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Indiana University Bloomington

Institute for Social Impact

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Professor’s Work Makes Academic History

Siri Terjesen

Assistant Professor of Strategic Management and International Business

Siri Terjesen

“We’re number one in entrepreneurial research, I have high-quality colleagues, and I get to teach undergraduates about social entrepreneurship in the context of strategy and international business.”

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What’s it like to author the first global study of social entrepreneurship?

Just ask Siri Terjesen. The Kelley assistant professor is one of three authors of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Social Entrepreneurship Study, a survey of more than 150,000 adults in 49 countries, ranging from Guatemala and Lebanon to South Africa and the United Arab Emirates to the United States. “It’s very exciting to be documenting different countries’ social entrepreneurship activities and what factors lead to them,” says Terjesen. “It’s our chance to define the field.”

To determine if study participants had been active in social entrepreneurship, Terjesen and her colleagues asked this question: “Are you, alone or with others, currently trying to start or currently owning and managing any kind of activity, organization, or initiative that has a particularly social, environmental, or community objective?”

Terjesen was fascinated by the study’s age and gender findings. “When you study entrepreneurship alone, you find that out of three entrepreneurs anywhere in the world, one will be a woman and the other two are guys,” she says. “In social entrepreneurship, though, women are still outnumbered but not as much.” The study found that age plays a factor as well, with developing countries reporting young people starting more social entrepreneurship ventures.

Terjesen acknowledges that more work needs to be done in this burgeoning field, but already their findings are gaining notice. They presented their paper at the New York University Stern Conference for Social Entrepreneurship in 2010, and it is forthcoming in Small Business Economics.

And to think, she’s only been at Kelley since 2008. In that time, she’s made a name for herself as a researcher to watch. Her research has been published in leading journals such as Strategic Management Journal, Small Business Economics, Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice, Venture Capital, and Journal of Operations Management. She earned the IU Center for International Business Education & Research Faculty Research Award for 2010-2011, Kelley’s 2010 Most Promising Working Paper in Life Sciences, and in 2010 was inducted as a distinguished faculty member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

But she doesn’t just research social entrepreneurship—she lives it. This former professional athlete has run more than 100 marathons and ultramarathons around the world, and placed third in the World Championships for the 50-kilometer event. (That’s 31 miles.) When another ultrarunner, Marko Silventoinen, and his three children died in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Terjesen put her skills to work. In their memory, she coordinated the “24-Hour Benefit Run for Tsunami Victims” in 2005 at Goodenough College in England while working on her Ph.D. “Marko had run many international races and was well known in the Nordic ultradistance community. It brought the tragedy home,” she says.  

Prior to joining the Kelley faculty, Terjesen studied all over the world. She earned her master’s degree at the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration in Bergen, Norway, and her Ph.D. at Cranfield University in the United Kingdom. She was a post-doctoral fellow at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia.

Kelley is her academic home now—and she’s glad. “It’s an absolute dream working here,” she says. “We’re number one in entrepreneurial research, I have high-quality colleagues, and I get to teach undergraduates about social entrepreneurship in the context of strategy and international business.”

Published March 15, 2011