Harvard Portrait: Meg Rithmire

Meg Rithmire

Assistant professor of business administration Meg Rithmire, Ph.D. ’11, spent the morning of October 5 shepherding Chinese scholars around campus. That afternoon, she got married. “I’ve never envisioned having a wedding,” she says of her civil ceremony. “I can’t imagine caring about wearing a white dress.” Dinner at a Chinese restaurant with her new husband, John David Hampton ’00, and their families, followed. “My life is about research and teaching that encourages people here to think about China in a dynamic way,” she says. “It’s still a foreign place. I don’t want people to be afraid of China.” In high school, she read Ha Jin’s Waiting, a bleak book about a man seeking a divorce amid the Cultural Revolution. The Atlanta teenager was captured by “the couple’s inefficacy and the impact a culture has on individuals.” She went on to earn dual degrees in Chinese and international studies at Emory University, along with a master’s and a doctorate in political science. Now at the Business School, she is writing a book on the commodification of land in China and helps teach a spring favorite: “Business, Government, and the International Economy,” crafting the section on the “success” of the planned city of Chongquin. “Is it real growth? Debt-financed? Or a propaganda bid on behalf of political leaders?” she asks. The school wants more intrepid thinkers—and Asian experts.“You can’t be a wallflower here,” she says. “I have M.B.A.s who are basically my age [30]. They think I’m a big China nerd.” Happily, she says, the HBS culture “is not as stodgy as people think.” Professors must teach in full suits. But on a Friday, Rithmire sports grasshopper-green silk pants and an Egyptian-style gold necklace. “I do own pearls,” she admits. “But it’s just not me.”

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