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Meet Curtis LaButte, Ivey PhD candidate

  • Communications
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  • May 19, 2022
Meet Curtis LaButte, Ivey PhD candidate

Ivey PhD candidate Curtis LaButte.

Ivey’s PhD Program in Business Administration is a full-time research-based program designed to develop scholars and to place graduates at high-quality research universities around the world. Our PhD candidates are showcased at conferences around the world, and regularly featured in top-tier academic and industry publications.

To help you get to know them, we’ve asked them about their academic and personal interests.

Get to know: Curtis LaButte, PhD candidate

Curtis LaButte had Ivey on his radar for several years before he arrived to do his PhD. He was born and raised in Windsor, Ontario so Ivey appealed to him because he could do his PhD while being just two hours away from his support system back home. LaButte completed a business undergraduate degree at the University of Windsor and then worked in commercial banking before deciding to do his PhD in Strategy, working with Bob Andersen, a professor of Business, Economics and Public Policy, and Strategy. Read on to learn more about his background, research area, and interests – including the career path he dreamed of as a child.

Q&A with Curtis LaButte

What attracted you to Ivey’s program?

While investigating potential PhD programs, I was immediately attracted to the work that Bob Andersen, now my advisor, had done outside of the business school. Finding a faculty member who focuses on social issues within a business school is not always easy. Being able to attend a world-class university within a short drive of my hometown was an added bonus.

What is your research focus?

Broadly, my research focus is on the interaction between business, public policy, and social inequality. Most of my work to date has been investigating public trust in business and the variety of impacts this can have on business operations.

Why is that area appealing to you? What big problems/issues need to be addressed?

During my undergraduate degree, I had the opportunity to write and publish an Ivey case on the living wage as a means to address social inequality. I discovered that business owners wanted to be attentive to their externalities, but didn't always know how or where to start. The notion that a business's sole intention is to generate profit for its shareholders is being challenged more and more every day. As millennials and Gen Z begin to make up a larger portion of the working and buying population, businesses will be expected to attend to their social and environmental detriments.

Specifically on my trust research, in the wake of the last two decades of government bailouts and corporate scandals, the general public doesn't have the confidence that the leaders will adequately address today's challenges. Maintaining and building this trust is crucial for the development of a healthy relationship between business and society.

How do you see your research making an impact?

My goal is to provide a practical understanding of the interplay between business and society to allow business leaders and policy-makers to make informed decisions.

How do you see research as an aid to business improvement?

As our society shifts away from shareholder primacy, hopefully my research will be able to provide leaders with a piece of the pathway towards understanding business operations and their benefit/detriment on non-financial metrics.

What previous experience prepared you for this?

My interest in social-related business issues was first inspired by my undergraduate faculty advisor, Kent Walker, Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the University of Windsor. Our work on the living wage provided me with the foundation to continue my work at the doctoral level. I also spent more than four years working directly with entrepreneurs, understanding business at a much deeper level than you can get in a classroom.

Where did you grow up and what was it like there?

I grew up in Windsor, Ontario, a medium city of approximately 230,000 people. Mostly a commuting city, there is seldom traffic and residents often cross the border to Detroit for big-city amenities like sporting events and shopping. Although dubbed the automotive capital of Canada, Windsor is known for its pizza, whisky, and food scene. It's quite frequent for people to stay in Windsor their whole lives or leave and come back due to the modest cost of living. Within Ontario (and apparently to Stephen Colbert who made a poke at Windsor in his book), the city has a bad reputation, but Windsor has lots to offer to residents and tourists.

Who have been your strongest influences in life?

This is a very tough question for me. I'm very fortunate to have an amazing support system around me. As the youngest of four children, I learned a lot from my older siblings. I was often much more mature than my peers because of this, always striving to be like my siblings. Our family has now grown from six to 16. At the centre of it are my parents, the most supportive and loving people I know. No matter what direction we wanted to move in, our parents were there motivating us to do the best we could. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them. My partner has always pushed me to be the best version of myself. She opens my eyes to new perspectives and always provides a safe space for open communication. We met at a young age and have built a life together that I couldn’t be prouder of. There are also several teachers, professors, mentors, and coaches that have pushed me to get to where I am today. I'm a believer in community and I couldn’t have gotten this far without mine.

What might someone be surprised to know about you?

As a kid, I dreamed of becoming an astronaut. It turned out that natural sciences didn't excite me much.

What is the most played song on your playlist as of now?

I can't pick just one, so some of my favourite artists right now are: Mt. Joy, Arkells, Matt Maeson, Dermot Kennedy, and Noah Reid.

What is your best podcast recommendation?

I don’t listen to podcasts much at all, but one of my favourite episodes that I go back to often is The Tim Ferriss Show’s Jacqueline Novogratz on Building Acumen, How to (Actually) Change the World, Speaking Your Truth, and The Incredible Power of “Dumb” Questions (#512).

What book would you recommend to others? Why?

Funny enough, I'm not a big reader and often don’t read for pleasure. One of my favourite books that I just couldn’t put down was Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson. As a lifelong Apple fan, it was fascinating to read about Steve Jobs from the inside.

What tips have you learned for staying connected in an online learning environment?

Zoom fatigue is real and managing this is super important for your mental health. I found that keeping a space designated for learning/work helped me separate my personal life from work life. When the office door closes, I can check out and enjoy my personal time. Getting together with classmates and colleagues outside of class time has been a great stress reliever, too.