2022 Best Undergraduate Professors: David F. Arena Jr., University of Texas at Arlington

David F. Arena Jr.
University of Texas at Arlington

“The University of Texas at Arlington is both a Hispanic-serving and has been rated as one of the top four year institutions for veterans and their families in the United States. These are important perspectives that I actively encourage in my classroom to give my students a more comprehensive perspective on different workplace experiences, challenges, and successes.” – David Arena

David F. Arena Jr., 29, is Assistant Professor of Management at University of Texas at Arlington.

His research explores contemporary diversity and inclusion issues in the workplace, and he is particularly interested in stigmatized employee identity characteristics that may either be concealed (such as sexual orientation) or may change over time (such as pregnancy status). His work has appeared in the Journal of Management, Personnel Psychology, Journal of Business and Psychology, Journal of Vocational Behavior, Industrial Organizational Psychology: Perspectives on Science and Practice, and others.

He has been awarded grants from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues and the National Science Foundation, and mentors several doctoral students at UTA and beyond. He won the best undergraduate teaching award at the UTA in Spring 2022.


At current institution since what year? Fall of 2022
Education: Bachelors of Science in Psychology with a focus in Work and Organizational Psychology from George Mason University; Doctorate of Business Administration with a concentration in Management from the University of Memphis
List of Undergraduate courses you teach: Managing Organizational Behavior


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I went to my first academic conference. The first conference I attended was the Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology annual conference in Philadelphia PA (very close to my hometown). I had been working as an undergraduate research assistant and had a very vague idea of what I wanted to do after graduation. Pushing out of my comfort zone and attending the conference allowed me to have a first look at how excited that faculty were about their research and about their teaching. I met some professors whose work that I read and realized that they were real people too! Many of the folks that I met worked in Business schools and spoke about how supported they felt and how much impact they could have on their students. Just in talking to them, I could tell how much they liked their jobs, how much of an impact they were making in the classroom and beyond, and it cemented my interest in working at a school with a diverse body of students and pursuing research on marginalized communities. Shout out to Dr. Isaac Sabat for encouraging me to go to SIOP, and for letting me work as his lab manager at George Mason!

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? My research focuses largely on the workplace experiences of vulnerable populations of employees. Specifically, I focus on dynamically stigmatized employee identity characteristics that either can be concealed from others (such as sexual orientation, religious affiliation, or political affiliation) or may change over time (such as pregnancy status or parental status). My work on the experiences of pregnant women and mothers has been impactful in identifying and categorizing the types of stigma that women endure at work. Stigma can be categorized into formal bias (i.e., bias that stems from the formalized structures of organizations), interpersonal bias (i.e., bias that stems from relationships with others at work), and internalized bias (i.e., bias that might be internalized by women themselves). Importantly, my work reveals best practices in overcoming biases for working moms. Some of my ongoing work dives deeper into each of these mechanisms with the goal of providing as much insight into the experiences of working mothers en route to removing barriers.

If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be… I have a silly amount of houseplants, so maybe I would be good at running a plant store. I also love to play video games to unwind, so maybe I could make it as a professional streamer.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I think that one of the things that makes me stand out is my empathy for students. A pillar of my teaching philosophy is understanding and acknowledging that students have a variety of things going on with them that extends outside of my classroom. As a general point of practice, I want my students to succeed – something I tell them at every natural chance I get. I make an effort to follow through to enact on this espoused value at every turn, and want to be seen as a resource (not a barrier) for my student’s success.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Scattered! I wanted to do really well, and I think I came off as a little bit all-over-the-place. I still sometimes feel all-over-the-place, but my confidence is at a whole different level.

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: To not take everything so seriously!

Professor I most admire and why: There are so many professors that I admire and inspire me to be a better professor myself; I don’t think I can pick just one. My doctoral advisor, Kristen Jones (associate professor of Management at the University of Memphis) is one of my biggest sources of support, and a person that I truly admire. She taught me to ask important questions, how to train doctoral students, and how to be a functioning faculty member, teacher, and researcher! There are so many others that I admire; the folks that I worked as an undergraduate research assistant for Isaac Sabat (Texas A&M) and Eden King (Rice) come to mind. I also have the privilege of working with some amazing scholars such as Alex Lindsey (Memphis), Enrica Ruggs (U. of Houston), and Karen Landay (UMKC) among so many others that make me love my job all the more. I also have the privilege of working in an amazing department alongside so many admirable faculty members and doc students.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? Talking to them and encouraging them to share their own workplace experiences. I always mention that bringing our own workplace experiences into course discussions makes the class all the better!

What is most challenging? Making sure that students can see the application of course material (why it matters for their careers).

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

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

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Someone who gives good feedback! I think feedback is so important, and I require my students to write in my course (hopefully in a way that isn’t tedious). I think that writing skills are so challenging to develop, so I always try to take the time and give feedback to help students articulate their ideas in the best way possible.


What are your hobbies? I play a lot of video games, I run a lot, and watch a ton of Philadelphia sports.

How will you spend your summer? Most of my summer will be spent in Little Rock, Arkansas, but I will do a bit of summer traveling and catching up with coauthors and pushing forward my research! Hopefully I will get to head up to New Jersey and see my parents as well.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: I loved going to Japan; I spent two weeks in Tokyo and Kyoto. I also loved Europe and spent a week with my college friends traveling through Italy. I love to go places I have never been before and just explore.

Favorite book(s): Unfortunately, I don’t read a lot for pleasure (I read a lot for work). I really enjoyed Rupi Kaur’s poetry books (Milk and Honey, the Sun and Her Flowers).

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? I’ve rewatched Game of Thrones a few times; I love a good story/storyteller.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? I listen to a ton of lo-fi. Not only does it help me focus when I’m writing or cleaning data, but I also play it in my classrooms as my students are reflecting on some of my activities ahead of class discussions.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… Ways for students to apply the concepts they are learning in the classroom

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… Implementing, enacting, and following through on diversity initiatives.

I’m grateful for… Falling backwards into a career that I love more and more every semester.


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