learning and respect. I intend to bring the same level of energy, attention, and deep resolve to the CASBS community. We all have a lot more work to do – not just at Stanford, but as a society and global community.”

Beyond GSB, Soule serves on the Faculty Advisory Board of Stanford’s VMware Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab and the Faculty Council of the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (Stanford d.School). She is a Knight-Hennessy Faculty Fellow and serves on the Faculty Advisory Board of the Stanford Impact Labs.

CASBS as a convergence point enables it to serve as an accelerator or incubator of ideas and leverage its extensive field-building and field-advancing experience and expertise. Throughout its history, CASBS has hosted cross-disciplinary interactions that have been instrumental in launching or advancing major lines of research or even entire sub-disciplines. CASBS has shaped fields such as behavioral economics, comparative politics, evolutionary psychology, gender and language studies, organization studies, and cultural psychology; and lines of research including positive political theory, stereotype threat, and causal modeling in cognitive sciences.

Soule herself has published within a notable line of research advanced in part at CASBS. One of her early-career research collaborations (1997-99), a National Science Foundation-supported project on the dynamics of collective protest, was undertaken with co-principal investigator Doug McAdam, now the Ray Lyman Wilbur Professor of Sociology, Emeritus, at Stanford University. During his second CASBS fellowship (1997-98), McAdam co-led a project (with Charles Tilly and Sidney Tarrow, one of Soule’s mentors at Cornell) and later a CASBS summer institute (2000, with Charles Tilly) on the “contentious politics” line of research and literature – well known in social science circles – that Soule has contributed to. McAdam went on to serve as CASBS director from 2001-05.

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Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences

The Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University is a national and international resource that exists to extend knowledge of the principles governing human behavior to help solve the critical problems of contemporary society. Through our residential postdoctoral fellowship programs for scientists and scholars from this country and abroad, we seek to advance basic understanding of the social, psychological, historical, biological and cultural foundations of behavior and society.

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