2017 Top 40 Undergraduate Professors: Cinthia Satornino, University of Connecticut

Cinthia Satornino

Assistant Professor of Marketing

University of Connecticut School of Business

While some are talking about diversifying the student and faculty populations at business schools, Cinthia Satornino is doing her part to help drive change. The University of Connecticut marketing professor is the founding co-chair of the Committee for Hispanic Excellence in Business. In 2016 she developed and implemented a first-of-its-kind program that gathered business schools, employers, and policymakers to address ongoing challenges that are faced by Hispanic college students. Satornino and the initiatives she’s driving are products of The PhD Project, a nonprofit focused on increasing the number of African-American, Hispanic-American, and Native American business school professors. Satornino is also a well-known academic in the field of marketing. Her expertise in firms leveraging their social structures to increase productivity has resulted in an Emerging Scholar status from given to her by Diverse Magazine.

Age: 42

At current institution since: 2017

Education: 2014 PhD, Marketing, Florida State University; 2007 MBA, Management and Marketing, University of Florida; 2004 BS, Liberal Studies, Engineering and Behavioral Sciences, Business Minor, University of Central Florida

List of courses currently teaching: Marketing Management

Fun fact about yourself: At one point in my life, I wanted to be a professional surfer and became a stockbroker to support my surfing dreams. I earned my Series 7/63 with the goal of trading international markets at night and surfing during the day.

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…” I met Dr. Henry Tosi during my MBA program. He broke every misconception I had about being a professor. For example, he showed us “The Godfather” the first three days of class to demonstrate organizational politics (he taught a power and politics class at the University of Florida). Then I went to the PhD Project conference for prospective doctoral students, learned about the joys of research and the call to mentorship, and walked away knowing this was the path for me.

“If I weren’t a business school professor…” I’d be an artist with a shop that sells art and curiosities that I gathered from all over the world. Either that or a theoretical physicist.

“One word that describes my first time teaching…” Invigorating

What do you enjoy most about teaching undergraduate business students? Their creativity, innovation, energy, and fearlessness truly amaze and impress me. I’ve met the most incredibly inspiring individuals in the classroom. I feel lucky to be a part of their journey!

What is the biggest challenge that comes with teaching undergraduate business students? Because they are talented and capable – and much more sophisticated and experienced, I believe, than students of the past – sometimes they fight against any experience of failure. Helping them embrace failure as a part of a successful journey is critical – and at times, quite challenging.

What is the most impressive thing one of your undergraduate students has done? Wow, there are so many success stories to choose from! One of my students was offered a significant contract from HSN, but turned it down to start his own recording studio, while another started his own company as well where he and his partners were pitching to VCs.

What is the least favorite thing one has done? Start an email with the greeting, “Yo, Prof…”

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class? Think critically and be willing to take a risk

“When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as …” Tough

“But I would describe myself as …” Tough, but fair

What are your hobbies? I love making any form of art. Currently, I’m learning wood burning. I also love to read and have a voracious appetite for random topics. I love trying new restaurants. I love swimming – but in warm water. I love walking through the woods. And I’ve recently rediscovered the joys of inline skating (hello 90’s!)

How did you spend your summer? I traveled for conferences and research projects mostly. But there is one thing I did that was really cool (for me). I’m deathly afraid of heights, so this is a big deal. The husband of one of my coauthors (who is a very good friend) is a professional skydiver and paraglider. So while I was in Southern California for a conference, she had her husband push me off a cliff in La Jolla for my forty-second birthday – with a wing and him as the tandem instructor, of course! It was absolutely incredible. I’m still afraid of heights, though.

Favorite place to vacation: My favorite so far has been Zion Park in Utah, with Annecy, FR as a close second.

Favorite book: Oh lordy, that’s like asking me to pick a favorite child. Fiction, non-fiction, scientific?! I just can’t! I read so much and hoard books. This is an impossible question.

Favorite movie and/or television show: Same feeling as above. This is an impossible question but, only because I am currently doing research in psychopathy so it’s quite salient, I have an answer – American Psycho.

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz, though I’m currently a little enamored of Passenger.

Bucket list item #1: Go back to Argentina as an adult

What professional achievement are you most proud of? I would say I have yet to achieve it

What is your most memorable moment as a professor? Two specific moments come to mind. The first is the when an individual I’ve recruited or mentored discovers the passion and desire to be a business professor, and makes it through the process. I do a lot of volunteer work in recruiting underrepresented minorities into business PhD programs in partnership with the PhD Project. Diversity in the classroom improves the experience for all students, regardless of race or ethnicity. The moment when I see the light shine in their eyes as the future unfolds in their mind is amazing. The other is the exact opposite: falling on my face in the classroom (figuratively, not literally) when transitioning institutions. I think it helped me to get better at understanding my students and adapting to their changing needs. And as an artist, I follow the teachings of the great philosopher, Bob Ross; I don’t believe in mistakes, just “happy little accidents.”

Professor you most admire and why: This is a tough one to ask. I’ve been blessed with so many incredible role models and mentors who inspire, guide, support me: Mike Brady, Mike Brusco, Charlie Hofacker, and Gerald Ferris at FSU, Mark Houston at TCU, Jose Rosa at Iowa State, Gloria Barczak at NU, John Peloza at UK, Bill Ross at UCONN, Willy Bolander at FSU, Alexis Allen at UK, Rebeca Perren at CSUSM, Cecilia Ruvalcava at UPacific, Jennifer Zarzosa at UArkansas, and Nancy Sirianni at UAlabama. There are many I am not naming here, but absolutely should. I am lucky to work in a field with so many people to admire, who make incredible role models and help make the field a better place. What they share in common is that they combine passion for the field, selflessness in helping others, dedicated and talented researchers, and excellence in the classroom. Most importantly, professionally and personally, they are genuinely good and ethical people. That is why I admire them most.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? In general, I research interpersonal social networks and how they impact innovation and performance. Most recently, I’ve been interested in exploring how personal traits impact how structural social capital is leveraged. The paper I’m currently working on is looking at what are generally considered negative traits, and showing their “bright side” in terms of performance. The most interesting implications of this research is the finding that what are generally considered good management practices may backfire when managing these “bright side of the dark side” cases, reducing performance advantages for those individuals high in the negative traits. In other words, managers may, in trying to engage in managerial best practices, actually hurt the performance of some of their top performers.

Twitter handle: N/A

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…” External experience throughout the program of education. Less classroom time, more field time. More games, more simulations, more interdisciplinary work. Students need to get out of the silos of their majors more often.

“And much less of this…” Lectures and PowerPoint presentations

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would like for you: For me, success in my career would mean that I am impacting practice and scholarly activity with my research, that I am preparing the students of my institution students for their careers effectively and arming them with the tools they need to be successful, and that I am a good member of my university. In short, that I am contributing to the betterment of society and advancement of science in my own small way. What that looks like specifically, well, I can’t say. I’m still a (wannabe) surfer at heart, I choose the waves but the sea chooses the destination.

Students say…

“Professor Satornino is undoubtedly highly knowledgeable of the topic and she brings in current events/ real-world examples to the marketing concepts which helps quite a bit in understanding the material. In addition, the case studies and TED talks were interesting, engaging, and useful. I think overall, Professor Satornino’s intention to encourage participation and link the topics to relevant examples were the most positive aspects of how she taught this course.”

“I thought having engaging activities was very helpful in teaching the subject. If she had just given normal lectures to teach the course, it would not have been as effective. I enjoyed having the case pack and I enjoyed all of the TED talks that she showed. they were relevant and insightful. Overall, I think she had the right balance of lecture material, and activities. She seemed very comfortable and knowledgeable and I loved listening to her teach.”

“I was definitely pushed out of my comfort zone and felt like a lot more was expected out of me in this course compared to my other business courses, which was good. Even though I didn’t like writing case memos I think they were great practice for the real world, and got me more excited about Marketing as my major.”

“She is one of the most talented instructors I have ever had the pleasure of learning from and being mentored through. She has the ability to draw every student’s attention to the front of the room and make marketing and business relatable topic from a local scale to a global scale. In my academic career, I have rarely experienced a setting quite the classroom of Professor Satornino, where every students’ attention is captured consistently.”

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