Mary Fennell

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C.V. Starr Professor Emerita of Commerce, Organizations, and Entrepreneurship
Professor Emerita of Sociology
Ph.D. Stanford University

Research Interests

Sociology of Organizations, Healthcare Organizations, Professions, Health and Medical Sociology


Dr. Mary Fennell is a graduate of the University of Santa Clara (B.S., 1974 summa cum laude), and received her graduate degrees in Sociology from Stanford University (M.A., 1975; Ph.D., 1978). She began her academic career as an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1978, where she advanced to associate professor (1984). She joined the faculty at the Pennsylvania State University in 1987 as an associate professor, where she advanced to professor (1989). Most recently, she has served as professor of sociology and community health at Brown University (since 1995), where she is also a senior investigator with the Center for Gerontology and Health Care Research.

Dr. Fennell specializes in the application of organizational theory to health care organizations. She has led or collaborated on more than a dozen externally-funded research projects in the areas of organizational change in health care, innovation diffusion, professional careers, inter-organizational linkage and alliance formation in health care. Dr. Fennell's work has been published frequently in Medical Care, the Journal of Health and Social BehaviorThe Gerontologist , theAnnual Review of Sociology, and the Academy of Management Journal. Her most recent book (with Kevin Leicht), Professional Work: A Sociological Approach, was published in 2001 by Blackwell Publishers. She is active in the American Sociological Association, the Academy of Management , and AcademyHealth, and has served on many national advisory committees, scientific study sections, steering committees, as the editor of a national journal in medical sociology, as chair of the Medical Sociology Section of the ASA, and she is currently a Senior Associate Editor of Health Services Research .

She has held a variety of academic leadership positions, including Director of Graduate Studies in Sociology at both UIC and Brown University, Associate Dean of the Faculty and Dean of the Faculty at Brown. As Associate Dean she helped develop a system of external reviews of multi-disciplinary clusters of departments and centers. During her tenure as Dean, Brown embarked on a comprehensive initiative to enrich the academic experience at Brown. As a major part of that initiative, Dr. Fennell played a key role in the development and implementation of a plan to increase faculty size at Brown by 20%, to significantly enhance start-up funds, faculty salaries, benefits, and other aspects of the faculty work environment. She was responsible for all aspects of faculty life at Brown, including recruitment, retention, promotion and tenure, and faculty development. She contributed substantially to enhancing diversity among the faculty, and to building multidisciplinary centers across the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.