2016 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Morela Hernandez, Darden Graduate School of Business

Morela Hernandez of the Darden School at the University of Virginia

Morela Hernandez of the Darden School at the University of Virginia

Morela Hernandez

Associate Professor

Darden Graduate School of Business, University of Virginia    

In academia, there is often an either-or debate. You’re either a world class researcher or a world class teacher. If that were actually the case, Morela Hernandez would be that rarity. As a teacher, she is known to get standing ovations from her students, collecting both Professor of the Year and Professor of the Quarter awards at the University of Washington in 2014. As a researcher, her work has been featured in journals ranging from the Academy of Management Review to Psychological Science to Human Resource Management. The head of behavioral research at Darden, she holds a Ph.D. in business administration from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. However, Hernandez is far from just an academic and researcher. In college, she ran a call center and conducted research for Enron – getting an inside look at the firm as it slid into infamy. She also works in executive coaching and consulting in her spare time.

Age: 36

At current institution since: 2014


Ph.D. in Business Administration, Fuqua School of Business, Duke University, 2007

B.A. in Psychology, Rice University, 2001

Courses you currently teach: I teach in the MBA program, as well as in a number of executive courses. My main foci are leadership and ethics, which underpin much of both the core and elective curriculum.

Professor you most admire: I’ve been lucky to have several mentors who continue to inspire me both personally and professionally. I admire Mikki Hebl (Rice University) for her laughter, love, and sheer grit. I admire Sim Sitkin (Duke University) for his ability to think creatively, clearly, and deeply, and for his compassion. I admire Martin Davidson (Darden) for his sensitivity and wisdom.

“I knew I wanted to be a b-school professor when…I discovered research.”

“If I weren’t a b-school professor…I would be either a vet or dentist. Being a vet was my childhood dream (along with owning 12 dogs!). Alternatively, the life of a family dentist always seemed appealing to me. My grandfather was a dentist in Brazil and I remember him making dental molds and casts in his workshop. It seemed both fun and interesting.”

Most memorable moment in the classroom or in general as a professor: It never gets better than when you get a standing ovation from your students. It’s a heartfelt thanks for having made a positive impact in their lives.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? The achievement I’m most proud of is one that doesn’t have an end point; it’s my research. I enjoy working on projects at every stage of development, I appreciate my ongoing interactions with co-authors and colleagues, and it’s exciting to explore interesting questions that are relevant to both theory and practice.

What do you enjoy most about being a business school professor? Learning. I’m in a profession that allows me to learn from others, including my students and colleagues. Throughout my academic career, I have often explored new literatures and methods to better understand various phenomena. I am deeply grateful for the intellectual freedom I have as a professor. Moreover, at Darden, I have the distinct privilege of working alongside world class instructors—who are not only exceptional educators, but also incredibly supportive mentors.

What do you enjoy least about being a business school professor? Wearing high heels.

Fun fact about yourself: English is my fourth language.

Favorite book: Either The Sixteenth of June: A Novel by Maya Lang or The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz.

Favorite movie: All-time favorite… The American President.

Favorite type of music: Beautiful French, American, and Brazilian oldies of the Piaf, Sinatra, and Jobim variety.

Favorite television show: I would rather be outside.

Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere I go with my family.

What are your hobbies? I love to garden and go on walks with my chocolate lab, Finn.

Twitter handle: I do not use “the Twitter” or for that matter, “the Facebook.”

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…creative collaborations between alumni and current students.”

“Section A of Darden’s class of 2017 began every Leading Organizations session with the familiar and enthusiastic greeting from Morela Hernandez.  Her unwavering energy set the tone for the quarter, creating an engaging and inviting atmosphere primed for thoughtful discussion. Morela uses her extensive knowledge and experience regarding the management of a great variety of perspectives to guide the class towards a logical conclusion, fully utilizing the most powerful aspects of the case method to equip her students with the means necessary to face the challenges of leadership in any environment or industry.  I believe I can speak for the entirety of Section A in saying we were privileged to have her as our Leading Organizations Professor and whole heartedly approve of this recognition.”

Will Grundy (’17)

“When I think about Morela the first word that comes to mind is invested. She is incredibly passionate about her subject matter and her role as a professor but more importantly is her interest and investment in each one of her students. When I was trying to make decisions about a summer internship, Morela was the first person I thought to talk to about the culture of different companies and where I might find the best fit. I think it is unique to be able to trust a professor after only 10 weeks to give an accurate assessment of your attributes and passions and help you recognize where you will have the best chance of success. I believe that is a testament to the depth of Morela’s investment in each of her students.”

Mitchell Beck (’17)


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