2021 Best Undergraduate Professors: Kelly Herd, University of Connecticut School of Business

Kelly Herd

University of Connecticut School of Business

“Professor Herd has set a prime example of how professors across the world should care for their students. She genuinely wants the best for everyone and will do whatever it takes to set her students up for the most success … Her devotion, selflessness, and love for teaching is just a small token of her overall character. I am forever grateful for having the opportunity to be taught by Professor Herd and will never forget the mark she has had on me during my undergrad career as a marketing student.” – Anna Mecca, student

Kelly Herd, 40, is Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of Connecticut School of Business, where she has worked since 2017.

She has a PhD in Marketing from the University of Colorado and a BS in Business Administration from Washington and Lee University. She currently teaches Introduction to Marketing Management and Honors Introduction to Marketing Management.

“Creativity is at the core of who I am—as an instructor, mentor, and researcher. I naturally approach situations from a place of inquisitiveness and I believe that doing so enables me to cultivate a more engaging and impactful educational experience—one that not only teaches content but also higher-order critical thinking and problem-solving skills,” she tells Poets&Quants

Dr. Herd’s research focuses on creativity, product design, and emotions, and is published in top marketing journals including Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Research and others. Her work and expertise have been covered by media outlets such as Forbes, Fast Company, and Marketing News

In the classroom, she is the first professor in the Marketing Department to win both School of Business and AAUP Teaching Innovation awards. She led the redesign of her department’s honors curriculum and then quickly flipped her courses for virtual delivery during the pandemic– a delivery for which many students nominated her for this Poets&Quants award, describing hers as the most engaging online classes they took that year. She oversees six to seven instructors, including adjuncts and doctoral students, inviting them into her classroom.

“It was truly inspiring to see how she engages her students through dynamic discussions and hands-on activities,” writes Kristen Ferguson, a PhD student who observed Herd’s class for a semester. “In one class, Dr. Herd challenges her students to pass objects (a frisbee, a soda) around the room, illustrating the product-specific challenges of distribution. Her students are excited to come to class to participate in these active learning experiences that encourage collaboration with peers. Dr. Herd has a profound impact on students and truly exemplifies the kind of professor that we all strive to be.”

LIFE AS A BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSOR

I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… In my last semester of undergraduate, I took a 6-week seminar on Consumer Psychology. We read books like the Tipping Point (still one of my favorites) and talked about the role of psychology in business. My professor, Amanda Bower, explained what a Ph.D. entailed and the role of both teaching and research as a professor. I was hooked when it became clear that I could make a career of learning, collaborating, and sharing these ideas with students! 

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? The majority of my research focuses on creativity. For example, in a recent project, we study how physical space between people impacts creativity. We began this project before the pandemic, but it has become particularly relevant as we navigate social distancing post-COVID. We find extra space between people has a surprising benefit of increasing their ability to develop creative ideas.

If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d … open a bed & breakfast in the mountains with my husband – he’s a great cook, and I love meeting and talking with new people. 

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I work hard to create a dynamic and engaging environment for students to participate; my goal is to draw them out in a friendly and encouraging way to dig deep and share their perspectives in whatever way they feel most comfortable. Participation is easy for extroverts like me, but I think it’s our job to create an environment that engages all students. Years ago, I read the book Quiet by Susan Cain, and it encouraged me to create time and space for more introverted students to reflect and share their ideas differently. 

One word that describes my first time teaching: Excited (with a touch of trepidation)

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: You are most productive when you are not solely focused on work. Although having other interests and taking time away from research, teaching, and service can sometimes feel like a luxury, finding balance makes you a more creative, resilient, and compassionate professor. 

Professor I most admire and why: In each stage of my career, I’ve been fortunate to have mentors, particularly strong women, whom I admire. My Ph.D. advisor, Page Moreau, is insightful, hardworking, and cares about studying meaningful questions. Page has always been generous with her time. These are traits that I seek to emulate with my own doctoral students. I also admire my UConn colleague Robin Coulter. Robin is passionate about people and willing to work tirelessly to support others. Robin is the first person many of us call to brainstorm solutions to a challenge, celebrate a win, or come back from a defeat. These traits make her an exceptional colleague and leader.

TEACHING BUSINESS SCHOOL STUDENTS

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? Teaching an introductory class, I often have students who are not sure exactly what they want to do with their lives. I love that moment when it “clicks” for a student and when they realize the value of marketing and psychology in business. I joke with my students that I “geek out” on consumer psychology, creativity, and research, and I love that moment when they internalize that passion, especially if it inspires them to pursue a career in marketing. 

What is most challenging? Sometimes students come in with preconceived notions about marketing and its role in business. Particularly for non-marketing majors, I seek to broaden their understanding of marketing and its central role in business. I highlight that the skills we seek to develop – strategic planning, problem-solving, communication – will help them be thought leaders in whatever careers they pursue. 

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Open-minded

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Free-rider

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Thorough. I make a lot of effort to provide detailed feedback, so students know what they need to do to improve. 

LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM

What are your hobbies? Anything outdoors, particularly skiing, hiking, and biking, with my kids.

How will you spend your summer? Our family loves getting outside, so plenty of camping and hiking. And research, of course. 

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Anywhere with mountains – Colorado, Switzerland, and Vermont are some of my favorites.

Favorite book(s): In graduate school, my Mom gave me The Last Lecture. It’s one I think of often and re-read from time to time. Reading with my kids, especially as they get older and appreciate some of my favorite novels from childhood, has been really enjoyable. 

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? I enjoy sitcoms from the ’90s and shows like Top Chef and Project Runway, where talented people are given constraints and forced to be creative. 

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? I like a little bit of everything.

THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at…Understanding their consumers and what really motivates them. 

I’m grateful for… My family. Since childhood, my parents and siblings have always encouraged me to work hard and pursue my goals; my husband has been there for me every step of the way; and my three kids are my biggest cheerleaders. I’m also grateful for my friends in the field who are always available to help however they can, even if it is just to lend an ear. 

 

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