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Tiffany Johnson Named 2024 Poets&Quants Best 40 Under 40 MBA Professor

Tiffany Johnson, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior, has been named a 2024 Best 40 Under 40 MBA Professor by Poets&Quants.
Tiffany Johnson

Tiffany Johnson, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior

“I cannot say how much I enjoyed having Dr. Johnson as a professor for this class. Her teaching style is super engaging and she made me want to learn more – which I really believe is the hallmark of a good educator. I believe Dr. Johnson’s greatest strength is her passion. She is passionate about the topics covered and passionate about the students learning them.” – Student evaluation comment

Tiffany D. Johnson, 39, is an Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business. 

Johnson builds work cultures for the whole human being – in an equitable way. She researches and teaches topics related to work, equity, and wellness. Largely drawing upon field research and qualitative methods, she has studied these topics in the context of autism, race, social class, sexual orientation, and gender across a wide range of organizations (including non-profits, schools, and social enterprises).

Her work has been published in major management outlets such as Organization Science, Journal of Applied Psychology, Organizational Behavior and Decision- Making Processes, Organizational Psychology Review, Organization Studies, and Work and Occupations.

Her dissertation research on building bridges between members of stigmatized and non-stigmatized groups in workplaces was a finalist in the 2015 INFORMS Competition. Her current research and teaching on sustainability in the coffee industry has received grants from Sustainability Next, the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business, and the Institute for Leadership and Social Impact.


At current institution since what year? 2016


  • Bachelor’s in Liberal Arts (Spanish, International Studies) (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)
  • Master’s in Human Resources and Industrial Relations (MHRIR) (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)
  • D. in Business/Management and Organization (Pennsylvania State University)

List of MBA courses you currently teach: Work, Equity, and Wellness

Life as a Business School Professor

I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I realized I liked to learn and teach.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I am currently researching equity in the coffee industry. Thus far, something significant from my research is the ways in which colonial ways of relating (transactional exchanges versus human-centered) can play a role in perpetuating the devaluation of (thus unfair pay to) coffee farmers. 

If I weren’t a business school professor… I’d be a speaker, astrologer, or bed and breakfast owner/host. In all cases, I’d probably still be researching something about people and talking about it to people (or guests) who will sit and listen for at least five minutes ☺

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I see myself as both professor and student. And I try to remember what it was like to be a undergraduate and graduate student (with the now added pressures from social media). Many of my student evaluations also reflect themes about my care for students’ whole lives and well-being, my excitement and enthusiasm about the topics I teach, the overall content of my course, and my approach to teaching.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Humbling

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: When she visited Penn State Business School while I was still a graduate student, the late Dr. Katherine Phillips (a prolific researcher and amazing professor) told us students to remember to love our students. That was the first time anyone told me that, and it’s stuck with me ever since. Grateful for the reminder to have fierce love for our students.

Professor I most admire and why: Dr. Aparna Joshi, my then mentor and now collaborator and friend. She is a prolific scholar and she was my diversity professor as a master’s student. She believed in my ability to be a professor before many others did. Even when I was a first and second-year student, she was always open to my thoughts, opinions, and ideas. She was also always interested in learning, which made her classes and our collaborations exciting and fun.

Also, bell hooks. Her work on teaching, love, and black feminism has guided me from the first time I read her work as an undergraduate student.

Teaching MBA Students

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? I enjoy taking abstract theories and findings from research articles, and engaging in conversations, exercises, and reflections that make the subject come to life in the everyday.

What is most challenging? Helping students (and myself) get comfortable with a change in pace. In my class, one of the guideposts we focus on is recovery from grind culture. During that section of the class (and throughout the semester), the pace of the class moves more slowly. Oftentimes, when it comes to learning about equity and inclusion, many of us (self, included) want quick answers and solutions. However, quick fixes are not always sustainable. Given that the class focuses on sustained equity, it is designed to give us the opportunity to get comfortable with the discomfort (and oftentimes, curiosity and imagination) that can emerge when the answers to our questions are not instantly available. This is tough for several students each time I teach the class – and it’s tough for me, too! But, we make it through and we learn a lot every time.

Also, while I know we all look forward to the reprieve at the end of the semester, it is at the same time hard to just all of a sudden not see these folks that you spent hours with each week. I probably say ‘keep in touch’ too much to my students, but I really mean it. I’m a curious (or nosy?) person, so I love knowing what they’re up to after they leave my class.

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

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: A student who is not open to feedback is definitely a sore spot for me. However, I can’t say that I have a least favorite type of student. Over the years, when given the opportunity to have a one-on-one with a student (even if I’m disappointed about something that has happened), there’s always space to restore or reconcile. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by students with ranges of test scores, classroom participation, personalities, and ‘abilities’. Those surprises always teach me something about myself, about my students, and about the importance of seeing the students beyond the grades they earn in class.

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Feedback-oriented

Life Outside of the Classroom

What are your hobbies? I love reading, traveling, and geeking out over astrology. I’ve been using allowance money to buy astrology books since I was a little girl. I’d read them – and others – while traveling cross country via the train to visit family in California.

How will you spend your summer? Teaching, collecting data for my coffee research, and traveling

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Anywhere with a beach and/or trails

Favorite book(s): I am currently reading the “Children of Blood and Bone” series. It’s hard to think of others at the moment – I’m in deep.

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? I absolutely love ‘High on the Hog’ (both seasons). It is a docu-series that traces the history of food in the United States by tracing the history of African American cuisine.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? While I grew up listening to everything from Queen to Queen Latifah, at this stage of my life my music streaming algorithm mostly consists of R&B, neo-soul, and anything Beyoncé is doing.

Thoughts and Reflections

If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… I think it would be cool if the business school of the future had classes that focused on human-centered organizations with topics like rest included. Rest tends to be one of the topics students appreciate and learn from the most in my Work, Equity, and Wellness class.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… I think more and more organizations are doing this, but I hope to continue to see more human-centered organizations.

I’m grateful for… My students. Each year, they show up and amaze me with their insights, reflections, and solutions for organizations. I remain hopeful for the future, in part, because of them.

My support network. We affirm our wholeness to one another (beyond what we do and teach and research) and that has made all the difference.

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