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Best 40-Under-40 Professor Nicholas Epley

Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business

Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business

Nicholas Epley

John T. Keller Professor of Behavioral Science

Age: 39

Institution: University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Since: 2004

Before current institution: Harvard University (2001-2004)

Hometown: Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Marital status: Married

Children: Four: Benjamin, Nathan, Habtamu, and Tsion

Education: Cornell University, PhD, Psychology

Courses currently teaching: Managing in Organizations, Foundations of Social Psychology

Fun fact: I played college football as an offensive lineman (at a small school, St. Olaf College).  I broke my nose in my very first game, an event which convinced me that academics might be a more promising future career than athletics.

Professor you most admire: My father, Steve Epley, who was a professor of psychology at Wartburg College for several years before I was born.  After I was born, he started a market research firm, which he has run successfully ever since.

Most memorable moment as a professor:  I don’t believe many professors ever forget their first moment in a classroom.  My very first day in the classroom was on September 12, 2001, to teach a PhD seminar at Harvard.  We were all so shaken by the terrorist attack in New York and Washington, D.C., the day before that we just sat around the table and talked.  It was the most surreal teaching event I’ve ever been a part of.  It was also the last time I ended class early.

“If I weren’t a B-school professor…” I would be a farmer.  I grew up in Iowa; all of my extended family are farmers, and I love being outdoors.  I can’t do that in suburban Chicago, but I do my best to maintain a mini-farm with lots of fruit trees, a large garden, a flock of chickens, and a large family to help tend it all!

Students say: 

Prof Epley brings a dynamism to his class that makes even the most hardcore business people stand up and take notice. From learning about interpersonal dynamics by “Watching 12 Angry Men” to seeing how our group would survive in the wilderness, each of us takes away something different from the class.

Prof Epley is not only an exemplary educator, but just a nice guy–one who will be there to help no matter when you need it.  In fact, I just asked his advice in late 2013 (five years after taking his class) and he readily extended a helping hand.  He is an amazing professor in that he can readily translate his deep expertise to a language that a non-psychologist can relate to and apply.

In a world of debits and credits, micro/macro economics, and calculating bond yields, Prof Epley starts your B-school year off right by focusing on people before we focus on analysis. I am lucky to have had him as a professor and proud to nominate him for the 40 under 40.

-Darryl Glover, Booth EMBA, Class of 2010

Passion is a strong virtue. It is something that all of us wish to have both in our personal and professional lives. Professor Epley brings this passion every single day into the classroom. As a student, you feel as if it’s the first time he’s giving that particular lecture in spite of the many times he has already delivered it. His truly unique ability to read the classroom and be empathic with others allows him to give numerous examples to which most students can relate in order to better grasp his concepts.

It is a privilege to sit in his class, no matter the day or the hour, since he always manages to deliver his message while engaging everyone in the room. I believe this would be impossible to do if Professor Epley didn’t love to teach, and it is what makes him one of the best professors I’ve had in my life.

-Christian Papayanopulos, Booth MBA, Class of 2013

I took professor Epley’s class at night and would enter after a 10- to 11-hour work day at a major U.S investment bank. I also had just had my fourth little boy and was running on fumes. Needless to say, his teaching style and ability to engage an entire class of 60 students easily kept me awake and focused every class. It was my favorite three hours of every week.  

When I completed Professor Epley’s class, I decided to change my business school focus and I began to focus on Managerial and Organizational Behavior, which then became my second concentration and subsequently replaced my economics focus. Because of Professor Epley and his influence  on me, I also began to broaden my horizons in the types of books I was reading; to this day, I still email him for good reads. Accordingly, I developed a newfound curiosity and interest in managing people and less of an interest in having a career focused on numbers and statistics.

-Patrick O’Connell, Booth MBA, Class of 2010