Professor Fredric Kropp
After 17 years, Professor Fredric Kropp will be ending his tenure here at the Middlebury Institute. As fall 2016 will serve as his last semester, the Graduate School of International Policy and Management recently interviewed Kropp to discuss and reflect upon his time in academia.
- What was it that first brought you to the Middlebury Institute?
My wife and I were living in Australia, and we decided we wanted to come back to the States. I had never heard of the Monterey Institute. So, I did some research on it, and it looked like a pretty interesting place to be. I like the international viewpoint of the students and the faculty, and it was Monterey and the students themselves that were really interesting.
- And how long have you been here?
I’m starting my 18th year. It was a different place back then.
- What has been the most rewarding aspect of your teaching here?
The things that I’ve done since I’ve been here besides teaching is research. I was president of the faculty senate. I was co-chair of the faculty evaluation committee, and I was chair of the Fisher International MBA program. Typically, I’ve taught about five courses a year, and I really enjoy the interaction with students. Again, it goes back to the worldview and the sophistication of the students.
When I first came here, I was doing research on marketing, cross cultural impacts, advertising, and over time I’ve gone from that to social marketing to entrepreneurship to social entrepreneurship… I have counted it up and I think I’ve had about 32 refereed journal articles since I’ve been here, probably 60 or so conference presentations and eight or nine book chapters. I looked today (on Google Scholar), and since 2011, my papers have been cited over a thousand times. So, that’s really been satisfying to me to know that I made a contribution to the academic literature.
- How have you incorporated your extensive professional experience into the classroom? Any specific ways or methods?
Well, pretty much everything I do informs my teaching. Research certainly informs my teaching, but I’m a strong believer in immersive learning, and almost all of my courses are project based. So, typically I’ll run projects with about four or five students each. So, if there are 20 students in the class, it will be about four or five projects. They’ll be with existing firms or social ventures or social entrepreneurs in the community both near and afar.
So, if it’s my social entrepreneur class, I work with social entrepreneurs and the students act almost as a consulting team to the entrepreneur. They get immersed in their lives, they understand what it is to be an entrepreneur and they help them solve problems.
If it’s a marketing class, then it will have marketing projects. Last semester, we did [one] for a local entrepreneur in Salinas who, a number of years ago, was [Monterey County’s] Entrepreneur of the Year. Those are just a couple of examples. For the social entrepreneurship we are always working with social entrepreneurs…
- How have you seen social entrepreneurship develop throughout your career?
It’s really an interesting thing because it’s been going on for decades. I think they look back and see Clara Barton, one of the founders of the Red Cross, as a social entrepreneur. But, as a discipline, it didn’t really start getting named until about 20 years ago and it’s only over the last ten years that people start to know it and understand it [well].
But when I’m talking to other people, and I say I work in social entrepreneurship, the most common question I get is, “What’s that?” So, in graduate schools and education, it’s getting better known, but outside it’s still thought of as maybe charities or people doing good stuff. The field has really taken off, and it uses business approaches, in particular entrepreneurial approaches, to solve social problems.
- How has MIIS evolved on a whole since you began your tenure?
One of the accomplishments that I’m proud of while being the MBA chair was to develop and implement the joint degrees. Before I was the chair, we had something called dual degrees where people could take an MBA and they could take an IEP or another degree and kind of combine them. You got enough credit that instead of doing it in 3 years you could do it in 2 years. What we really wanted to do was develop the synergies between the programs. So, we developed an integrated MBA/IPD or IEP, and now there’s a map for students to get through in five semesters.
So, I personally developed a course in social entrepreneurship, and it was my desire to have it be open to students of any degree. It wasn’t just in MBA. I think I’ve had students from [almost] every degree program.
MIIS is really focused on solving social problems, and it’s something that we’ve done and it’s something that attracted me here. Now, I think it may be more purposeful as part of the curriculum and also more purposeful in terms of internships and intensive activities, immersion activities to which Frontier Market Scouts is an example. It’s a wonderful program. I actually sat through it a number of years ago and sat through all the classes to see what our students were getting. They were able to get three extra credits by doing an intensive research program. If I were wearing a hat, I would take it off to CSIL. Everybody over there has done a wonderful job. That has been a tremendous focus for social entrepreneurship and helping the community.
- When you look at MIIS as a whole and your time here, what has been your biggest challenge here?
Becoming part of Middlebury has been wonderful. People have asked me how that’s gone and I say on a scale from 1 to 10, it’s probably 11. It’s been great being part of somebody that understands us. And who supports us and who really is not just a fan of what we’re doing, but an advocate.
On a personal level I think that there’s just so much more that I’d want to do… A few years ago, I tried to start a Latino entrepreneurship program, and I had really good emotional support but no financial support, no bandwidth. So, I can remember talking to one of our presidents and I said I really want to do this and they said, “Can you do this and teach all of your courses?” I said, “No.” So, we had to put the Latino entrepreneurship on a back burner. I wish I were more people, [but] that’s a little psychotic (Kropp laughs).
- What is your biggest success? Or what do you get the most satisfaction out of?
Success is such an amorphous concept. I like mentoring students, and I have some lifelong relationships with students. In fact I’ve even performed wedding ceremonies for students. The bond with students, that’s great for me… helping them after they’re out of here.
- What are your hopes for MIIS’ future?
When MIIS was becoming a part of Middlebury, there was a lot of concern on the part of students, and what I would say was “I’m willing to bet you 100 bucks that you’re degree is going to be worth more in ten years than it is now.” I didn’t get any takers. But I think [I] would have made a lot of money on that, and Middlebury is an astounding entity. I think of Middlebury College as one of the finest liberal arts schools in the country, but it’s now more than Middlebury College, it’s the Middlebury Universe. I think it’s going to bring excellence and continued excellence. So, what I would see in the next decade or two or three is that we will continue to be innovative, and we’ll continue to be world class. If anything we’ll get even stronger.
- Due to retirement, this will be your last semester. Any immediate plans?
Lots of plans! I’ve been named a Fulbright scholar, and I will be in Ireland from February  to May  of next year doing research on social entrepreneurship. I have a position at the University of Adelaide in Australia. It’s a research position, and the title is “University Professorial Research Fellow.” Sounds pompous, but I guess I’m a jolly good fellow (Kropp laughs).
I go there three times a year. I work with faculty there on their research, and I work with doctoral students. I’ve supervised a couple and advised a number [of them]. So, I’ll continue doing that, and there are potential opportunities in Costa Rica and in France.
- Is there anything you would like to leave off with?
I love this place. I hope to be emeritus after I retire. I live about seven, eight minutes away from here. So, I hope to be a presence on campus for a number of years to come.
We here at GSIPM would like to thank Professor Kropp for his dedication and selfless service throughout the years. His expertise and passion for the forward progress of students and the Institute on a whole will be missed. We wish him well on his future endeavors and congratulate him on his Fulbright appointment.