New Faculty Profile: Dr. Pamela Smith

By Keri Peckham, Rady School of Management

Dr. Pamela Smith

Dr. Pamela Smith joined the Rady School in July as an assistant professor of management and strategy. She received her Ph.D. in social psychology from New York University in 2004 and prior to Rady she was an assistant professor at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands. During her graduate work she was awarded Society of Experimental Social Psychology Dissertation Award and the New York University Stuart Cook Award in Social Psychology.

Dr. Smith’s primary research interests are centered on how social power affects basic cognition, motivation and interpersonal behavior. She also studies how particular cognitive styles are perceived as signs of power. Below is a Q&A with Professor Smith.

What motivated you to become a professor?

I studied psychology as an undergraduate and like many psychology majors, I thought I wanted to become a therapist. Several years of volunteering on a crisis line convinced me that this was not the career path for me. Meanwhile, I also volunteered as a research assistant on several projects and discovered I had a passion for research. A three-year stint working in a cognitive aging lab confirmed that the academic life was for me. I love having the opportunity to do research on questions that fascinate me while surrounded by brilliant minds that inform and challenge me.

“I feel that we can gain great insight not only into interpersonal relations, but also into basic cognitive performance, by taking hierarchical differences between people into account.”

Why did you choose management/strategy?

It feels like I have always viewed the world through the lens of power dynamics. I feel that we can gain great insight not only into interpersonal relations, but also into basic cognitive performance, by taking hierarchical differences between people into account. Thus, management/strategy was a natural fit for me.

How does your research and teaching contribute to the Rady School's mission of educating leaders for innovation-driven organizations?

I have only just arrived at Rady, so it almost feels presumptuous to answer this question now! However, I anticipate that my unique contribution will be that I have a very fundamental, experimental background, but also can translate these findings into real-world recommendations. Kurt Lewin, one of the founders of social psychology, once said, “There is nothing so practical as a good theory.” I completely agree.

What type of experience can students expect to have in your class(es)?

For me, one of the most exciting aspects of working at a business school is the more interactive atmosphere in the classroom. As a teacher, I expect that students will engage with the material, bringing their own thoughts and experiences to bear. From my perspective, too much silence while I am teaching is a sign that I am doing something wrong.

To learn more about Professor Smith or other Rady faculty, visit /faculty/directory/.