Walter W. Powell is Professor of Education and (by courtesy) Sociology, Organizational Behavior, Management Science and Engineering, and Communication, and Co-Director of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. He has been a member of the board of directors of the Social Science Research Council since 2000, and an external faculty member at the Santa Fe Institute since 1999. Powell works in the areas of organization theory, economic sociology, and the sociology of science. He is interested in the processes through which knowledge is transferred across organizations, and the role of networks in facilitating or hindering innovation, and institutions in codifying ideas. His current work focuses on the emergence of novel organizational forms. His latest book, The Emergence of Organizations and Markets, co-authored with John Padgett, was published by Princeton University Press in 2012.

His 1990 article, “Neither Market Nor Hierarchy: Network Forms of Organization,” won the 1991 Max Weber prize for best paper in the field of organizations; and “Network Dynamics and Field Evolution: The Growth of Inter-Organizational Collaboration,” with D. White, K. Koput, and J. Owen-Smith (2005), received the 2007 Viviana Zelizer prize for best paper in economic sociology. “Technological Change and the Locus of Innovation: Networks of Learning in Biotechnology,” with K. Koput and L. Smith-Doerr (1996), was recognized by Administrative Science Quarterly as its most influential scholarly publication in 2002. His 1983 paper, “The Iron Cage Revisited: Institutional Isomorphism and Collective Rationality in Organizational Fields,” with Paul DiMaggio, is the most cited article in the history of the American Sociological Review. Powell is the author or editor of The Culture and Commerce of Book Publishing, with Lewis Coser and Charles Kadushin (Basic Books, 1982), Getting into Print: The Decision-Making Process in Scholarly Publishing (U. of Chicago Press, 1985), The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis, with Paul DiMaggio (U. of Chicago Press, 1991), Private Action and the Public Good, with Elisabeth Clemens (Yale U. Press, 1997), and The Nonprofit Sector, with Richard Steinberg (Yale U. Press, 2006).

He received his PhD in Sociology from SUNY – Stony Brook in 1978, and previously taught at Yale, MIT, and the University of Arizona. He has received honorary degrees from Uppsala University, Copenhagen Business School, and the Helsinki School of Economics, and is a foreign member of the Swedish Royal Academy of Science.

Academic Appointments

  • Professor (By courtesy), Sociology
  • Professor (By courtesy), Organizational Behavior
  • Professor (By courtesy), Communication

Administrative Appointments

  • Faculty Co-Director, Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (2018 - Present)
  • Professor (by courtesy) of Management Science and Engineering, Stanford University (1999 - Present)

Boards, Advisory Committees, Professional Organizations

  • Member, Board of Directors, Social Science Research Council (2018 - Present)
  • Professor of Sociology, University of Arizona (1991 - 1999)
  • Associate Professor of Management and Sociology, University of Arizona (1988 - 1991)
  • Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (2008 - 2009)
  • Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (1986 - 1987)
  • Associate Professor of Behavioral and Policy Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1985 - Present)
  • Associate Professor of Organization and Management, and Sociology, Yale University (1983 - 1987)
  • Assistant Professor, Yale University (1979 - 1983)

Program Affiliations

  • Science, Technology and Society

Professional Education

  • PhD, SUNY-Stony Brook, Sociology (1978)
  • MA, SUNY-Stony Brook, Sociology (1975)
  • BA, Florida State University (1971)

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

Analysis of the circulation of management practices in the Bay Area nonprofit community; studies of the commercialization of university basic science; research on faculty entrepreneurship and its consequences for public and private science; analysis of interdisciplinary initiatives at Stanford.

2018-19 Courses

Stanford Advisees

All Publications