Professor Terri R. Kurtzberg

Poets & Quants: Terri Kurtzberg among 50 best undergraduate business professors

“Although Rutgers Business School has countless remarkable faculty members, there is one professor that had a significant impact on my intellectual curiosity and growth. That is Professor Kurtzberg. Her class was never about the midterm or the final. Rather, the focus was solely on learning (and not just learning theory, but applying theory to practice in every single class) …”
– student Brandon Roberts

This feature was published as part of the Poets & Quants Top 50 Undergraduate Business Professors for 2021. The profile below was compiled and written by Kristy Bleizeffer.

Terri R. Kurtzberg, 48, is professor of management and global business at Rutgers Business School, where she has taught since 2002. She currently teaches negotiations. 

Kurtzberg earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and a Master of Arts in education from the University of Chicago, along with a Master of Science and Ph.D. in Organization Behavior from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.

She received 26 nominations from current and former students, colleagues and Rutgers leadership. She is described as a “superstar” in the classroom and is known for her “lifetime guarantee,” making herself available to her students throughout their careers. During her time at Rutgers Business School, she has received a 4.78 our 5 career average teaching effectiveness rating and has won every major teaching award the school bestows, including Rutgers University’s Warren I. Susman Teaching Excellence Award. She played a central role in helping to design Rutgers Business School's undergraduate course on management skills.

“She is an amazing resource to other professors. I have taught negotiations more than 50 times, but when I have a question  or when a student asks me a question I cannot answer  I turn to Terri. She has even helped my students (on a different campus) get a better job offer,” says professor Daniel Z. Levin. 

She is a renowned authority on job negotiations, multitasking, virtual teams and work, and has published four books. She regularly lends her expertise to podcasts and to journalists for media articles, including TIME Magazine, PBS Rewire, and Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiations. She is a contributor to major publications such as, Sloan Management Review, The Conversation, Working Mother magazine, and more, says Can Uslay, vice dean for academic programs and innovations.

Life as a Business School Professor

I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when ...

My older sister told me what an excellent field this is, and to go get a Ph.D. in it. I’m eternally grateful to her for launching me into this career that I love!

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? The last study I published was on why people lie more when they’re using their laptops than when they’re using their cell phones. It seems to be because laptops trigger an “all’s fair in love, war, and business” mindset, whereas cell phones trigger thoughts of friends and family. We didn’t see that coming!

If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be… A “Dear Abby” for professional situations. People are always asking me how to handle difficult conversations and to help them word tricky emails.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I really try to talk to my students as people, and make every class into a conversation. I also work very hard to break complex ideas down into their most simple components, and use a ton of examples and stories.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Deer-in-headlights!

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: At the beginning, I thought business school students only wanted to hear war stories from executives about their M&A deals. I wish I had known from the start that they are just as interested in the things I find fascinating and know a lot about  the psychology of why people act the way they do and how to approach negotiations in a way that’s likely to create value in the final deals as well as partnerships among people.

Professor I most admire and why: I learned so much from my graduate school mentor, Max Bazerman, who was always so smart and spirited in the classroom. And also my colleague and friend, Lisa Amoroso, who taught me how to ceaselessly change whatever isn’t working, until it is!

Teaching Business School Students

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? Their hunger for understanding what works and what will make them better. 

What is most challenging? How busy they are in trying to balance the demands of their jobs and internships with their education.

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

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

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… A stickler. I really want to see true mastery.

Life Outside the Classroom

What are your hobbies? Hiking, tennis, reading, games, and travel

How will you spend your summer? Going on as many picnics in as many different locations as possible.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: They’re all good—the city trips with museums and great food, the mountain trips with hiking and incredible views, the days at the shore filled with salt-water taffy and sea air…every place has its own charm!

Favorite book(s): Oh that’s too hard! I could do a list of books I’ve loved in recent years (including A Gentleman in Moscow, The Signature of All Things, and Anxious People), or favorites from my childhood (like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Harriet the Spy), or my favorite classics (all of Jane Austen), or great immersive vacation reads (everything by Liane Moriarty and Laurie Frankel), books I disliked that everyone else loved (like Educated and The Nightingale), or even books I intend to re-read once I retire (all of Barbara Kingsolver’s fiction). 

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? Succession is so good on so many levels—all the coalitions and strategies the characters use to get ahead appeal to my professional side and bring a lot of the concepts in my class to life in a really entertaining way, and the drama and clever writing are just plain fun. I also like pretty much everything shown on Masterpiece Theater and have been a dedicated fan since childhood.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? I have two teenagers at home, so a lot of my music these years is funneled through them. From pop music in the car with my daughter to classical music at my son’s cello concerts, it’s really the company that makes the experience.

Thoughts and Reflections 

If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… Mentoring. I think this would help students, among other things, develop a deeper sense of ethical behavior. I admire my colleagues who teach ethics because I think it’s a really hard thing to do. I wish our students also had more direct exposure to role models who make ethical choices—real people, in our classrooms, telling their stories to them. This is hard to scale, of course, and online or recorded options aren’t the same. I wish we all had more time to mentor our students as individuals, and be a lifeline for them even once they graduate and launch their own careers. I do hear from some small number of former students each year who consult with me on their big decisions and negotiations, and it’s so rewarding…I wish we could have that kind of contact available for every student. 

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… proactively protecting our planet. I’m excited to see the work that a lot of companies are doing to be more environmentally friendly in their practices. There’s far more to be done, however, and I hope it continues to become a top priority. 

I’m grateful for… the freedom that my job gives me to choose what I want to think about, to choose my research partnerships, and to choose the most effective ways to teach my students. It really doesn’t get any better than that.

Read the complete collection of Top 50 Best Undergraduate Business Professors for 2021.

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