2016 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Kai Chi (Sam) Yam, National University of Singapore


Kai Chi (Sam) Yam

Assistant Professor of Management

National University of Singapore

Kai Chi (Sam) Yam is a prodigy. That’s the only word to describe him. Just 27 years old, Yam’s research has already been featured in the Journal of Applied Psychology, Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, and the Journal of Business Ethics. And he has another 10 manuscripts under review. Talk about prolific! Not to mention, he collected four best paper awards from 2012-2014. A 2015 Ph.D. in organizational behavior from the University of Washington, his research focuses on ethics, leadership, and decision-making.

Age: 27

At current institution since: 2015


Ph.D., Organizational Behavior, University of Washington (2015)

M.S., Organizational Behavior, University of Washington (2014)

M.A., Human Development, Washington State University (2011)

B.S., Psychology, University of Washington (2009)

Courses you currently teach: Leadership and Ethics

Professor you most admire: Ryan Fehr and Scott J. Reynolds (my Ph.D advisers) for being excellent mentors and helping their students to succeed.

I knew I wanted to be a b-school professor when…I was in a child psychology graduate program when I met Ken Butterfield, a management professor at Washington State University. We talked for an hour about his research on behavioral ethics and decision making. At the end of the conversation he gave me a book authored by Dan Ariely, Predictably Irrational. After I finished the book (about 5 hours after my meeting with Ken!), I knew I wanted to be a business school professor doing research on behavioral ethics.

“If I weren’t a b-school professor…I would probably be a taxi driver. My father has been a taxi driver for over 30 years and I want to experience it. And I love talking to random strangers.”

Most memorable moment in the classroom or in general as a professor: It’s hard to single out a specific moment. I teach ethics and am truly passionate about this topic. At the first day of class I asked my students why they enrolled in the course and almost everyone gave me the same answer – “it’s a core class.” I am really glad that I have been able to turn that around and now most of them are constantly thinking about ethical issues in business. I hope to inspire more students in the future.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? I am most proud of publishing my first-authored paper at the Academy of Management Journal early this year. The entire project, from conceptualization to final acceptance, took over three years! I couldn’t have accomplished this without my great co-authors (Anthony Klotz, Wei He, and Scott Reynolds).

What do you enjoy most about being a business school professor? Being able to pursue my intellectual curiosity through research and inspire young students through teaching.

What do you enjoy least about being a business school professor? Grading

Fun fact about yourself: I did a one-year student exchange when I was 16 in Nixa, Missouri. I believe I was the only non-White student in the entire graduating class. It was a fun experience.

Favorite book: Anna Karenina

Favorite movie: Fight Club

Favorite type of music: Pop

Favorite television show: South Park

Favorite vacation spot: The Nordic countries. My wife and I spent a week in Reykjavik last winter and we would love to return!

What are your hobbies? Basketball; hiking; playing with my corgi named Popcorn

Twitter handle: N/A

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…accessible education for all.”

Peers say…

“I can’t say enough of how overwhelmed I am at Sam’s prolific publications. He has more Tier 1 publications than several senior faculty I know. His research interests are wide ranging and also extremely interesting — Do flexible work hours favor employees who choose to start work early and discriminate those who work late? Do skipping lunch in the name of office productivity selectively produce more unethical behavior? What makes a moralized leader? What are the effects of pollution on job satisfaction? Because of his fascinating research, Sam has been featured in the media both in the U.S. and in Singapore. Harvard has also picked up on his research and featured in its blog. Despite his research prowess, Sam remains humble and always ready to respond. Sam is the up and coming star in his field, and we can expect more interesting and relevant research emanating from him.”

Swee Hoon Ang

Associate Professor (Marketing)

National University of Singapore

“Since becoming a professor in 2015, Sam has already had six papers published in the best journals of his field including the Academy of Management Review, Journal of Applied Psychology, and Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. Prior to joining NUS, Sam’s research has won two Best Paper Awards in the Academy of Management, a preeminent association for management scholars. Sam’s research has also been extremely impactful to businesses and was widely covered both locally within South East Asia (e.g., South China Morning Post, The Straits Times) and internationally (e.g., Harvard Business Review, The Huffington Post, The Times). His research interests are diverse, ranging from business ethics, leadership, to the psychology of humor and psychological effects of air pollution on employees. At NUS, he teaches a course on leadership and ethics. At the age of 26, Sam is one of the youngest faculty members at NUS business school.”

Dr. Michael Frese

Head of Department of Management & Organisation

National University of Singapore


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