J. Sophia Fu’s research is motivated by one question: “How can organizations more effectively catalyze organizational and social change?”
To answer that question, Fu focuses on how organizations can implement information and communication technologies (ICTs) and more effectively design their social networks. She uses multiple methods, such as interviews, surveys, content analysis, social network analysis, and statistical modeling to study how organizations work.
Her research can improve lives, Fu explained, because it “can point to the best practices for organizations in how they can implement ICTs and design their social networks to catalyze transformative social change and more effectively address grand challenges of our era, such as environmental degradation, public health challenges, poverty, and social exclusion. These will have tangible impact on local communities.”
Asked what inspired her undertake her research, Fu said, “I have always been a social entrepreneur myself. During high school and college, I took the initiatives to organize many volunteering activities and service projects in China. During these processes, I had the opportunity to interact with many nonprofit organizations and social entrepreneurs. These experiences inspired my research on how organizations can more effectively catalyze social change.”
Arriving at Rutgers' School of Communication and Information (SC&I) from Chicago, Illinois, Fu received a Ph.D. from Northwestern University in Media, Technology and Society, and she also holds an M.A. from Northwestern in Statistics. She earned a B.A. in International Journalism at the Hong Kong Baptist University in China.
Fu’s dissertation, titled “Where Does Innovation Come From? Exploring the Dynamic Processes of Organizing and Managing Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation,” investigates how social entrepreneurs and social ventures in the United States and China create social innovations to more effectively tackle social challenges.
Fu’s most recent awards include the Top Poster Award from the Health Communication Division of the International Communication Association in 2018, Top Paper Award from the Organizational Communication Division of the International Communication Association in 2017, and Carlo Masini Award for Innovative Scholarship from the Public and Nonprofit Division of the Academy of Management in 2016. In 2017 she received the prestigious Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant, in Decision, Risk, and Management Sciences, from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Read our Q&A below to learn more about Fu, from her dissertation, to what classes she will teach, and what she is looking forward to the most about working at Rutgers and living in New Jersey.
Please describe various ways your research involves social networks, information and communication technologies (ICTs), organizational communication, entrepreneurship, and innovation.
I am interested in how new ICTs, such as social media, crowdfunding, and big data and analytics tools, enable organizations to communicate with external stakeholders in new ways; how the new communication processes can change organizational and interorganizational structures; and how shifts in organizational and interorganizational structures impact organizational, network, and community outcomes. Recently, these questions are examined in the context of social entrepreneurship and social innovation for public value creation.
What type of work did you undertake as part of NNSI, and do you plan to continue this work at Rutgers?
I was involved in two research projects at NNSI. In the first project, we surveyed about 900 nonprofit organizations across the globe to understand how their social networks influence their organizational capacity outcomes. In the second project, we used computational methods to examine how Chinese nonprofit organizations configure their linkages with other nonprofit organizations online to enhance the visibility of certain social issues in China.
At Rutgers, I plan to continue my research in how organizations use ICTs for strategic communication and the organizing of networked collective action online and offline. I will triangulate both traditional methods (e.g., surveys, interviews, content analysis) and computational methods.
At Northwestern, you collaborated with faculty members at the Kellogg School of Management, and McCormick School of Engineering. Are you planning to launch new collaborations with other SC&I or Rutgers faculty?
Definitely! I look forward to collaborating with my awesome colleagues at the Department of Communication, as well as Journalism and Media Studies and Library and Information Science. Across Rutgers, I particularly look forward to collaborating with colleagues at the Department of Management and Global Business, School of Public Affairs and Administration, and the School of Social Work to further my research in social entrepreneurship, organizational innovation, social networks, nonprofit organizing, and computational social science.
Please explain how being at SC&I as a faculty member in the Department of Communication will enhance your research and teaching.
My research intersects well with the Department’s research foci in health communication, interpersonal communication, language and social interaction, organizational communication, and communication and technology. The diversity of faculty expertise at SC&I fosters ample collaboration opportunities with other colleagues for me. For instance, my research aligns well with the research agenda of the NetSCI Lab and the Social Media & Society Cluster. Drawing from the knowledge gained from my research on civil society organizations and social entrepreneurship, I would like to fruitfully engage in the conversations at The Center for Organizational Development and Leadership (ODL). I also see ample collaborative opportunities in computational social science with my colleagues in the Department of Library and information Science. My research, in turn, would enhance my teaching because I could bring more real-world examples into the classroom and drawing theories and perspectives from a variety of sub-disciplines of communication (e.g., health communication, interpersonal communication, and discourse), which other colleagues at SC&I have expertise in. I’m really excited about interacting with undergraduate and graduate students at Rutgers!
What are your goals during the first six months?
- Make connections to as many colleagues as possible
- Balance productivity and life
Will you take advantage of Rutgers’ proximity to NYC or Philadelphia to support your research or teaching?
Absolutely! NYC and Philadelphia are two hubs of social entrepreneurship in the U.S. I look forward to working with social entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizations in these two areas to help more effectively address social problems in local communities.
Is this the first time you have lived in New Jersey? What are you looking forward to the most about being at Rutgers and in New Jersey?
Yes. I was born and raised up in mainland China. Went to Hong Kong for college. After that, I lived in suburban Chicago for graduate school for five years.
What do you look forward to the most about working at Rutgers?
The opportunity to work and interact with many outstanding scholars and graduate and undergraduate students; the possibility of conducting interdisciplinary research that will have tangible social impact
What are you looking forward to the most about living in New Jersey?
Demographic diversity; countless ethnic food options; natural reservations, trails, parks, and beach; a suburban lifestyle and NYC is within reach.
To learn more about majoring in communication at SC&I, click here.
For more information about the Department of Communication, click here.