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2018 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Cassie Mogilner Holmes, Anderson School of Management

Cassie Mogilner Holmes

Associate Professor of Marketing 

UCLA, Anderson School of Management

It’s no surprise that the theme song for Cassie Mogilner Holmes’ classroom, if she had to choose one, would be Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.” Her claim to fame as a professor and researcher is the study of happiness. Particularly, happiness and the role of time. “My research has shown that merely thinking about time (vs. money) boosts consumers’ happiness both with their products and in their lives; giving one’s time to others can help alleviate the stresses of feeling time-constrained; and age influences both the way consumers experience happiness as well as the types of experiences that produce happiness,” says Holmes.

Professor Holmes’ research can be found in top-tier academic publications such as Journal of Consumer Research and Personality Science and it’s also been featured by NPR, The Economist, and The New York Times as well as her work on giving time being named one of “32 Innovations that Will Change Your Tomorrow” by New York Times Magazine.

Age: 38

At current institution since what year?

2016

Education:

PhD in Marketing at Stanford Graduate School of Business 2009

List of courses you currently teach: Brand Management

TELL US ABOUT YOUR LIFE AS A PROFESSOR

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when” I realized as an undergrad psych major at Columbia that one could apply psychological understanding of why people think, feel, and behave the ways they do to improve businesses, careers, and cultures.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I study happiness, focusing on the role of time. My research has shown that merely thinking about time (vs. money) boosts consumers’ happiness both with their products and in their lives; giving one’s time to others can help alleviate the stresses of feeling time-constrained; and age influences both the way consumers experience happiness (as peaceful vs. exciting) as well as the types of experiences (ordinary vs. extraordinary) that produce happiness.  

“If I weren’t a business school professor” I’d want to be a therapist…or do casting for movies.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? My passion for happiness

“One word that describes my first time teaching”:

Nervous

If your teaching style/classroom experience had a theme song, what would it be?

Happy by Pharrell Williams

As a b-school professor, what motivates you?

Investigating and disseminating the determinants of happiness

“Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor”:

As an academic, you have very little control over where in the country or world you live. I’m lucky to have found my way (and for my husband to have found his way in his career) back to sunny California.  

Professor you most admire and why:

I most admire my Contemporary Civilization (Columbia’s core course on political philosophy) professor, Peter Johnson. He cared so much about his students—pushing each of us to relate to the material in our own way.  Though I teach a very different subject matter to MBAs rather than undergrads, I similarly try to encourage my students to relate the course material to their work and lives.

STUDENTS

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

I love seeing their eagerness to apply the course material to improve their businesses and their lives.

What is most challenging?  As a natural introvert, it requires a huge amount of energy to get in front of the class.

Using just one word, describe your favorite type of student  eager

Using just one word, describe your least favorite type of student:

Arrogant

What is the most impressive thing one of your students has done?

I don’t even know where to start.  I am truly inspired by what so many of my students have accomplished since graduating.

What is the least favorite thing one has done?  

Argue for a better grade

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class?  

Engage in the material—applying it to their own work and lives.

“When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as …”  

Surprisingly tough

“But I would describe myself as …”  

Fair

Fill in the blank:

“If my students can articulate the story underlying their brand, then I’ve done my job as their professor.”

LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM

Fun fact about yourself:

As an 8th-grader, I was the first girl to ever play in our interscholastic flag football league.

What are your hobbies?

If only I had the time for hobbies. I devote whatever time I am not working to hanging out with my husband, two little kids, and friends–usually over good food and a glass of wine.

How will you spend your summer?

A couple weeks in Spain with my family. Then, back to Los Angeles for weekends at the beach, research, and teaching Brand Management to Executive and Fully-Employed MBAs.

Favorite place to vacation:

Tuscany

Favorite book:

My recent favorite is A Gentleman in Moscow. Reading so much for work, I reserve my leisure reading for novels with inspired and inspiring characters.

What is your favorite movie and/or television show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?

This Is Us, because it captures the characters and their interpersonal dynamics so astutely. And there’s nothing like a good cry.

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist:

All of the awesomely silly and upbeat pop songs that play on my Taylor Swift “Shake It Off” Pandora station.

Bucket list item #1:

I’m lucky enough to have already done most of them.

THOUGHTS OF REFLECTION

What professional achievement are you most proud of?

Having gotten tenure at Wharton (a school best known for finance) while studying what I care about (happiness).

What is your most memorable moment as a professor?  

I dedicate the last day of each course I teach to sharing my research.  When I see tears in my students’ eyes, I know I’ve connected.

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…”

Courses that develop good people who will go on to develop great businesses.

“And much less of this…”

Courses that focus only on increasing profit.

In your opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at doing what? Please explain.

Companies need to do a better job at aligning the interests of their customers, employees, and business(es).  One way to do this is by placing a greater emphasis on happiness.

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would like for you:

I would have continued my research to illuminate happiness, and the findings would have been more broadly disseminated and applied to the betterment of consumers’, employees’, and society’s well-being.

DON’T MISS: THE WORLD’S 40 BEST BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSORS UNDER THE AGE OF 40