Office Hours: Manuel Teodoro

Matthew Knowles

While the Occupy Movement rages on and the economy tanks, political scientists strive to make sense of it all and find ways to improve the political system. Assistant Professor of Political Science Manuel Teodoro makes his mark in the field and at Col­gate through his fascinating re­search and unique perspective. Professor Teodoro specializes in environmental politics in the United States and organizational theory, and is currently working on a project that stands at the intersection of these two areas. The study, which is funded by the Water Research Foundation, looks at the managerial and political behavior of the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of water utility companies in the United States.

“Water utilities are clearly important managers of natural resources and are also politi­cal creatures…it gives us lever­age on all kinds of interesting political questions, but it also tells us something about envi­ronmental policy,” Professor Teodoro explained.

Professor Teodoro and his stu­dent assistants called 300 water utility CEOs requesting interviews.

“Out of these CEOs, about 170 agreed to participate, which is pretty remarkable,” Teodoro said. “As far as I know, this is the only study to get so many CEOs to talk about their management and decision-making behavior.”

In these interviews, Professor Teodoro documented everything from the education to the psy­chological traits of these profes­sionals. Although he is still work­ing through his initial data set, Professor Teodoro has an idea of what the results will look like. In some of his earlier research, he explored how certain career paths and personality traits of CEOs and executives lead to the most innovative leaders.

“The one basic hypothesis is that CEOs who are mobile, those who are hired from out­side an organization, are go­ing to be more innovative than those who rise through the ranks,” Professor Teodoro said.

This is not to say that mobile CEOs will be more successful, since one can easily make bad changes, but it does mean that mobile CEOs are willing to take more risks than those who rise up.

He says that this is because CEOs are hired from outside when firms want to make a change from current business practices. These executives are expected to make new and in­novative changes. On the other hand, CEOs who rise through the ranks are more loyal to the current establishment and are on better terms with the board of di­rectors. Professor Teodoro is also working on a couple other small­er projects including one on Af­rican political economy and local environmental policy.

In addition to his research, Professor Teodoro teaches the in­troductory level class, America as a Democracy, and next semester will teach a seminar class called Street Level Bureaucracy. This seminar class focuses on organiza­tional structure in various groups and how it affects everyday soci­ety. What sets this course apart from other seminar classes is that Professor Teodoro plans to use the HBO show The Wire in order to give interesting examples of the structure present in both the police force and criminal organi­zations. He hopes that it will not only keep the students interested, but that it will also show how groups organize in real life.

Between research and classes, Professor Teodoro makes time for two of his other passions: his family and sports.

“My kids having fun is pret­ty much my idea of having fun now,” Professor Teodoro said.

He says that he never could have predicted how much he likes being a father, but now it is a highlight of his life. He also enjoys watching the Colgate hockey team succeed on the rink and watching Michigan football games.

Professor Teodoro enjoys the best of both worlds: a fascinating and meaningful career and a comfortable and supporting family.

Contact Matthew Knowles at [email protected]