2018 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Oscar Holmes IV, Rutgers School of Business

Oscar Holmes

Assistant Professor of Management

Director of Access & Outreach for Business Education 

Rutgers School of Business-Camden

If the true mark of an outstanding professor is to impact students beyond the classroom, Oscar Holmes IV may have created a whole new lane. In his case, leadership by civic engagement isn’t just a topic to teach about, it’s a teaching style and an actual way of life. Consider the tale of one student who faced graduation ineligibility due to a last minute financial shortage. “Being the leader that he is, Professor Holmes immediately went to work. Not only did he mobilize his own colleagues, he literally wrote a check himself.” Says another former student, “It’s impossible to capture the depth of Oscar’s commitment, passion, and brilliance. But, I can say I am fortunate to have had him as a professor because today I am a better friend, husband, and coworker.” Add to that, Holmes is frequently found connecting curriculum to the community by having students using skills they’ve acquired in the classroom to aid nonprofit organizations. To date, his classes have raised more than $30,000 to support nonprofit organizations. As far as professional achievements go, “I am most proud of the fact that my colleagues and local media have recognized the civic engagement work that my students and I have done over the past five years,” he says.

Yet there are more accolades that attribute to Holmes’ status as a top professor. More than just a passion and unwavering commitment to the job, he’s is a widely respected researcher and expert in prejudice and bias. Some awards that he’s won include the business school’s annual faculty research award, Chancellor’s Academic Civic Engagement Award, Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence, he was named one of 35 top doctors under 35 by Heizme, and he’s accumulated several awards for his outstanding partnerships with community organizations.

Age: 36

At current institution since what year? 2013

Education: (title of degree, area of study, institution and year obtained) Ph.D., Management, The University of Alabama, 2013

List of courses you currently teach: Undergraduate Organizational Behavior and MBA Leadership and Managing Human Capital

Twitter handle: @OHIV


“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…” I contemplated the idea for years ever since I took an undergraduate Industrial/Organizational Psychology course at VCU from Professor James Burke. It was an amazing class and the first time I realized that there were psychologists who did research to improve organizations. A semester after graduating from VCU, I went back to take an organizational behavior class in the business school just to learn more about the field. However, it wasn’t until I attended the Stanford Graduate School of Business Summer General Management Institute in 2006 that I knew for sure that I wanted to become a business school professor. While many of my cohort mates in the program used the opportunity to better position themselves for admittance into elite MBA programs, I was more fascinated with the professors who led our business sessions. They were immensely intelligent, engaging, impactful, and most importantly to me, were able to answer “why” questions. I left that program knowing that I wanted to be like them and learn to answer the “why” questions for myself.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? My overall research program investigates how leaders can improve productivity and well-being through fostering inclusive environments. Some of my current projects investigate which factors influence the impact that diversity climate perceptions have on performance and well-being, whether gay individuals can mitigate bias by interchanging gay romantic labels, whether performance ratings are impacted by the various race-based impression management strategies people use, and finally, I am working to uncover newer forms of prejudice that I am calling stereotype spillover and sexuality blindness. The most important discovery out of this work is that I think people severely underappreciate the complexities of bias, the range of impact it has on individuals and organizations, and the acute need for evidence-based micro and macro level interventions.

“If I weren’t a business school professor…” I would probably have gone the MBA route and became an executive for a Fortune 500 company.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I think what makes me stand out as a professor is my passion to help my colleagues succeed through the creation of safe online communities and the lengths that I go through to create activities that allow students to experience and internalize the concepts that I teach them in class.

“One word that describes my first time teaching” :


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

Shining by DJ Khaled, Beyonce, and Jay-Z

As a b-school professor, what motivates you?

The opportunity I have to improve the work lives of thousands of employees through the business students I teach and the organizational consulting I provide and knowing that my research will be available and referenced by others long after I am gone.

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

I wish someone would have told me the secret to get organizations to open their doors to conduct diversity research.

Professor you most admire and why:

There are many professors I admire, but if I can only choose one, I would say, Prof. Quinetta Roberson at Villanova School of Business because she epitomizes everything I want to be, is a trailblazer in the field, and has been an instrumental person in my success.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

What I enjoy most about teaching business students is that the students can take what I teach them in class and immediately put it into practice in their lives and careers. I constantly get emails or visits from them recounting their outcomes after they put some lesson into practice.

What is most challenging?

Being able to offer specific advice to all of the students’ real world business problems.

Using just one word, describe your favorite type of student


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


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

Having immigrated to the U.S. as a late high schooler without being able to speak English, my student became a student leader on campus of a number of organizations, secured a job at a Big 4 Accounting firm prior to graduation, and was selected to give the undergraduate commencement address, which he asked me to coach him on as he named me as the most impactful professor he had in college. His address was riveting and he was given a prolonged standing ovation.

What is the least favorite thing one has done?

During a snow storm, my student who is a manager of a large chain grocery store in the area confessed to me that he used his power to force suppliers to divert all of their grocery orders to his store so that his smaller competitors would run out while he could keep his shelves stocked for customers during the snow storm.

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

Work extremely hard, participate in class, and complete all their assignments and their team project with a high degree of accuracy.

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


“But I would describe myself as …”

Hard and fair

Fill in the blank:

“If my students can explain the why, then I’ve done my job as their professor.” 


Fun fact about yourself:

I graduated from college with honors and two minors in 2.5 years.

What are your hobbies?

I love to learn languages, dance, read, sing, hang out with friends and family, and travel.

How will you spend your summer?

I will work on my research projects, prepare for conferences, translate some of my research for my Psychology Today column, prep for my fall courses, visit my family and friends, and celebrate my wedding anniversary, husband’s birthday, and my birthday.

Favorite place to vacation:

Puerto Rico and South Africa

Favorite book:

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

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

My favorite television show is Scandal because I love to see how Olivia Pope and her team solve all of these difficult crises and my favorite movie is Black Panther because I believe in Wakanda Forever!

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist:

R&B/Soul and Hip-Hop and Beyonce and Jazmine Sullivan

Bucket list item #1:

To visit at least half of the countries on the African continent.


What professional achievement are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the fact that my colleagues and local media have recognized the civic engagement work that my students and I have done over the past 5 years.

What is your most memorable moment as a professor?

When I was recognized at one of our Commencement ceremonies for receiving the Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence and looked out into the crowd and saw the boisterous celebratory expressions of not only students I have had in my classes, but also from many people in the audience that I didn’t even know.   

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

Direct and comprehensive industry/organizational partnerships with professors

“And much less of this…”

Barriers that impede students’ abilities to learn and receive a world-class business education.  

In your opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at doing what? Please explain. Considering my research agenda, it is no surprise that I am deeply concerned about prejudice and bias. I think organizations need to do a much better job at not only dismantling systemic oppression, but also take a leading role in making the world a much fairer place.  

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

Ten years from now, success for me would be being promoted to the rank of full professor, leading programs that have a direct impact on business and the community, having a successful entrepreneurial venture, and raising a child with my loving and supportive husband.

Students say…

“I like his approach to teaching a management course which I took two semesters ago. He was very practical and I enjoyed his examples and class exercises. He also gets all his students involved and will even call you out if you don’t get involve. Therefore, it was important that I come to class ready. He is a great guy and he takes his work seriously.”

“Dr. Holmes’ unique teaching style and passion for the subject of Leadership left a lasting impact on me professionally and personally. On day one of class, Oscar assigned us the Reflected Best Self assignment. It required I reach out to colleagues and ask them to comment on my strengths so we would later be able to play to those strengths. The assignment had an unexpected outcome; it built my confidence reading the positive characteristics my former colleagues saw in me. Today I take with me the lesson to first see the positive and then put it to good use.”

“Throughout the intense course each week my attention never wavered as Dr. Holmes captivated, engaged, and motivated every student in the class. Dr. Holmes’ teaching style immersed the class into the topics by presenting different challenges and discussions to which we all related. Most impressively, in addition to giving us an amazing understanding of leadership topics like management styles, conflict resolution, and more he enabled us to realize how our gender, race, religion and distinguishable features impact how we go about the process of leading.”



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