2017 Top 40 Undergraduate Professors: Nita Umashankar, Georgia State (Robinson)

Nita Umashankar

Assistant Professor of Marketing

Georgia State University, J. Mack Robinson College of Business

Judging by the nominations submitted to Poets & Quants for the inaugural list of top undergraduate business professors, Nita Umashankar’s class is where the magic happens. Nomination after nomination spoke of a classroom experience that’s so exhilarating, one student said he would’ve switched to become a marketing major had it not been time for him to graduate. Professor Umashankar loves marketing and students say the zeal she has for it is both infectious and contagious. Another common theme about “Professor U”–as students affectionately call her–is her ability to instill students with self-confidence in a given subject. Also, being much more than an educator, she’s seen as a mentor and friend who they look forward to staying in touch with long after business school.

Age: 35

At current institution since: 2010

Education: PhD, Business Administration, 2010, The University of Texas at Austin; MS, Marketing, 2007, The University of Texas at Austin; BBA, Honors in Marketing and Entrepreneurship, 2004, The University of Arizona; BS, Molecular and Cellular Biology, 2003, The University of Arizona

List of courses currently teaching: Marketing research, marketing management

Fun fact about yourself: I love to eat salty food for breakfast, such as a bowl of noodles

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…” I took a few business classes after completing a degree in molecular cellular biology. I knew I had found my home. I was inspired by the passion and commitment to excellence exhibited by many of my professors. I have been around academia all my life and have always appreciated the concurrent pursuit of research, education, and scholarship.

“If I weren’t a business school professor…” I would work for a think tank on international development

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

What do you enjoy most about teaching undergraduate business students? The range of emotion they show: joy, sadness, anger, surprise, trust, anticipation. It makes for a very passionate and inspired classroom.

What is the biggest challenge that comes with teaching undergraduate business students? Their initial lack of confidence, which manifests in many ways.

What is the most impressive thing one of your undergraduate students has done? Transitioning from being scared of numbers to effectively presenting quantitative results with confidence.

What is the least favorite thing one has done? Turned in work after having put close to zero effort in the assignment

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class? Hard work, meticulousness, and a willingness to improve

“When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as …” Having high expectations, pointing out everything–the good and the bad, and being compassionate.  

“But I would describe myself as …” Having high expectations, and being passionate, loving, and fair.

What are your hobbies? Snuggling with my son, spending time with my husband, socializing, and reading the news.

How did you spend your summer? Putting together my promotion and tenure packet!

Favorite place to vacation: Vegas and India

Favorite book: The God of Small Things, Shantaram, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

Favorite movie and/or television show: Movies: Lion, Moonlight, Zero Dark Thirty, Fences; TV shows: Happy Valley, Game of Thrones, American Crime, The Killing

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: Hip-hop, R&B, Indian classical music

Bucket list item #1: To have lunch with Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Elena Kagan, the current (female) Supreme Court Justices.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? This award! And my first research publication

What is your most memorable moment as a professor? Hugging all 80 of my students on the last day of class. They formed a line and hugged me one at a time. It was an amazing feeling to have connected with them emotionally and intellectually.

Professor you most admire and why: My mom, who recently retired as a professor of marketing at the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management. She has been an incredible source of inspiration to me as an instructor, a leader, and a pioneer.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? Currently, I and a few colleagues are examining the impact of mergers and acquisitions (i.e., two firms coming together) on customer satisfaction. For example, Amazon has recently purchased Whole Foods, which shocked most people. Our research finds that on average, consumers are less satisfied after the acquisition than before, even though more products and services might become available to them and at a lower price.

Twitter handle: I don’t use Twitter

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…” Diversity, at all levels

“And much less of this…” Bureaucracy

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would like for you: Being promoted to full professor, continuing to engage with undergraduate and graduate students, raising a vibrant and healthy family, and giving back to underprivileged women and children in a meaningful way.

Students say…

“I came into the class to get the grade and get closer to graduation; however, I ended the semester with a different mindset and 100% of that is due to the passion and teaching of Dr. Umashankar. From the first day, her passion and love for the subject and her students shined through. She made sure we were not learning the material to solely pass the tests, but to be strong contenders in our future endeavors. From the beginning of teaching us what ‘Marketing Research’ is to going through ‘Research Design’, the difference between ‘qualitative and quantitative research’, to ‘regression’, Dr. Umashankar taught everything with purpose and Georgia State is lucky to have her.”

“Dr. Umashankar is a young professor who really wants to see her students succeed in their careers and that is why she pushes them to think and work hard. Most professors only teach you the theory of things, however Dr. Umashankar taught us things that we could use in practical life, and emphasized on things which employers look for when considering to hire marketing graduates. Dr. Umashankar had a lot of expectations out of her students but at the same time she appreciated their hard work.”

“Out of all my previous professors Dr. U had been the most energetic, passionate, and the most helpful with giving thorough explanations of difficult material. She connects her teachings to real world examples as well as gives us hands on experience as to how we will use the material we learn. She has gone above and beyond to make herself available to her students and over all positively impacts the lives of her students.”

“Being an educator is more than teaching and testing on a subject. Educators should care about their students and want them to succeed even after they leave the classroom. Dr. Nita Umashankar goes far beyond the requirements of an educator. She believes in each of her students and wants them to reach their full potential. At Georgia State University, classes in J. Mack Robinson College of Business can be challenging for students. Taking her class isn’t easy however, she uses current business scenarios to help students understand marketing research. She makes students think for themselves and enjoy the learning material.”

“Dr. Umashankar has had a major impact in my scholastic and professional development that has carried well beyond graduation from Georgia State University. As a professor teaching Marketing Research, she has inspired myself and other students to dive into data to uncover the truth behind how consumers behave and what they value. Her passion for research in Marketing makes every class memorable and always keeps students engaged.”

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.