2017 Top 40 Undergraduate Professors: Maja Korica, Warwick Business School

Maja Korica

Associate Professor of Management and Assistant Dean (Undergraduate Programme)

University of Warwick, Warwick Business School

This year, Warwick Business School’s Maja Korica was among the honorees for the annual Thinkers50 Radar list, a global ranking of top management thought leaders that’s known by some as the Oscars of management thinking. Maja Korica is known for her investigations into the everyday work practices and decision-making of top level managers and her unique research approach that specializes in qualitative ethnography and shadowing to understand the dynamics of complex, rarely seen organizational settings. For this, she is acknowledged as one of the top management thinkers most likely to shape the future of how organizations are managed and led.

Age: 34

At current institution since: 2011

Education: DPhil (PhD) in Management Studies, Said Business School, University of Oxford, 2011

List of courses currently teaching: Critical Issues in Management, Managerial Work and Practice, Acting Responsibly 

Fun fact about yourself: I am a K-pop expert.

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…” I realised I could do meaningful research while hanging out with fascinating people (students included) without having to sit in a drab office 9-5 every day.

“If I weren’t a business school professor..” I’d be a detective. Or working for the UN as a diplomat. That was the plan, anyway.

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

What do you enjoy most about teaching undergraduate business students? Their relative absence of fixed professional habits. This means they tend to be more open to examining possibilities without immediately jumping to one set answer.

What is the biggest challenge that comes with teaching undergraduate business students? They are occasionally so focused on what comes next that they miss the chance to learn now. Plus, if you teach a 9 am class, keeping them awake and engaged is a Sisyphean effort!

What is the most impressive thing one of your undergraduate students has done? Asked for a word at the start of our seminar, then apologised to the other 24 students for perhaps being too aggressive and inconsiderate in our debate last time. He was a strong minded and intelligent student, who obviously found doing this personally difficult. Given I continually stress reflection and responsibility as important, it was wonderful to see it in action. From small things come great ones – leadership included.

What is the least favorite thing one has done? Bullied another student based on gender.

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class? Engage continually, challenge respectfully, come informed, and prompt learning in others – me included. Totally easy.

“When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as…” Dragon-like. I’d say tough, and also fair, but perhaps the latter is my delusional teacher speaking.

“But I would describe myself as…” Reasonable. I expect a lot, but give a lot back too, including clear expectations.

What are your hobbies? Learning languages with varied degrees of commitment, dreaming up wild new schemes, planning my next good meal. Definitely not running.

How did you spend your summer? Traveling to new and old places. Reading a lot of books. Eating a lot of good food. Outlining detailed drafts of exciting new papers and lectures, which I am sure to lose on my computer until after the fact.

Favorite place to vacation: Tokyo

Favorite book: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Favorite movie and/or television show: Princess Mononoke

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: Anything other than improvisational jazz

Bucket list item #1: Toss-up between meeting the Obamas over dinner, and hearing Rod Stewart sing ‘Maggie May’ live to my mom. I dream small.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? The fact that I still get update emails from students, years after I taught them.

What is your most memorable moment as a professor? My first graduation ceremony, where a student who rarely spoke in class all year told me, quite shyly, that I really made a difference.

Professor you most admire and why: My old Oxford professor, Marc Ventresca. It is rare for someone to be as considered and original a thinker as he is, and to engage with such continuous grace and attention.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? How people coordinate on the ground in the midst of refugee emergencies. It reminded me how much time-sensitivity matters, as does trust. They are the two big concepts I am working to explore further, as part of thinking how we can better organise and manage in today’s constantly changing world.   

Twitter handle: @DrKorica

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…” Developing critical thinking as a habit, which encourages students to continually examine the assumptions and consequences of their actions. It will keep them in good stead once they start working full time, and everything comes at them constantly.

“And much less of this…” Linear models that suggest one single answer, and boundaries between the classroom and the workplace. Realities are almost never that simple, and boundaries help no one, least of all our missions as educators.

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would like for you: Still being the professor who spends solid time doing observational research in cool settings, to then discuss it regularly with students in small seminars. Luxury now, will be a luxury then too.

Students say…

“She is simply the best”

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