When Jean-Jacques and Valeria Degroof decided to make a significant gift to the Mary Rowe Fund for Conflict Management, Jean-Jacques was motivated by reasons that were very personal to him, and by reasons that were very focused on the betterment of humanity.
Degroof met Mary Rowe in 1992 when he was a student in her highly rated negotiation class and developed a great admiration for the work she and her Institute for Work and Employment Research (IWER) colleagues were doing in organizational studies, conflict resolution, negotiation, mediation, and other HR-related issues. Over the ensuing decades, Degroof and Rowe built a deep connection and friendship. “When Mary retired as ombudsperson at MIT, we talked about her various academic projects at IWER and Work and Organization Studies (WOS) that she was anxious to see carry on,” explains Degroof. “I told her that I wanted to support these worthwhile projects, and that’s when the idea of contributing to the fund was born.”
The fund’s reach will go beyond conflict resolution, however, to help IWER and WOS faculty and PhD students advance their research, as well as support the creation of courses and curriculum. Says Degroof, “MIT Sloan has a great tradition in the field of organizational studies. Empowering the school’s IWER and WOS faculty, who deal with the human element of organizations, to build on the seminal work done by Kurt Lewin, Douglas McGregor, Ed Schein, and other legends is very important to me.”
“We live in a world where we need conflict management and negotiation capabilities more than ever,” explains Degroof. “The world is becoming more extreme, more violent, more exclusive. We need to teach people how to collaborate and to find workable solutions to live together. This work starts at the personal, and at the organizational levels, which is what the Mary Rowe Fund is doing.”