Who is that person running the Zoom classroom? Getting to know your professors is one of the joys of the UVic MBA in Sustainable Innovation, and we thought we’d get the conversation started with some quick facts about a few of them. (See other Study Break profiles here.)


Associate Professor

BS in Management Information Systems and Marketing, Syracuse University
MS and PhD in Organization Studies, Boston College

Hometown: Meshoppen, Pennsylvania (USA) (2010 population: 563)


Fun Facts

Coffee or tea: Coffee, always iced and with a splash of sugar-free something-something

Last book you read: Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein and War Room: The Legacy of Bill Belichick and the Art of Building the Perfect Team by Michael Holley (finished at pretty much the same time!)

Most recently played song on your playlist: The Ghost of Tom Joad performed by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band with Tom Morello on the 25th Anniversary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concerts Box Set (Rick calls this song “Absolutely haunting!”)



MBA class taught: MBA 555 (People and the Future of Work):

Among so many learnings, one thing this pandemic teaches us is that employment instability is perniciously harmful to people—financially, socially, psychologically, physically.  Having been on the curriculum committee for this program, I am excited to teach “People and the Future of Work,” in part because it will no doubt foster thoughtful and generative discussions with our students on powerful ideas like the intersection of sustainable employment, ikigai and strengths-based management that can help create better outcomes for individuals, families, organizations and society.”

A question you hope students will ask: How do we provide sustainable careers that take advantage of people’s strengths and potential while maximizing the use of enabling technology at the same time?



Topics: Career success and extraordinary career achievement; International and cross-cultural management; Developmental networks and Personal Board of Advisors (PBOA) assessments; International human resource management; Talent management and workforce analytics; Team chemistry, leadership and resilience

Recent publications:

1) CottonR. Shen, Y. and colleagues. (2020) Careers in context: An international study of career goals as mesostructure between societies’ career-related human potential and proactive career behavior. Human Resource Management Journal. https://doi.org/10.1111/1748-8583.12247

What’s it about:

This paper addresses the question of the extent to which employees’ career goals may be influenced by the context in which people make their careers, specifically the societal context of the country in which they live.

Gustavson researchers Rick Cotton and Yan Shen, alongside a group of global researchers in the Cross-Cultural Collaboration on Contemporary Careers (5C) project, recently studied how career behaviours differ between societies around the world. They found that across the 27 countries, the lower a society’s ability to enable human development (in terms of life expectancy, educational level, Gross National Income per capita, and societal public health), the more importance individuals assigned to financial achievements; and the more important financial achievements were, the more proactive employees were in terms of proactive career behaviors such as seeking out mentoring discussions and career planning.

2) CottonR., Shen, Y. and colleagues. (2020) Career success schemas and their cultural embeddedness: A comparative configurational perspective. Human Resource Management Journal. https://doi.org/10.1111/1748-8583.12218 

What’s it about:

This human resources-focused paper explores how people in 13 different country contexts perceive and understand career success. Cotton and his co-authors contribute to the understanding of subjective career success across countries, discuss the importance of schemas for organizational career systems in multinational enterprises, and propose specific guidelines for future comparative careers research, using research methods like Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA).

This is the first study to conceptualize and demonstrate how the meaning of career success is not only individually but also collectively constructed. Understanding career success across country contexts must start with the fundamental building blocks of careers—that is, how they are subconsciously shaped through socialization and experience. Only when we understand how people from different parts of the world “see” careers, can we start designing career management systems that make sense cross‐nationally.