Patricia H. Thornton is Professor of Sociology and Entrepreneurship, Department of Sociology and Adjunct Professor of Management, Mays School of Business, Texas A&M University. She is affiliated faculty to the Program on Organizations, Business, and the Economy in the Department of Sociology at Stanford University.
She has been a visiting scholar in Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University and a visiting scholar in Organizational Behavior at INSEAD. She holds a Ph.D. (1993) in Sociology from Stanford University.
Her research and teaching interests focus on the areas of institutional and organization theory, innovation and entrepreneurship, and the social and cultural factors associated with entrepreneurship. She is a pioneer in developing the Action Learning Approach for teaching entrepreneurship using live business plans, entrepreneurs, and investors.
She is a leading scholar in the development of the Institutional Logics Perspective and was the winner of the 2013 George R. Terry Award granted by the Academy of Management for outstanding contribution to management knowledge for the book with William Ocasio and Michael Lounsbury, The Institutional Logics Perspective: A New Approach to Culture, Structure, and Process, Oxford University Press, 2012.
She received with William Ocasio the W. Richard Scott award for the best scholarly research article by the Organizations, Occupations, and Work section of American Sociological Association, and with Nancy B. Tuma the award for the best scholarly paper by the Organization and Management Theory Division of the Academy of Management. She was peer elected to the honorary Macro Organizational Behavior Society of scholars who interests lay in organization theory and the behavioral aspects of strategy. She was peer elected to the Executive Committee of the Organization and Management Theory Division of the Academy of Management.
Professor Thornton has written on the topics of entrepreneurship, institutional theory, and how institutional logics affect attention and strategy, the latter two becoming key fields of research paper submissions to the Organization and Management Theory Division of the Academy of Management. She is published in the American Journal of Sociology, the Annual Review of Sociology, the Academy of Management Journal, Organization Science, among others.
Her Stanford University Press book, Markets from Culture (2004) examined the organizational decision making consequences of changes in large scale societal institutions in higher education publishing firms and provided an early theoretical and empirical model of the institutional logics perspective. She has served as guest editor for the International Small Business Journal special issue on Socio-Cultural Factors and Entrepreneurial Activity.
Thornton has served as an expert witness on mergers and acquisitions in the higher education publishing markets to the U.S. Department of Justice. She wrote the original business plan to co-found Interim Inc., a successful non-profit organization providing transitional and assisted living facilities and services to individuals with mental health disabilities.