Faculty Spotlight - Dr. Aparna Joshi

The Management and Organization Department's distinguished and highlighted faculty members.

Five Questions with a Faculty Member...

Dr. Aparna Joshi, Arnold Family Professor of Management 


1. Tell us about the classes you teach and the areas you research.
I teach MGMT 445: Managing Workplace Diversity to our undergraduates and a shorter version of this course to EMBAs. The content of this course coincides with my research interests, as well, and I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to apply the research evidence and offer insights about building leadership competencies for an inclusive workplace. Leading across differences and diversity is a core leadership competency in organizations today. Effective leadership depends upon self-awareness, empathy towards others who are different, and building on this awareness and empathy to implement organizational change. This course provides a pragmatic and evidence-based framework, that uses social science research to identify tools and techniques to build key components of awareness, empathy, and change-oriented action in organizations. Through this course I aim to increase knowledge, skill, and confidence to enhance effectiveness in managing diversity and diversity-related challenges that are an inevitable part of the manager’s life.

2. What do you enjoy most about the work that you do?
I enjoy interacting with students and through interactive learning exercises developing a fun classroom environment. In MGMT 445, this semester, a really interesting topic of discussion that emerged was the changing nature of male and female roles in organizations and in society. The students led a fascinating discussion about what masculinity means in today’s context and the role that cisgender men can play as gender inclusive leaders. It was refreshing to see both the acute awareness of biases and discrimination in the workplace, as well as the importance of taking action to change systemic bias. I sense a great deal of urgency among students to bring about real change in organizations. After this discussion, I felt that the future leadership of organizations is in great hands! Our soon-to-be Smeal graduates are definitely poised to bring about positive change and foster inclusion in the workplace. Despite all the challenges that we are seeing in the world around us, my students give me hope for the future.

3. Considering the courses that you teach, how can students start putting what they are learning into practice?
Through case discussion, interactive and experiential learning, the diversity course aims at bringing challenges and competencies associated with leading inclusively in organizations to life. We examine real life cases that put students at the forefront of resolving typical challenges that emerge around diversity issues. For instance, in discussing micro-aggressions in the workplace, we highlight the role of dominant group members who may be bystanders and can yet be very central to addressing this form of discrimination. One key learning here is that it is the impact of these micro-aggressions rather than the intent that matters. By directly addressing the negative impact of such behavior, the bystander can urge the perpetrator to change their behavior and halt future such interactions in the workplace. We unpack specific micro-interventions that students can engage in to address micro-aggressions. I hope that some of these skills can be readily transferred to students’ experiences in their current leadership roles in student organizations and in their future leadership roles in the workplace.

4. What advice do you have for students, as they wrap up the fall semester?
Stay in touch with the latest business and world news. Being attuned to the news helps to build a more strategic understanding of the context in which organizations operate and helps to further hone in on one’s leadership skills. I would also urge students to reflect on the materials that we cover across all our classes, and apply their critical thinking and problem solving skills to integrate these learnings with their own experiences. By applying evidence-based practices in their student organizations or at work they can greatly enhance their own credibility and competence as leaders.

5. What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I enjoy watching soccer and travelling with my family and our dog and cat. During the pandemic, like many others, we adopted a cat, who is named Dr. Fauci, and has become very central to our lives. We now take short vacations and travel by road to nearby places. So, I guess my short answer is, I really enjoy spending time with Dr. Fauci!