2021 Best Undergraduate Professors: Kate Zipay, University of Oregon, Lundquist College of Business

Kate Zipay

Lundquist College of Business, University of Oregon

“Kate is an absolute GEM of a professor. She makes everyone feel seen, heard, and validated, while using unique and effective methods of teaching. She is extremely empathetic to her students, and is fantastic at ensuring students learn without it ever feeling like textbook-based, boring learning. Kate is someone that I look up to as a professor, a person, and as a friend, which is something I’ve never experienced in my 3 years in undergrad so far.” – Meghan Hogue, student

Kate Zipay, 36, is Assistant Professor of Management at University of Oregon’s Lundquist College of Business, where she’s been since 2018. 

She has a PhD in Management from the University of Georgia, a MaCC in Accounting from the University of South Florida, and a BS in Accounting from Florida State University. She currently teaches Managing People in Organizations (Organizational Behavior).

Zipay approached the pivot to online learning that dominated the last couple of years as an opportunity to help students reshape their approach to their careers, she tells Poets&Quants. She and her students rewrote what class culture looks like by using tools such as dyadic break-outs for quick connections, crowd-sourcing platforms to bring more diverse voices into class, and even had a front yard, socially distanced book club. 

“I got to know the students and their personalities and interests. This allowed me to better tailor the conceptual material to their unique experiences, give tangible examples rooted in their stories, and build a course that accelerates their learning of organizations and the people that make up organizations,” she says. 

She used the birth of her second child in April 2020 to talk about the intersection between work and home, providing a unique perspective into the interface between people’s work and nonwork lives. “By being open with students about my experience, it opened up a compelling and provocative dialogue that elevated their understanding of organizational behavior,” she says. “This year, more so than other years, I believe my students are joining the workforce as not only more knowledgeable employees that understand topics like motivation, emotions, and satisfaction at work, but also more empathetic and inspired employees ready to create healthier and happier workforces.”

She has won several professional honors including the Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award the last two years. She is also the recipient of the Kageyama Research Award, the New Faculty Research Award, and the University of Oregon COVID 19 Impact Research Grant. Her research examines the influence of life outside of work on performance and well-being, the value of non-work experiences in organizational outcomes, and the social and emotional outcomes of fairness in the workplace. Her research has been published in the Academy of Management Journal, Journal of Applied Psychology, and Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. She is an ad hoc reviewer for Academy of Management Journal, Personnel Psychology, and Journal of Organizational Behavior.

“Dr. Zipay is an exceptional educator who integrates research-based practices into her pedagogy and course design. This winter we met frequently so she could understand the student population and design with their needs in mind,” writes Eric Boggs, director of the Lundquist College of Business, in his nomination. “She created a number of innovative lessons and experiential learning activities to connect students to content and allow them to experiment with new leadership behaviors and managerial mindsets.”


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…I was sitting in the arena at my boyfriend (now husband)’s MBA graduation shortly after I started my professional career at a Big Four firm. In that moment, I remember having this somewhat surprising realization that my academic career hadn’t even really started. Observing the faculty from the stands, it felt clear that I would join them in pursuing a career of continuous learning and discovery. I leaned over to his brother and said, “I think I’d rather be down there” and told him my wish to pursue a PhD. It was the first time I really acknowledged it or said it out loud. He simply replied, “You should.” And then I did.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I investigate the fruitful ways life outside of work influences employee emotions, attitudes, and behaviors at work. People live fascinating and messy lives that impact work in a complex manner. Because of this, I aim to build a more comprehensive understanding of employees by thoughtfully investigating healthy and harmful stimuli that they face beyond the workday. In my recent research, I’ve discovered that, regardless of how engaging work and home might be, employees need other places—special places to just be themselves (i.e., your local cafè or go-to brewery)—to retreat from the intensities of a full work and home life. Employees who find their “third place” build a unique source of resiliency to face the challenges of everyday life as working adults. 

If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be…leading an organization. It would be exciting and fulfilling in different ways to integrate my business acumen and knowledge gained through my academic career with my commitment to create healthy workplaces to put my passion in to practice.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I think I stand out to students because I try to model the managerial lessons I teach. In my classes, the students not only learn the curriculum directly through readings, cases, lectures, critical discussions, and activities, but also indirectly by witnessing how I approach the course and each member of our class. I hold tough conversations, set high standards, instigate respectful dialogue, inspire self-inquiry, and push the status quo. My goal is not just to teach students the foundations of understanding people at work but also model how to put those critical and difficult skills to practice—and I think they notice.  

One word that describes my first time teaching: Confirming.

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: The job evolves as you gain more experience and build more relationships. You must be both adaptable and tenacious to craft the career that you want. And, if you do it right, your journey as a professor will look different from anyone else’s.

Professor I most admire and why: My greatest hero of our field is Jane Dutton, Emeritus Faculty in the Ross School of Business at University of Michigan. She contributes the most rigorous, thoughtful, and timely research to our field, leads her organizations and academia with grace and innovation, and embraces teaching as an opportunity to shape the future of business to be more compassionate. Remarkably, as I get to know Jane more and hear stories of her career, my admiration for her work and non-work paths to success grows exponentially.    


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? I enjoy witnessing—and sometimes inspiring—a “plot twist” in what a student envisions for their future business careers. What a great reward to recognize that they are thinking differently about themselves and how to lead others. I love sharing the evidence and tools to not only understand why relationships, emotions, motivation, and values matter at work, but how they can use that knowledge to cultivate healthier workplaces. 

What is most challenging? The most challenging part of the job right now is recognizing the magnitude of stress, loneliness, and uncertainty many students are facing on and off campus. For me, the real challenge for professors involves holding space for those experiences while also maintaining high standards and expectations. 

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Improving.

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Checked-out.

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as…clear and kind.


What are your hobbies? I’m a classic nerd with a basic mom vibe. I love puzzles, reading, and playing games along with riding my Peloton, watching The Bachelor, having dance parties with my kids, and wine tasting in the Willamette Valley, Oregon.

How will you spend your summer? Rest. Write. Play. Repeat. 

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Anywhere with a little sunshine, childcare, a good drink, and nice people. 

Favorite book(s): A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, Mr. Penunbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, The Person You Mean to Be by Dolly Chugh, The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker.

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? Life is full of dualities so I have two: Severance on Apple TV starring Adam Scott and my guilty pleasure—The Bachelor (hear me out). Severance explores the idea of completely severing our work experiences from our non-work experiences. It fascinates me to consider what happens at the extremes of work–life segmentation. It serves as a cautionary tale on believing in and reinforcing an iron wall between work and home. Why The Bachelor? It was, perhaps, my first foray into examining the complexities of human behavior. Emotions run wild and decision-making is fallible, and I’ve tuned in Monday nights for nearly twenty years for the “most dramatic season ever” to try to understand how and why. It also connects me to so many people I love—my closest faculty friends who unabashedly text about it the next morning, my sister-in-law in Florida who hosts a weekly viewing with friends, my husband who shakes his head like an old man in wonder and mutters under his breath. It’s all gloriously fascinating. 

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? Classic Rock and Americana. I love good lyrics with a simple guitar accompaniment. But more simply, I love any and all live music—awesome, terrible, and everything in between. I love the passion and bravery and sense of living.  


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… humanity. In many ways, being a great business leader starts with practicing being a good person. Having integrity, listening carefully, stepping up, helping out, learning more about the needs of the people around you, trying and failing and trying again—these human practices are critical to successfully navigating the future of work in an increasingly challenging and unpredictable world. 

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at…valuing rest and recovery. People need to be able to take a breath without worrying about their standing and contributions at work. The pressure to be “doing” is omnipresent. Even in my own research, I often explore very agentic and active uses of non-work time. The question that is gnawing at me now is “when do we rest? And what would happen if we understood the full benefits of doing enough?” 

I’m grateful for… The incredible support from and partnership with my husband. Together, we navigate the challenges of living full professional and personal lives. We encourage one another to use our voices to make this seemingly impossible “balance” more attainable for ourselves and those around us—our colleagues, my students, our own kids as they grow, and many of our friends figuring out how to pursue their careers and care for their families. I’m grateful that we have encouraged each other to be bold in our work–life choices, whether its confidently teaching business students 30+ weeks pregnant and discussing the associated challenges during class, happily and openly taking vacations and pursuing hobbies, or embracing “solo-parenting” while the other has an impending deadline and needs to focus. I’m grateful that—from the first day when I said out loud that I wanted to pursue my PhD—he has always responded, “Yes and…how can I help?” 

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