2015 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Malia Mason, Columbia Business School

Malia Mason

Gantcher Associate Professor Management

Columbia Business School


Malia Mason_Columbia-2

Columbia Business School’s Malia Mason is the 2011 recipient of the  “Rising Star” Early Career Award from American Psychological Society and the first recipient (2014) of the Dean’s Award for Emerging Leaders from the University of Toronto Rotman School of Management. She teaches Managerial Negotiations where students often rate her with exemplary evaluations. For her academic research, Mason has established a unique platform in exploring the allocation of attention and how competing motives shape people’s judgments, choices, and behaviors. Mason’s work has been published in top academic journals within management, psychology, and neuroscience and has accumulated a large and quickly growing number of citations.

Age: 37 

At current institution since: 2007


Postdoctoral fellow in Cognitive Neuroscience, Martinos Center, Harvard Medical School, 2006; PhD in Psychology, Dartmouth College, 2005; BA in Psychology, Rice University, 2000

Courses currently teaching: Managerial Negotiations

Professor you most admire: Daniel Ames, my colleague and friend, for his wit, enterprising spirit, and generosity. Andy Mason, my father, for striking a charming balance between taking himself and his work seriously–and not.

 “I knew I wanted to be a b-school professor when” I met Michael Morris. He is a great social psychologist who studies phenomena that are vital to organizations. 

If I weren’t a b-school professor” I would be an entrepreneur or a neurologist.

Most memorable moment in the classroom or as a professor: There’s no single moment — it’s a collection of moments, really, but they invariably involve jokes that were co-created with my students or moments of banter. Sometimes there’s a theme or joke that we revisit over the course of the entire semester. It keeps things fun, but I also think it reinforces that learning is a collective endeavor.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? Easy: Landing my job at Columbia. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I feel like I won the lottery. 

What do you enjoy most about teaching? Having students share their negotiation success stories with me. I am inspired and motivated when I hear them recount the experiences they had translating theory into practice. It never gets old.

What do you enjoy least? In the post-class period, I tend to revisit moments where I was inarticulate or explained something poorly. It’s so easy to focus on what could have gone better. I find it hard to “let go” of the moments in which my performance was less than stellar. 

Fun fact about yourself: In PE, I was the Aina Haina elementary school record holder for the “flexed-arm hang” in the President’s Challenge. 

Favorite book: Naked by David Sedaris 

Favorite movie: A Fish Called Wanda

Favorite type of music: It really depends on the activity that the music is accompanying. While I’m working, it’s jazz, classical, or IDM. While I am relaxing at home or cooking, it’s Indie, mellow electronica, or talk radio. If I’m driving or getting ready for an evening out, it’s dance pop, hip-hop, sometimes ’80s.

Favorite television show: Thrillers, political and legal dramas. Anything dark that involves conspiracies.

Favorite vacation spot: In the last few years, I’ve had some amazing “stay-cations” involving rental apartments in different NYC neighborhoods–Greenpoint, TriBeCa, and so forth. I was born and raised in Honolulu and love returning home to visit family and friends. Love the SF Bay area too. 

What are your hobbies? Running, especially trail running. Cards, although I’m not very good.

 “If I had my way, the business school of the future would have” 50% females; micro kitchens; a Kickstarter-like mechanism so students could crowd fund their ventures through peers and alumni; drop-in massage therapists.

Students say…

Professor Mason possess the rare skill set where she can seamlessly integrate academia and real-world business issues into the classroom.  Most importantly, she’s able to do this with a certain joie de vivre that creates a fun and open atmosphere that most business school professors can only dream of.  Negotiations was a very intimidating topic for me, but Malia’s down-to-earth personality and approachability make it easy for her students to put the science she preaches into practice.  Her class was definitely one of the top classes I took at Columbia.

– Harry O’Mealia, Columbia Business School, MBA Class of 2015

Professor Mason might be young but she carried herself as if she had been teaching for years. She brought our class to life through her natural charisma and passion for teaching. She challenged us but at the same time we always had fun and learned valuable skills that we could immediately apply to the real world. Professor Mason is awesome and is one of the reasons why I have had such an incredible experience at Columbia Business School.

– John Moran, Columbia Business School, MBA Class of 2015

DON’T MISS: Poets&Quants 2015 Best 40 Under 40 Professors

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.