Wharton professor Witold Henisz won the Aspen Institute’s 2020 Ideas Worth Teaching Award for his course on corporate diplomacy.
His course, titled “Corporate Diplomacy: Aligning Stakeholder Analytics and Strategy” and listed as both MGMT 720 and MGMT 209, was commended specifically for teaching students how business leaders can align corporate strategy with stakeholder demands on a number of issues including climate change and human rights.
Henisz has taught at Wharton since 1998 and has served as the Deloitte & Touche Professor of Management since 2012. He is also the director of the Wharton Political Risk Lab. Much of his research focuses on the concept of corporate diplomacy, the efforts of corporations to manage the values of their internal and external stakeholders.
Henisz, along with 12 other business professors from universities around the world, was recognized for “providing learning experiences that equip managers of tomorrow with the context, skills and decision-making capabilities needed to lead in an increasingly complex business environment,” according to the Aspen Institute.
The Aspen Institute is a business and leadership nonprofit organization founded in 1949. The institute established the Ideas Worth Teaching Award in 2017 as part of its Business and Society Program to recognize innovative and unique business courses that seek to teach more equitable and sustainable business practices.
To Henisz, the class teaches students more than just the relationship between a business and its stakeholders.
“We can’t just focus on shareholders and managers, we have to think about all of the implications that a business’ actions have,” he said. “I think it’s absolutely critical to address these issues to be sustainable as a company, but it’s also critical for society.”
He developed his award-winning course throughout his career at Wharton and began teaching the current version of the class in 2010. He said he wanted to teach undergraduates and MBA students about the effects of business on society and of society on business, adding that he believes this perspective is central to Wharton’s mission.
“Let’s go back to the roots of who we are as a school, let’s talk about the impact of business on society,” he said. “Wharton believed that if we don’t do something, if we don’t train managers to think about how businesses solve the social problems incident to civilization, we’ll lose our right to operate.”
His students said his efforts to reveal the wider effects that a business can have on society was important to their education.
“There’s a strong focus on ethics,” Daniela Nemirovsky, a Wharton senior who took Henisz’s class last spring, said. “[Henisz’s] course is so unique because it teaches that not only should you do the right thing because it’s right but because the right thing is profitable.”
Henisz’s former students praised both him and his corporate diplomacy course.
“I think this award is a recognition of decades of exceptional scholarship on Dr. Henisz’s part,” 2020 Wharton MBA graduate Sid Radhakrishna said.
Dillon Kersh, a 2020 College graduate who also took the course last spring, said Henisz was one of the best professors he had during his time at Penn.
“It wasn’t just a great class because of the material, but Professor Henisz was so great at facilitating discussion,” Nemirovsky said.