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New Ivey faculty: Dusya Vera, PhD ’02

Oct 3, 2022

Dusya Vera

Dusya Vera.

Ivey is pleased to be welcoming numerous new faculty members to campus this school year! To help you get to know our new colleagues, we asked each of them a list of questions about their academic – and personal – interests.

Get to know: Dusya Vera, PhD ’02

Dusya Vera, PhD ’02, is a Professor of Strategy who will be teaching cross-enterprise leadership in the HBA and MBA programs. She is also the new Executive Director of the Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership, and has long been involved with its work on leader character research, teaching, and outreach. Her background is in computer engineering and she worked in information systems consulting, and directed the IT area of the Guayaquil Stock Exchange. Vera has an MBA from the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh and a PhD in strategic management from Ivey. After finishing her PhD, she was on the faculty of the C.T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston in the Department of Management and Leadership for 20 years before returning to Ivey. Vera’s research is in the areas of strategic leadership, leader character, improvisation, and organizational learning. Read on to find out what led to her career as an educator and why she is excited to be leading Ivey’s Leadership Institute.

Watch the video, Introducing Dusya Vera, above.

Q&A with Dusya Vera, PhD ’02

How do you feel about leading Ivey’s Leadership Institute?

I am honoured and thrilled to be leading the Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership, which focuses on developing leader character and embedding it in organizations. I have been a long-distance partner of the Institute since its start – both in publishing on leader character with Ivey researchers, and in creating graduate electives and executive education modules on leader character for the University of Houston. The Institute has had a fantastic journey of growth and its message is clear and relevant: Leader competences (what we know, what we do) by themselves are not enough, and need to work alongside leader character (who we are, our habits of being) in order to achieve sustainable excellence. The momentum of the Institute is inspiring and I am excited to both continue all the great programs that have been created and to open new horizons to expand the reach of the Institute.

What is the most important thing business executives can learn from your research/area of expertise?

My areas of expertise are in improvisation in organizations, organizational learning, and strategic leadership and leader character. The COVID-19 global pandemic clearly showed that when facing time pressure, ambiguity, and uncertainty, planning often needs to be tossed out the window and leaders need the capability to improvise effectively. Improvisation, of course, is risky; you are thinking on your feet and creating as you go along. Thus, there are organizational conditions and individual characteristics, including character, that help improvisational processes to be more effective. In the case of organizational learning, I have studied the leadership styles needed to promote learning in individuals and groups, and to be able to capture that learning in organizational repositories such as routines, products, systems, and strategies. While my initial research focused on the virtue of humility as a source of competitive advantage for leaders, my work evolved to look at the holistic view of leader character, including humility but also temperance, courage, drive, and humanity, among other character dimensions. Recently, my work talks about the leader character required for effective improvisation and for effective organizational learning, as well as for strategy formulation and implementation. 

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

I grew up in Guayaquil, Ecuador, in beautiful South America. Guayaquil’s nickname is “The Pearl of the Pacific.” It is a city at the coast of the Pacific Ocean with amazing beaches within a short drive. Being on the equator line, there aren’t any seasons in Guayaquil: only a warm season, and a warm and rainy season. Ecuador itself has four different regions with different climates, though. The Coast is the warm area. There is also the Andes Mountains, where Quito, Ecuador’s capital city, is located. Quito is the second-highest capital city in the world after La Paz, Bolivia. Quito is also a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its colonial downtown. The Amazon region encompasses the rainforest around the Amazon River. And, of course, the Galapagos Islands are famous because Charles Darwin’s observation of Galapagos' species inspired his theory of evolution. South America, despite its frequent political, economic, and social problems, is characterized by the friendliness, warmth, and happy nature of South Americans.

Who have been your strongest influences in life?

My parents are my greatest influences and role models. They loved education and helping others. They got PhDs in psychology in Spain in the ’70s because there were not doctoral programs in Ecuador. They founded and managed for 40 years a K-12 school in Ecuador with a very innovative teaching style. Classes were small and curriculums were flexible and customized to every kid’s learning style and needs. Kids, some with learning differences, who did not fit in any other school, thrived in my parents’ school. Growing up, I was struck by how my parents literally changed the future of many kids by emphasizing their talents. My love for education was born through them.

What led you to your career?

I always loved education from an early age. In Ecuador, even when I had a full-time job as engineer or as a manager, I still taught part-time at the university level. Back then, universities in Ecuador did not engage in much research and I discovered my love for research at Ivey during my PhD. How did an Ecuadorian end up at Ivey? I crossed paths with Bud Johnston, a former dean of Ivey, when he was teaching at the IDE Business School in Guayaquil, and he encouraged me to apply to Ivey. It shows how we can touch lives every day and those human moments can have amazing destinations.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I enjoy spending time with my husband and children, and exploring new places in town. I also love to relax by watching a good movie.

What might someone be surprised to know about you?

People are surprised to hear that I have triplets. Another facet of me that may be surprising is my interest for and knowledge of energy medicine. I am also passionate about neurodiversity because I have kids with learning differences and exceptionalities. My experience helping my children reminds me every day of the deep respect everyone deserves to learn in their own way and to contribute productively to society.

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

I don’t really have a most played song, but I like to listen to music in Spanish and English from the ’80s and ’90s.

What book would you recommend to others on the personal side?

On the personal side, I would recommend Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. It is a classic of Spanish and world literature and the second most-read book after the Bible. Don Quixote is a timeless and courageous novel with an emphasis on the search for justice, both by the main character, Don Quixote, and by our society. This novel denounces the deep imbalances and injustices created by the powers of the day, both at the time the novel was written and today.   

Also on the personal side, Happiness is a Choice by Barry Neil Kaufman highlights how, at any moment, when facing stimuli, it is the choice of our beliefs, which leads to a response or outcome. This book invites us to own our beliefs and to make happiness our priority.

And on the business side?

On the professional side, books by American professor Brené Brown, such as Daring Greatly and Dare to Lead, challenge the view we have of leadership since they remind us that a leader’s vulnerability is not weakness, but that vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.

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