Gladstone: More Native American faculty needed to drive business ideas

Closeup of Joseph Scott Gladstone in academic robes on a flight of stairs.
Joseph Scott Gladstone

Joseph Scott Gladstone is one of the few Native American faculty in America’s business schools. 

And that’s a problem for corporate America.

Many businesses understand that diverse perspectives produce better ideas. But it’s difficult to get more Native American and Indigenous businesspeople into that mix because they lack the mentorship and role modeling that Native American business faculty would provide, said Gladstone, an associate professor of management at Washington State University’s Carson College of Business, Everett Campus. 

“There were studies in the 1990s asking why top business leadership isn’t diverse, and the research found that students of color tend to not go into those professions because the professors don’t look like them,” Gladstone said. 

There are about 50 Native American faculty across all business disciplines in the United States, according to the PhD Project, an initiative to recruit students of color into business doctoral programs. 

Gladstone’s work to expand the pipeline of Native and Indigenous students includes outreach through the PhD Project, where he’s an alumnus and faculty advisor. He founded the Native and Indigenous People’s Caucus of the Academy of Management, the professional association for management and organization scholars. 

He also is one of three editors of the Indigenous Business and Public Administration journal, along with Daniel Stewart of Gonzaga University and Deanna Kennedy of Western Washington University. 

There were studies in the 1990s asking why top business leadership isn’t diverse, and the research found that students of color tend to not go into those professions because the professors don’t look like them. 

Joseph Scott Gladstone, associate professor of management
Carson College of Business, WSU Everett

He explained that business theory as it’s taught in the United States tends to be Western-oriented and possibly not applicable to diverse cultures. In the Indigenous Business and Public Administration journal, scholars can showcase ideas that might not otherwise find traction in more mainstream publications. They’re also encouraged to write conversationally. 

By making business research more accessible, the journal is serving Native and Indigenous communities, he said.  

Gladstone’s own long service to Native American communities prompted him to go back to school for a PhD in management. A member of the Blackfeet Tribe of Montana and a recognized Nez Perce descendant, he was a U.S. Marine and a National Park Ranger before earning a Master of Public Health degree and working in tribal health management. 

At that point, two things inspired him to get his PhD, he said. He realized that economic conditions were at the root of many of the health problems faced by tribal members. And he saw how useful management skills are to achieving big societal aims. 

He focuses much of his own research and writing on Native American concepts that could influence business decision-making, if they were more widely understood and practiced. Things like considering the impact of choices on future generations, and a deep appreciation of physical places. 

He joined WSU because of its strong relationships with tribes and what he called “a sincere effort to build those tribal relationships.”

He’d love to see WSU establish a Native American business research center. Said Gladstone, “My hope is that tribes could support such a center because they see the benefit of knowledge that’s generated from them, by them, and for them.”

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