Sarah A. Soule, professor of organizational behavior and the senior associate dean for academic affairs at Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB), 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.

Sarah Soule portrait

Sarah A. Soule, professor of organizational behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business, will join the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences as director in September. (Image credit: Elena Zhukova)

“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 will begin the CASBS leadership role on Sept. 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 is the Morgridge Professor of Organizational Behavior at the GSB and is a professor of sociology, by courtesy, in the School of Humanities and Sciences. 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 center is exceedingly fortunate to have Sarah Soule as its next director,” said CASBS interim director Powell. “She brings a formidable intellect, enormous energy, and a remarkable record of administrative accomplishments, tackling some of the most challenging issues in the academy today. I am sure CASBS will thrive under her leadership.”

The cross-disciplinary nature of Soule’s research fits well with the center’s nearly seven-decade 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.

As the 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 is perhaps best known as the leader of the GSB’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, where she launched the school’s annual DEI Report and created research-based programs and initiatives to increase diversity of the GSB faculty, staff, and student populations.

“But the progress lies not only in the statistics,” noted Soule. “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.”

Advancing a model of excellence

As the center’s next director, Soule will build on a rich legacy and expanding portfolio of activities. CASBS nurtures pioneering research and exploration of societal questions and challenges in key interrelated ways. Its renowned residential fellows program features about 40 distinguished thinkers each year from across the social and other human sciences. Since the center’s launch in 1954, nearly 2,700 fellows have flourished on the center’s hilltop campus, among them 30 Nobel Prize winners, hundreds of elected members of various national academies, and scores of luminary figures in the nation’s public and intellectual life.

As contemporary challenges increasingly require diverse perspectives and tools, the center also is the epicenter for multi-year research programs, projects, training institutes, and networks. CASBS assembles teams of collaborators to enhance the prospects for major breakthroughs and produce collective knowledge. Among current examples are a recently launched project aimed at accelerating greater diversity and inclusion in economics education, an Institute on Diversity that will convene its first cohort in summer 2023, and its role in coordinating and implementing Stanford’s Ethics and Society Review process.

Throughout its history, CASBS has hosted cross-disciplinary interactions that have been instrumental in launching or advancing major lines of research or even entire subdisciplines. 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. During 2013-17, the center incubated a prominent group of mindset scholars that propelled mindset science forward.

“The board looks forward to working with Sarah as she leads CASBS in this time of momentous challenges to human flourishing,” commented Abby Smith Rumsey, chair of the CASBS board of directors. “She brings a wealth of expertise and experience in the dynamics of organizations. She understands the center’s unique ability to bring together scholars of different disciplines, career stages, and demographics. Above all, she is passionate about extending the reach of the center’s scholarship beyond CASBS and the academy.”