Focus on Faculty

Jessica Rodell

Jessica Rodell talks with graduate students, from left, Shubha Sharma, Brady Shanklin and Farhan Iqbal over breakfast as Rodell hosted her second-year management Ph.D. students at her home for their class time. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

Jessica Rodell, a Dean’s Advisory Council Distinguished Professor in the Terry College of Business, conducts research that uncovers strategies for making community engagement more beneficial for companies, employees and communities. 

When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I started working at UGA in the fall of 2010 as an assistant professor in the department of management in the Terry College of Business. It was my first academic job after earning my Ph.D. in management (concentrating in organizational behavior) from the University of Florida. I fell in love with this university—the campus, the town and the colleagues—during my interview and visit to campus. I’m not sure that I would have predicted that I’d stay at the same university for over a decade, but I love it here now as much as I did when I first visited.

What are your favorite courses and why?
This is a tough question … I love getting variety in teaching, both in terms of the content and the audience. With undergraduate students, I enjoy teaching “Organizational Behavior.” It is often the first time that these students get to explore the “softer side” of business—they start to think about the challenges and rewards of motivating and leading people, managing conflict and stress, and finding a sense of purpose and satisfaction in work. They get to have some self-reflection on these topics and, I hope, it helps them make good career choices where they can be both successful and happy. With doctoral students, I enjoy teaching just about any of our specialized topics. The fun part with these students is not just helping them grow and develop technically, but also helping them find what they are passionate about for their own research careers.

How do you describe the scope and impact of your research or scholarship to people outside of your field?
My research primarily focuses on corporate community engagement. As people increasingly organize their lives around their workplaces, the impetus for social impact is also shifting to the corporate world. Companies are taking on more social responsibility than ever before and are actively engaged with social issues in their communities. Many of these initiatives depend on the time and effort invested by their employees. My goal is to uncover synergies so that such initiatives can be beneficial for companies, individual employees, and their local communities.

Jessica Rodell (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?
My research and teaching are very intertwined. I bring a lot of my personal research experiences into the classroom. I talk about studies I’ve done with local companies on their community outreach programs, findings about the importance of meaningfulness and purpose in our careers, and ongoing experiments to assess the current “stress culture” at work. I also have my students conduct their own mini research study— where they develop hypotheses, collect and analyze data, and make conclusions—so they can see how science can inform practice. Vice versa, many of my students are already employees, and their experiences and insights continually add to my understanding of workplace phenomena and spark new research ideas.

What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
More than anything, I want them to see something from a new perspective … even if it is just about one topic that we cover. The foundation of all businesses and workplaces is people. No matter what industry these students have careers in, they will work with people … they will have bosses, coworkers, and likely clients. My hope is that they learn at least one skill that can help them manage those relationships better, so that they can have happier and more fulfilling work lives.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be …
Maymester in Cortona, Italy, with 25 UGA undergraduate students. I taught a class about the meaning of work that compared the experience and the role of work in employees’ lives in the U.S. and Italy. The students and I based our analysis on company visits in Rome, Florence and Cortona. It was an incredibly eye-opening and bonding experience for the whole group.