2020 Best Undergraduate Professors: Steffanie Wilk, Ohio State University Fisher College of Business

Steffanie Wilk of Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business is a 2020 Poets&Quants Best Undergraduate Business School Professor

Steffanie Wilk

Professor, Management and Human Resources Dept

Fisher College of Business, The Ohio State University

A leading professor in management and human resources, Professor Steffanie Wilk has won pretty much every teaching award available at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business. Wilk won the MBA Teaching Award in 2008 and 2014. The Undergraduate Teaching Award in 2010. And the Pacesetter Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching in 2009. Like many others on this year’s list, Wilk also met the balance of teaching and researching excellence we set out to find. Along with her teaching awards, Wilk has thousands of Google Scholar citations.

Wilk originally thought she’d be a labor lawyer, but a pre-law counselor at Rockhurst University in Kansas City advised her differently. “I was in line to talk to the pre-law counselor as an undergraduate and the faculty member in the next office asked what my goals in life were,” Wilk recalls. “I said ‘to help people have safe and effective workplaces.’ I wanted to be a labor lawyer. And he replied, ‘lawyers resolve problems that already exist, professors can teach how to build workplaces that have fewer problems.’ I was hooked.”

Current age: 50+

At current institution since what year? 2005

Education: Ph.D. University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management

List of courses you currently teach: Undergraduate: Honors Organizational Behavior/Human Resources


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I was in line to talk to the pre-law counselor as an undergraduate and the faculty member in the next office asked what my goals in life were. I said “to help people have safe and effective workplaces.” (I wanted to be a labor lawyer) and he replied, “lawyers resolve problems that already exist, professors can teach how to build workplaces that have fewer problems.” I was hooked.

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

I am studying group and individual reputations in organizations with a former Ph.D. student. We have found that “big fish in small ponds” are more likely to speak up to make changes in their workgroups and “little fish in big ponds” are more likely to disassociate from their workgroup.

If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be… An orchestra conductor or a mystery writer.

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

I am not sure. I really care about my students and what they learn and I think my energy reflects that. I want my students to be compassionate and successful leaders.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Nervous!

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: Not knowing all the answers makes you more, not less, believable. My motto is “we do not learn from 1 we learn from n + 1.”

Professor I most admire and why: Kathy Williams Phillips (Columbia University). She cared so deeply for her students. She taught about the power and importance of differences in organizations, and lived those values every day. I never had her as a teacher but I know many who did and who have been forever touched by her intellect, passion and caring. I hope to have half that impact on my students.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

The dialogue and discourse – I learn from them every day.

What is most challenging?

Switching to remote teaching in the middle of a pandemic!

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

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

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Tough but fair


What are your hobbies? Reading, music, cooking, traveling

How will you spend your summer? Research

Favorite place(s) to vacation: On the water

Favorite book(s): too many to pick

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? Parasite – made you think long after it was over.

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


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… I think the hybrid model of online and in-class will be in the near future. This isn’t “my way” but it will be “a way” and we will have to be prepared to deliver more not less with this model. I’m already planning for how I can use technology to improve how I deliver content to my students.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… Looking at the whole person when they hire. Grades and test scores force some students to be unidimensional or fearful of exploring alternative topics and ideas. We need to see value in curiosity and risk-taking.

I’m grateful for… my family, friends, and all those who have supported me throughout my career.

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

“Dr. Wilk is one of the best organizational behavior minds in the country. Her passion for innovative research in the field is only rivaled by her passion for her students and Fisher.”

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