2019 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Lauren D’Innocenzo, Drexel (LeBow)

Lauren D’Innocenzo

Assistant Professor of Management

Drexel University LeBow College of Business

There are great teachers whose classes students look forward to being in, and then there’s Lauren D’Innocenzo’s class, where students describe her as an “excellent professor” who keeps them engaged using group discussions, games, and video clips. As a result, she has won multiple teaching awards from the University of Connecticut and is also the winner of the 2018 Course Hero-Woodrow Wilson Fellowship for Excellence in Teaching award.

D’Innocenzo’s expertise centers around team dynamics, multilevel modeling, and shared leadership. In the world of research, her work has been cited over 510 times by other academics and she is published in some of the most prestigious outlets including Journal of Management, Academy of Management Journal, and Journal of Applied Psychology. She has also twice won reviewer awards for her outstanding work by the Journal of Management. D’Innocenzo earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Cornell, Master’s Degree in Sport Management from Ithaca College, and her Ph.D. in Management from the University of Connecticut, where she also received the Outstanding Student Scholar Award in 2011 and 2012.

“Professor D’Innocenzo represents the best of MBA faculty/instructors,” one nominator said. “She brings her research expertise in leadership and teams into the classroom in a unique and innovative way, integrating in ways I haven’t seen both the practice and the theory. Her work embodies the ideals of experiential learning by allowing students to actively learn teaming skills through the engagement in constant and consistent weekly exercises, often integrated with corporate partners.”

Current Age: 35

At current institution since what year? 2014

Education: Ph.D. in Business Management, Organizational Behavior, University of Connecticut, ’14, MS in Sport Management Ithaca College, ’07, BA in Psychology, Cornell University, ’05

List of current MBA courses you currently teach: Leading in Dynamic Environments, Leading High Performance Teams


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I’ve always questioned why and how people behave the way they do. Being a part of team sports my whole life, I found the dynamics within teams fascinating and observed that team performance is much more than a combination of individual skills. Before academics, I coached collegiate softball and my curiosity to understand teamwork grew even more. I started looking into academic programs to satisfy this curiosity and talked with people in the field. Once I learned that getting my Ph.D. would allow me to study teamwork in applied settings and offered opportunities to share best practices, I was sold.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?

In practical terms, I study how to leverage the knowledge, skills, and abilities of team members and encourage effective team processes through leadership, productive interactions, and supportive environments.

Currently, I’m working on numerous projects in healthcare exploring the dynamics in surgical teams. Performing surgery takes an incredible amount of medical and technical knowledge but it also requires a lot coordination, communication, and teamwork. If we can better understand the interpersonal dynamics in the operating room (OR), this will open new doors for improved training, performance, and patient safety and well-being.

Recently, my colleagues and I published a paper exploring the influence of shared experience between surgical team members on surgical efficiency. Using data from a community hospital, we found that teams with higher levels of shared experience are more efficient (time spent in surgery relative to predicted duration) and patients have better post-surgical recovery rates on complex cases (e.g., AAA – abdominal aortic aneurysm) but for relatively routine cases (e.g., appendectomy, cholecystectomy), this efficiency drops, in part due to complacency. I look forward to investigating these findings in other settings (e.g., teaching hospitals) as well as continuing to extend knowledge on teamwork in the OR.

If I weren’t a business school professor… I would likely be in collegiate athletics as a coach or administrator.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?

I enjoy theory and the intricate details of science, but I know that many students do not. I take great care in crafting assignments and classroom discussions to be relatable through real-life examples, pop culture, and tv/movies. At the end of the day, I want my students to be critical thinkers and take with them practical knowledge that they can apply in their work and life.

One word that describes my first-time teaching: Exhilarating

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: It can be incredibly rewarding and draining at the same time.

Professor you most admire and why:

My Ph.D. advisor, John Mathieu. John can do it all – he has a great personality, loves what he does, is an incredible mentor, and cares deeply for his students. Not to mention, he is one of (if not the) leading scholar on organizational teams. He is brilliant and a problem-solver. Any question or concern I’ve ever presented to John, he has a solution. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with him and am incredibly grateful for our continued relationship.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

Their inquisitive nature. I love when students ask questions about issues they are currently dealing with in the workplace and opening a conversation for the class to problem-solve. This usually leads to a number of really creative solutions and lively conversations.

What is most challenging?

Managing students who are overly concerned with grades and less focused on growing their knowledge base.

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

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

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Challenging but fair


What are your hobbies?

I enjoy home improvement projects, running, playing with and doing projects with my daughter, and taking care of our yard.

How will you spend your summer?

Spending time with family and friends, traveling, research.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Warm weather and a beach/pool

Favorite book(s): The Power of Habit (Charles Duhigg), The Last Lecture (Randy Pausch), Give and Take (Adam Grant)

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

Will and Grace – everything about that show makes me laugh!

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: Big fan of 80s music in general. Some favorite artists (not restricted to 80s) – Cher, Madonna, Fleetwood Mac, Sarah McLachlan


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… Project-based learning. It’s amazing what students are able to come up with and achieve when they are given the autonomy to create their own problem-solving methods.

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

Creating meaningful programs to develop and maintain positive teaming, leadership, and interpersonal behaviors. The best programs are those that leverage the benefits of experiential learning and get employees excited to bring new ideas to their work. Pairing these experiences with cutting-edge findings in organizational science around effective processes (e.g. shared leadership, strategic communications, collaboration) can really help organizations grow.

Faculty and administrators say:

“Dr. D’Innocenzo is equally adept at teaching undergraduates, MBAs, and executives. She establishes strong rapport with her students, creates a dynamic learning environment that fosters self-awareness and critical thinking which results in increased student engagement and collaborative learning.” – Kristin Risi, Assistant Dean, Corporate and Executive Education

“Professor D’Innocenzo represents the best of MBA faculty/instructors. She brings her research expertise in leadership and teams into the classroom in a unique and innovative way, integrating in ways I haven’t seen using both practice and theory. Her work embodies the ideals of experiential learning by allowing students to actively learn teaming skills through the engagement in constant and consistent weekly exercises, often integrated with corporate partners.” – Teresa D. Harrison, Associate Professor of Economics, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Director, Center for Teaching Excellence

“Simply put, Lauren is the consummate scholar.  She studies questions that not only extend the research literature in meaningful directions, but, just as importantly, have a direct practical impact on organizations.  She brings this strong research base to the classroom in experiential ways that enable to students to learn by actively applying concepts in working with organizations.  In short, both her research and teaching are novel, meaningful, and engaging.  I am continually impressed by Lauren and feel fortunate that she is a colleague.” – Jonathan Ziegert, Associate Professor of Management, Assistant Department Head, Department of Management

“Dr. D’Innocenzo’s vast and innovative contributions in management education as well as her actual impact in the classroom is unparalleled.  Her experiential teaching in the classroom helps students engage with each other and organizations as they learn critical thinking, communication and team building skills.” – Lisa Bogan, Assistant Dean, Office of Engagement & Communications


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