Fifth-year doctoral student in business wins Best Paper Award at Academy of Management conference

Published: June 02, 2021

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Jacob Waddingham, a fifth-year doctoral candidate in the Harbert College of Business, recently won Best Student Conference Paper in the Human Resources Division of the Academy of Management. His paper, co-authored by Harbert College management professors Miles Zachary and Jack Walker, examined entrepreneurs’ chances of successfully re-entering the traditional workforce.

According to the Academy of Management, the purpose of the award is to “identify and stimulate innovative and impactful empirical research that considers entrepreneurial activity and entrepreneurs themselves from an HR perspective, as well as HR systems and practices through an entrepreneurship lens, at the individual or organizational level.”

“This award is a tremendous boost as I begin to hit the summer job market,” said Waddingham, who expects to earn his doctorate in business management with a specialization in entrepreneurship. “I’m highly motivated by research, so I’m looking for a position that values the opportunity to continue to develop projects like this one with Drs. Zachary and Walker. Winning this award is validation for this paper, though we are not finished with it yet. This idea of entrepreneurs re-entering the work force is catching the attention of people who matter in the human resources and entrepreneurship spaces.”

Waddingham earned his undergraduate degrees in journalism and political science from the University of Texas at Tyler in 2013. From there, his love for learning and passion for research grew at Iowa State, where he earned his masters in 2016.

“A simple question when we talk about entrepreneurs–and one that’s often taken for granted–is ‘if this thing doesn’t work out, can I go back to work?’” he said. “What we did was ask professional recruiters to examine some of the qualifications of former entrepreneurs versus traditional job candidates and then select which one they prefer to bring for an interview.

“Data shows whether the entrepreneur was successful and sold their business from an employee buyout or acquisition, or if they had to exit the business via closing it or simply had to step away, the recruiter still preferred the traditional job candidate. Many times, that’s because the entrepreneur has been outside of the traditional workforce for a while and recruiters are not sure if they would stick within a given organization. Additionally, hiring and recruiting is expensive, and they [recruiters] wouldn’t want to re-do the process again.”

Zachary, who serves as Waddingham’s dissertation chair, said “Jacob’s ability to develop interesting, real-world research questions is perhaps his greatest strength.”

“He’s also a great team player, willing to do what needs to be done to make a project great. Research has become a team endeavor, which makes him a valuable asset. I’m glad to see that his hard work is beginning to pay off and I expect good things to continue to come his way.”

Though Waddingham will soon begin research projects and teaching students at another university, he credits Harbert College’s doctoral program for providing the tools to help him reach his goals. “Dr. Zachary really helped me understand how to do research at a very high level,” he said. “His mentorship has helped me to identify problems and understand that there has to be practical relevance to them. Auburn’s PhD program, as a whole, has helped me establish what those important issues are, how to recognize them, and then how to empirically and theoretically work toward finding an answer.”

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Submitted by: Joe McAdory