2020 Best Undergraduate Professors: Karoline Mortensen, University of Miami Herbert Business School

Karoline Mortensen of the University of Miami Herbert Business School is a 2020 Poets&Quants Best Undergraduate Business School Professor

Karoline Mortensen

Associate Professor

University of Miami Herbert Business School

Health care is one of the largest issues currently facing the U.S. Even before the Coronavirus pandemic, access to health care was a major problem for millions of Americans. Karoline Mortensen, an associate professor of health management and policy at the University of Miami Herbert Business School has dedicated her teaching and researching career to looking at the intersection of health care, management, and policy.

Mortensen’s path to that intersection and the University of Miami was a bit unexpected. Mortensen was trained in and began her career in health management and policy at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health. But when she moved to Miami to be near her parents, Mortensen discovered the Herbert Business School and that it’s one of the very few business schools in the country that has a department of health management and policy. “It turned out to be the perfect place for me,” Mortensen says. “Much of my education and career trajectory has been a series of unexpected opportunities, and I couldn’t be happier.”

Over the years, Mortensen has built a robust amount of research and has received numerous teaching awards along the way. It’s for those reasons that we’re happy to include her on this year’s list of Best Undergraduate Business School Professors.

Current age: 45

At current institution since what year? 2015

Education: Ph.D. in Health Services Organization and Policy, and Master’s degree in Applied Economics – University of Michigan. B.S. in Economics and Political Science – Florida State University

List of courses you currently teach: Introduction to Health Management and Policy, Health Care Economics, Public Policy and Health, Professional Skills Development


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I didn’t know! I was trained in and began my career in health management and policy in a School of Public Health. I moved to Miami to be close to my parents, and the Miami Herbert Business School is one of the select business schools that has a department of health management and policy. It turned out to be the perfect place for me. Much of my education and career trajectory has been a series of unexpected opportunities, and I couldn’t be happier.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?

I am working on a several exciting projects. Colleagues and I are looking at health care expenditures and utilization over time, the impacts of COVID-19 on mental health as well as on the finances of hospitals, and financial trends in Florida hospitals over time. A significant discovery is how much Florida hospitals and residents have benefitted from aspects of the Affordable Care Act. Hialeah has more individuals purchasing private health insurance on the Marketplace Exchanges than any other zip code in the United States.

If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be… working for the federal government to improve health care quality, access, and affordability for vulnerable populations.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?

I think what stands out about me is that my students know that I care, I listen, and I’m so passionate about all aspects of the health care sector that it engages the students as well.

One word that describes my first time teaching: inspired

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: One of my closest friends, Stephen Parente at the Carlson School of Management, helped me with every step of my transition to being a business school professor. I am one of his many Padawans who benefits from the cross-university collegiality of business schools. He told me everything!

Professor I most admire and why: There are so many! I treasure my relationships with my colleagues at Miami Herbert.  My doctoral adviser at Michigan, Catherine McLaughlin, provided me guidance and opportunities that I otherwise would not have had. Congresswoman Donna Shalala recruited me to Miami when she was president of the university, and we co-taught several courses together. These women are path breakers and strong leaders, and go out of their way to listen and provide support. I have learned so much about myself and leadership from them, and treasure these friendships.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

I love the diversity of the students in the classroom. I teach undergraduates who will go on to careers in medicine and administration, I teach master’s students who will grow and learn and lead health care organizations, and I teach health care executives who are already leading their organizations.

What is most challenging?

Competing with technology in the classroom. We are all constantly connected to our phones, and it is increasingly hard for students to put their phones down.

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Engaged

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Apathetic

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… having high expectations for participation. I design my syllabus to require significant participation and engagement. I provide opportunities for students to interact in the classroom as well as in small groups. Just showing up for class isn’t enough. We all have insight and perspectives on issues, so I nudge students to share their thoughts.


What are your hobbies?

I love to practice yoga, run with my dogs, and travel with my kids.

How will you spend your summer?

Exploring the outdoors with my kids, immersing myself in my research, and appreciating what I have.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Denmark- it is my second home.

Favorite book(s): Any book I read with my son. We are reading our way through the Miami-Dade Public Schools curriculum, and we both really enjoyed The Giver by Lois Lowry and Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli. My daughter and I are reading The Index Card with financial advice by one of my former professors, Harold Pollack.

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? My favorite movie is The Shining and my current favorite show is This is Us. The Shining brings back memories of childhood sleepovers with friends. I can empathize with many of the characters in This is Us  and every episode makes me cry.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why?

My radio and music app are always tuned into National Public Radio (NPR). My favorite music is the intro music for my favorite NPR shows (just hearing the music for StoryCorp brings tears to my eyes).  I love the stories and news that expose me to so many different perspectives and issues.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… interactive experiential learning in the real world. I teach a professional skills development course where we visit health care facilities (Jackson Health System’s Ryder Trauma Center, UHealth’s Lennar Foundation Medical Center), and have diverse leaders from throughout the health care sector share their insight and challenges. Seeing things first hands really helps apply what we learn in the classroom.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… focusing on supporting women and minorities in business. One percent of venture capital funding goes to black start-up founders, and only 2.2 percent goes to females. One of my favorite businesses (a yoga studio) was built by a wonderful, inspiring friend of mine. As an African American female, she had to overcome many more obstacles that face the traditional entrepreneur.

I’m grateful for… my family, my friends, my colleagues, my health.

Faculty, students, alumni, and/or administrators say:

I received an email from one of executive MBA students (and hospital CEO) after our course that unexpectedly went online ended. “… Thank you for allowing us to be ourselves and not feel the restraints of strict curriculum as usually mandated by academia. That ability is what has allowed me to learn the most I have so far, and is exactly why I came to the U.”

“We love you.”

“Associate Professor of Health Management and Policy. In addition to directing the Masters of Health Administration program and teaching undergraduate and executive MBA courses, she is a leading researcher in the delivery, organization and financing of the US healthcare system. Her expertise on hospital pricing, the Affordable Care Act, health insurance and healthcare access have been widely cited and impactful in guiding public policy. She has testified extensively in US Congress and her undergraduate research student became a 2019 Rhodes Scholar. She’s loved by undergraduates in both the business school and the pre-med students in the College of Arts & Sciences.”

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