Podcast

According to Chris Genualdi, '09, leadership studies is ultimately "about acting ethically." In his senior year, the leadership studies major and aspiring entrepreneur decided to take on research that connected his interest in innovative business practices to his studies in ethical leadership.

Genualdi's experience abroad through a Buddhist studies program in Bihar, India influenced his eventual choice of research topic. Often surrounded by severe poverty, he wanted to help, but said that he wanted to do more than simply hand out money to beggars on the street. Back on campus for his senior year, he explored avenues for long-term solutions to poverty.

"I took a class called 'Leadership of Socially Active Businesses' that opened my eyes to how companies can help out with social issues," explained Genualdi. The course material led him to develop his thesis research question: whether global poverty can be alleviated through the process of globalization, expanding markets, and the rise of multinational corporations.

To make sure he was on the right track, Genualdi met weekly with Sandra Peart, dean of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies. Genualdi admits he was a little nervous when one of his professors suggested that he ask the dean to advise his research. It turned out to be a good match.

"I wanted someone with a background relevant to what I wanted to do research on," said Genualdi. "I met with her and she was open and receptive to the idea, and it all worked out from there. She has been really supportive in whatever avenues I chose to go down in my research."

Genualdi's thesis recognizes that multinational corporations that focus on a primary commodity in a developing country often end up putting local companies out of business, depleting local resources, and exposing laborers to dangerous working conditions. However, he argues that a corporation that operates in the manufacturing or service industries and introduces new technologies can be successful while simultaneously benefitting the host nation.

"Even better," said Genualdi, "is when a multinational company begins to market to emerging economy populations, because then that company is investing more heavily in this economy and treating the foreign population as consumers rather than just labor."

Examining case studies in today's globalizing economy, Genualdi concluded that there is evidence that investment from multinational corporations helps spur economic growth in developing and underdeveloped countries through technology spillover, by providing income to foreign populations, by building human capital, and by helping economies function better.

Genualdi, a native of Morristown, N.J., thrived in the Jepson School's interdisciplinary environment. A creative thinker, he felt the school encouraged him to connect many academic areas in his research — including economics, philosophy, and political science.

"Jepson gave me the ability to look at a problem from multiple perspectives and find a solution that is both effective and ethical, as well as an appreciation for social responsibility," said Genualdi. "The approach that I've taken with my research is multidisciplinary in the way that leadership studies is."

A similar approach to interdisciplinary creativity led Genualdi and friend Dan Brunt, '09, to enter the second annual Business Pitch Competition at the University's Robins School of Business. Their plan for Sniff-Stick LLC, a company that produces small capsules with pleasant aromas (like "a breath mint for your nose") was chosen as the winner out of 26 teams that entered. The $2000 prize helped them get the company started after graduation.

Genualdi says the pitch was so successful in part because of the cross-school collaboration between himself and Brunt.

"Our different perspectives allowed us to really come up with innovative and effective ideas for creating this business," he said. "With his business background and my leadership studies background, we were able to look at the business and research it from all different angles."