EPIC Spotlight: Nina Gupta

NinaGupta “My firm belief is that if you’re doing research, you are a better classroom teacher than if you’re not.”

The idea was to come to the United States, earn her doctorate and return to her homeland of India.

Sometimes things don’t work out as planned.

Dr. Nina Gupta, a Department of Management distinguished professor, is now in her 28th year at the Sam M. Walton College of Business. The University of Arkansas is a far cry from her native Allahabad, India, where she was one of five children among a “whole family of professors,” as she puts it. A professor herself, Gupta deviated from the family concentration of literature and veered toward organizational psychology instead. “This was sort of my breaking away,” she says.

There was also her desire to travel. While she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Allahabad, her education took her to the University of Michigan, where she earned her doctorate. She had planned to return to India, but a fellow organizational psychology student named Doug Jenkins changed everything. The two married and both became management professors at the Walton College. Their marriage produced a son, Samir, who is now grown. Jenkins passed away in 1996.

Gupta says after she and her husband came to the University of Arkansas in 1984, they saw the management department evolve into a strong research center. “My firm belief is that if you’re doing research, you are a better classroom teacher than if you’re not,” she says. “You’ve got more experiences and knowledge you can bring.”

Though her degrees are in psychology, she says she shied away from clinical psychology in favor of workplace issues, which she continues to research. She says she is fascinated by pay in the workplace and how it relates to one’s status in society.

“I think pay is probably the most important thing that happens to people at work,” she says.

Her primary focus is on how pay motivates employees in the workplace. “It’s very interesting to look at, and what I find is there are a lot of discrepancies in what a company says and what is really going on,” she says. “It’s simply not the amount of pay, but it’s how it’s done.”

Her research has been published in many publications, including Journal of Applied Psychology and Academy of Management Journal. The courses she teaches reflects her research. They include Organizational Rewards and Compensation and graduate courses in management.

While there have been female professors at Walton College through the decades, Gupta says she is the first regular tenure-track female professor at the business school. “I was the first faculty member to have a baby,” she adds.

Management faculty now consists of several women, including Gupta, who has been named to the John H. Tyson Chair of Management.

Outside of work, Gupta says she usually keeps to herself. But there’s always one thing she tries to do each day:

“I go into withdrawal if I don’t do my daily New York Times crossword puzzle,” she says.