2015 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Sanford DeVoe, Rotman School

Sanford DeVoe

Associate Professor of Organizational Behaviour & HR Management

University of Toronto Rotman School of Management


Sanford DeVoe

As the saying goes, time flies when we’re having fun. But these days, time is money. How does placing a price tag on time affect our happiness? To answer this question, six-time Excellence in Teaching award winner and 2011 winner of Rotman’s Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research Sanford DeVoe is your man. He’s the go-to professor on the psychological consequences of placing a monetary value on time. In the business setting, how does it affect employees’ willingness to work extra hours? In life, how does it affect our ability to simply “enjoy the moment.” Professor DeVoe’s answers to these questions have helped position him as a sought-after expert. In an interesting twist on time, money and happiness, DeVoe is widely known for his look at the fast food business and its affect on our psychological health. Namely, how fast food hinders our mental health and raises our level of impatience.

Age: 38

At current institution since: 2007

Education: PhD in Organizational Behavior from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, 2007; BA in Psychology from Swarthmore College, 2000

Courses currently teaching: Leading People in Organizations; Incentives & Motivation

Professor you most admire: My graduate advisor, Jeff Pfeffer, for his ability throughout his career to engage academics, students, and the broader public on the big questions.

“I knew I wanted to be a b-school professor when” I was trying to decide what grad school path to take, I spent a few months traveling in China and India. Instead of being blown away by all the cultural differences, I was fascinated by the economic forces driving behavior.”

“If I weren’t a b-school professor” I’d be a professor of psychology at a small liberal arts college.

Most memorable moment in the classroom or as a professor: Getting invited back by my alma mater to give an inaugural lecture on the psychological consequences of thinking about time in terms of money.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? Never missing a class and never going over time.

What do you enjoy most about teaching? When skeptical or apathetic students suddenly see how research maps onto their actual, lived experience.

What do you enjoy least? Grading class participation. Students should be participating because the material is interesting and important to their life goals, not because their grade hinges on it. When students are participating only for points, they are likely to regurgitate what they think I want to hear rather than think about what’s at stake for them and the organizations they hope to lead.

Fun fact: Growing up in New York City and doing grad school in California, I’ve somehow managed to be both neurotic and laid back!

Favorite book: Barry Schwartz’s “The Cost of Living: How Market Freedom Erodes the Best Things in Life”. Barry was my mentor in college and this book continues to be the inspiration for what’s at stake when it comes to the encroachment of the market on our lives outside of work.

Favorite movie: Dr. Strangelove

Favorite type of music: The social safety net in Canada is perfect for cultivating the best indie rock.

Favorite television show: The Wire is the best analysis of how incentives and institutions work within a larger social ecology. The Good Wife is as good as it gets for insights into navigating the politics inside and outside work–and making you question whether the “smart move” is the right one.

Favorite vacation spot: Bear Lake, PA. I’ve spent some part of every summer there–in a hyper mobile world, it’s amazing to have a constant and be around folks who have known you your whole life.

Hobbies: Tennis and travel

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have” Structures in place to remain a part of students’ lives long after graduation. The MBA shouldn’t be a terminal degree, it should be membership in a community that anchors you throughout your career.

Twitter handle: @Sanford_DeVoe

Students say:

“I found Sanford’s effectiveness in delivering the course material for his class Managing People in Organizations to be among the best in my total experience at Rotman. He facilitated discussions with very high energy and a memorable enthusiasm. I immensely enjoyed his class and felt his personal style added a welcome life and evocative dimension to the course material. Most importantly, I felt he was truly committed to delivering an engaging MBA experience above and beyond the technical objectives of the classroom. My experiences in Sanford’s class added significant value in my Rotman education.”

– Graham Huber, MBA’13

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