2022 Best Undergraduate Professors: Troy A. Smith, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Troy A. Smith
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

“Troy was the best professor I have ever had at UNL thus far. I have never met a professor who actually knew all 70 of his students by name and actually cared enough to ask me how my day was going. He’s a great guy.” – Student evaluation

Troy A. Smith, 39, is Associate Professor of Management at University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

His research interests include antecedents and outcomes of various forms of leadership at work; employee motivation, exhaustion, and stress; employee behaviors; and the intersection of work and life domains. It has been published in leading journals including Academy of Management Journal, Journal of Applied Psychology, Personnel Psychology, Journal of Management, and others.

He is the recipient of the Kanter Award for Research Excellence in Work and Family, and the 2017 Emerging Researcher Award from the College of Business at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). He has been recognized as the top tenure/tenure track instructor within the College of Business at UNL and received three special Parents’ Recognition Awards from the UNL Parents’ Association.


At current institution since what year? 2016


  • B.A. Business – Utah State University
  • B.A. Liberal Arts and Sciences – Utah State University
  • Master of Public Administration – University of Georgia
  • PhD Management – Texas A&M University

List of Undergraduate courses you teach: Managing Behavior in Organizations, Negotiation and Conflict Resolution


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I conducted my first interviews of organizational leaders and prominent civil leaders about public policy and leadership.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I am exploring how different follower behaviors combine to impact how leaders view and subsequently treat their followers at work. To date, most leadership research has focused on how leaders’ behaviors and perceptions impact the performance of followers. I flip the lens by examining how different types of followers’ behaviors independently impact the type of leadership behaviors that leaders exhibit toward their followers. One significant discovery I have made is that followers have more influence over the leadership behaviors they receive from their leaders than we previously thought.

If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be… a medical doctor or dentist.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? First, I develop personalized relationships with my students by memorizing their names and learning about their lives to foster better educational experiences inside and outside of the classroom. Second, I try to avoid lecturing and instead use participative exercises to encourage my students to learn the course material through experiential learning, reflection, and conversation.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Humorous!

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: Developing teaching strategies and materials is a never-ending process that will take all the time you designate to it. Thus, you should proactively plan how much time you will spend developing teaching strategies and materials, so you have sufficient time to excel in your other responsibilities (e.g., conducting research).

Professor I most admire and why: It’s a tie. Dr. Stephen Courtright (University of Iowa) is incredible at making everyone he teaches feel valued, while Dr. Bradley Kirkman (North Carolina State University) is masterful at translating complex research ideas into easily understood practical tools for managers.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? My students enjoy pushing each other to higher levels of performance on a consistent basis.

What is most challenging? It is challenging to balance providing extraordinary teaching experiences alongside producing high quality research in top-tier journals.

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

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

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… fair and willing to listen to them.


What are your hobbies? My number one hobby is spending quality time with my wife and six kids. After that, I enjoy consuming books along with playing and watching football, basketball, soccer, disc golf, amongst other sports.

How will you spend your summer? My upcoming summer will entail a mixture of advancing research projects toward publication, refining my courses, and traveling with my family.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Cruises and Beachfronts… if I am with my wife on a cruise ship or staying at an all-inclusive hotel on a beachfront property anywhere in the world, I am on vacation.

Favorite book(s): Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? Given my love of sports and my alma maters, when it comes to television, my happy place is watching college football with my family… #GoDawgs #DoubleAggies #Huskers.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? Country music. I grew up doing quite a bit of country swing dancing.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… It would have stronger ties to organizations that enable greater opportunities for faculty, students, organizational leaders, and employees to make meaningful contributions to one another. In addition, it would have a greater amount of financial support to advance the development of a wider array of teaching approaches and research endeavors.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… focusing on more than only generating profit, in general. While producing profit is important for companies and organizations, it is critical that they balance that goal with serving their employees, taking care of the environment, and providing quality products and services to their customers.

I’m grateful for… my phenomenal wife! She is my unsung hero. Her enduring friendship, loving support, and incredible example propels me to strive to be a better person every day.


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