2020 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Gary Sherman, Stony Brook University College of Business

Gary Sherman of Stony Brook University is a Poets&Quants Best 40 Under 40 MBA Professor

With more than 1,200 Google Scholar citations, not many professors have a bigger research and publishing impact than Stony Brook University’s Gary Sherman. At 39-years-old, Sherman already has amassed a very impressive research base. But the assistant professor of management, who focuses on ethics in management, is also a crack teacher as well.

“Professor Sherman can be counted on to stimulate students to think deeply about business-related issues of ethics, law, and health. Recognized by our department and the university for outstanding teaching, he has developed a program of research on morality, leadership, power, and stress,” Amy Milligan, the assistant dean for Curriculum, Accreditation, and Student Services at Stony Brook’s College of Business said in her nomination of Sherman. “His work informs his teaching and engages students in understanding interpersonal relationships at work and in society at large. His single-authored and lead papers in top academic journals and professional periodicals and his many presentations demonstrate social impact and guide corporate practice. As examples, his research explains why executives may disengage morally and maintain practices that ultimately damage their companies, and addresses why managers make personnel decisions that allow them to retain power at the expense of women’s advancement. As the dean of the College of Business, I can attest to the care and integrity Prof. Sherman brings to the classroom and his professional activities.”

Most recently, Sherman says his research has examined ethics in decision making. He’s been examining factors that affect of a decision-makers’ willingness to impose costs on others as a result of pursuing their own goals. “Decision-makers are relatively reluctant to choose an option that is personally lucrative but costly to others if they have yet to choose that option (i.e., an initial decision),” Sherman explains. “However, if they have already chosen (but not started) that option and only then learn about the negative side effect, they feel less of a moral burden to consider it.”

Beyond research, many student nominators also reported very strong teaching chops.

“Last semester I had the pleasure of having Professor Gary Sherman for Ethics in Management,” one nominator said. “To effectively teach the course material, Professor Sherman assigned various case studies for his students to read and analyze, ranging from examples of corporate responsibility to whistleblowing. Although some of the readings were hard to digest, Professor Sherman invited open discussion related to the ethical issues covered in the case studies and provided PowerPoint slides as well as credible videos to convey the main message. Professor Sherman not only encouraged his students to participate in class discussions but also valued anecdotes that students shared. Being exposed to topics such as conflicts of interest, psychological biases, and fairness, will help me better manage employees in my future career since I understand how to avoid ethical traps in the workplace. Overall, Professor Sherman is super passionate about what he teaches and cares greatly about his students’ success.”

Outside of the classroom, Sherman says his main hobbies are golf and shellfishing.

Gary Sherman

Assistant Professor of Management

Stony Brook University, College of Business

Current age: 39

At current institution since what year? 2014

Education: Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of Virginia; B.A. in Psychology from the University of Virginia.

List of MBA courses you currently teach: Ethics in Management


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I realized that it would allow me to apply my training in social psychology to tackle real-world problems. Through research and teaching, business schools are focused on giving students and organizations the tools to be better decision-makers and problem-solvers. When I realized that this was a big part of being a business school professor, it became a very appealing option.

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

One topic I’m currently exploring is moral decision-making, focusing on the factors that affect decision-makers’ willingness to impose costs on others as a side effect of pursuing their goals (e.g., a company’s willingness to pollute the environment). So far, the most important discovery is that timing—when one learns about the negative side effect—matters. Decision-makers are relatively reluctant to choose an option that is personally lucrative but costly to others if they have yet to choose that option (i.e., an initial decision). However, if they have already chosen (but not started) that option and only then learn about the negative side effect, they feel less of a moral burden to consider it. In short, when deciding whether to continue what they have already chosen, decision-makers tend to be morally disengaged and, therefore, more willing to create negative side effects—and they do so with a relatively clear conscience.

If I weren’t a business school professor I’d be a psychology professor. If not that, maybe a farmer or a (mediocre) guitarist in a rock band.

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

My level of passion and engagement. I am deeply invested in the topic and I think I’m able to convey that enthusiasm to my students.

One word that describes my first time teaching:  all-consuming

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

It’s never boring. Maybe it’s because I teach ethics, but there is always something new to read/watch/talk about that is relevant to the course material.

Professor I most admire and why: There are several. If I have to pick one, it’s Jon Haidt, now Professor at NYU Stern, who was my Psych 101 professor in my very first semester of college. He would later become my undergraduate advisor and then my graduate school advisor, but back in the Fall of 2000, he was my introduction to the world of psychology and a master at engaging students.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

Their level of motivation, which is typically very high, and the diversity of their work and life experiences.

What is most challenging? 

Managing the ebb and flow of an 80-minute case discussion—learning how to fill the lulls and also corral the runaway discussions that threaten go either off course or on for hours.

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: engaged

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: disengaged

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as clear and reasonable


What are your hobbies? Golf and shellfishing (when I get the chance)

How will you spend your summer? On my deck, grilling and hanging out with my wife. Doing research. If social distancing guidelines allow, seeing family and friends, golfing, and enjoying the beaches on the north shore of Long Island.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Cape Cod, Montauk (in the Fall)

Favorite book(s): The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood, by David Simon and Ed Burns (to be honest, I haven’t read it in 20 years, but it was a precursor to The Wire, so I assume it’s aged well)

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

Better Call Saul. Since I teach (and research) business ethics, I am fascinated by characters—like Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman—who repeatedly face the question, “What ethical and legal lines am I willing to cross to be successful?”

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why?

My musical tastes are all over the place, but these days it’s a lot of alt-country/Americana/indie rock, such as the Old 97’s, Jason Isbell, and The War on Drugs.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this experiential learning/projects. Business schools already do a lot of this, but the more experience students get diagnosing and solving real-world business problems, the better.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at harnessing the power of procedural fairness. A business that applies the key features of procedural fairness (e.g., transparency, voice, impartiality) in their treatment of customers and employees is going to be at a significant advantage—in terms of building social capital and customer loyalty—over businesses that struggle to understand the power of fairness.

I’m grateful for the freedom and support that Stony Brook University’s College of Business has given me to explore my research interests across disciplinary boundaries. Business schools vary in the extent to which they support truly interdisciplinary work. Stony Brook, thankfully, is outstanding in this regard, and my research has benefited greatly as a result.

Faculty, students, alumni, and/or administrators say:

“I truly enjoyed Professor Sherman’s class. He is a great instructor who allows his students to express their ideas. He delivers an organized course that is thought-provoking and relevant. Professor Sherman deserves to be recognized for his professionalism and innovative thinking.”

“As an international student, I felt safe, empowered, and confident in professor Gary’s class. He encouraged all the students to contribute and engages in the discussions and the group activities on the class. While I am writing this nomination now, I remembered all the good moments that I experienced during the Ethics and Law class with a wide smile on my face. I really enjoyed the cases that Gary introduced at the class and appreciated how thoughtful it was to cover international cases to suit the diversity in the class environment. Furthermore, Gary was open to help business school students express themselves confidently by giving a Public Speaking skills session at the MBA association monthly event. In addition, Gary’s research work was outstanding and he shared his work with us in the class.”

“Gary Sherman imbues his Business Administration class with a peek beyond the basics of business ethics. He pushes students to delve deeper into the values of ethics not only preparing with critical thinking and analysis but with a dose of reality that challenging ethical situations arise on a daily basis and that people won’t always do the right things. His class and teaching style was able to open my eyes to the reality of business ethics in both a challenging and intriguing way, oftentimes you wanted to attend the class to hear about the latest ethical scheme in the business world. Not only was his teaching skill exemplary but from the slight incorporation of his research, I was able to get the idea that he has a great passion for what he does and tries to insight that into his students through the use of professional value statements. He has students put their dreams to written paper, incorporating his material on ethics into our own personal narratives, yet another brilliant attempt at helping us realize that ethics are something to constantly keep in mind’s eye.”


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