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Karen Katen Delivers Spring Hallene Lecture

Pfizer Executive Offers Views on Difference Engine

Bringing into the educational arena a voice from industry.

That, says Russ Jamison, director of the Technology & Management (T&M) Program, is the goal of the Alan M. Hallene Lecture and Visiting Executive/Scholar Series launched in 2003. Karen Katen, executive vice president, Pfizer Inc, and president, Pfizer Global Pharmaceuticals, was the Hallene Lecturer this spring. She spoke with T&M students as well as alumni and friends of the University at the lecture held at the Illini Center in Chicago in mid-April.

Katen's lecture, entitled "Difference Engine," focused on how the rise of technology helps save lives, and how blending science and technology is not a contentious idea. Technology, she observed, is created by those who are willing to take risks. In the case of Pfizer, she pointed out that not all of Pfizer's research and development leads to miracle drugs for the majority of the population. Indeed, many of the company's breakthrough drugs benefit smaller groups of people with less common illnesses.

Katen met with T&M students for a Q&A session prior to the lecture, fielding questions about Pfizer's corporate philosophy, what students should look for when they begin their job searches, and her education and career. As a business student, she said, she was not intimidated by science but found it exciting and stimulating, something she likely shares with many of the T&M students. When asked what someone should do if he feels he made the wrong career choice or joined the wrong company, Katen suggested that, "if you're not comfortable with the people and basic philosophy of the company…look elsewhere."

Stanley Ikenberry, president emeritus of the University of Illinois, sat in on the question and answer session and called it a "very interesting exchange." Ikenberry, who introduced Katen later in the evening, said that "Karen Katen immediately came to mind" when he was asked about who he would like to see be invited as the Hallene lecturer in the spring.

Student reaction to the Hallene lecture and to the Q&A session was positive. Rishi Roongta, a T&M sophomore, said the talk was "very different from [what we learn] in class." When asked what interested her the most about the lecture, Renee Holley, a junior, said, "I liked how she communicated the philanthropic aspect of her company."

A gift from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 2001 established the Alan M. Hallene Visiting Executive/Scholar Series that brings traditional and non-traditional teachers, including senior executives, with insights on management issues and industry trends to campus to meet with T&M students and to deliver the Hallene Lecture.

Karen Katen of Pfizer.
Karen Katen

T&M students

Stanley Ikenberry.
Stanley Ikenberry

Russ Jamison.
Russ Jamison


--Ashleigh Johnson
April 2004