Favorite Professors: Wharton's Adam Grant

Adam Grant Photograph by Michael Kamber for Businessweek.com

Adam Grant

Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Undergrad Courses Taught: Organizational Behavior

Management professor Adam Grant likes to keep his students on their toes and says the element of surprise is an important ingredient in each of his classes. Grant, whose class is capped at 80 students, aims to help students recognize career paths they hadn’t considered before. Lecturing as little as possible, he incorporates experiential exercises, self-assessment, and as of last year, interaction with MBA mentors, to facilitate his students’ confrontation with the unexpected. “If I were to describe any of the principles I teach, many would sound intuitive because they make sense,” Grant says. “But that doesn’t mean people always possess that common sense or act on it.” Grant, who helps students—at times not in his class—prepare for interviews during his office hours, looks to motivate entrants into the corporate world.

Grant holds an undergraduate degree from Harvard University and a PhD from the University of Michigan. Immediately after grad school, he began teaching at the University of North Carolina and started as an associate professor at Wharton in 2009. Since then, Grant has given his cell phone number to every one of his students and maintained a strict 24-hour response rule, always responding to e-mails from students within a day’s time.

Students Say:

“Not only was the course material relevant, interesting, and engaging, but I have never seen a professor or teacher, in my entire 18 years in school, care so much about his students. I have learned much more than just the course material in this class. I have also been able to build a fantastic network with my classmates, Grant, the MBA mentors, and others that they all know, by means of this class and Grant facilitating these connections. Grant’s class is always fun and relaxed, it is the only class in my college career in which attendance did not peter out throughout the semester; in fact, every chair was always filled, and some students even had to sit on the floor. This is by far the best class I have ever had and with the best professor.”

Grant on teaching:

“There is a long list of reasons that make me passionate about teaching, but every one revolves around the observation that we spend the majority of our waking hours at work, and there are many ways in which organizational psychology lets people lead more rewarding and productive work lives and makes the experiences and organizations of others more productive, too.”

Editor’s Note: This profile is part of Bloomberg Businessweek’s series on favorite undergraduate business professors. Subjects were chosen based on feedback collected in Bloomberg Businessweek’s annual survey of senior business students. The featured professors were the ones most often mentioned by students as being their favorite. Student quotes come directly from the student survey.

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