If you’re feeling especially anxiety-ridden now in this time of the pandemic, take some savvy advice from Laura Noval. She is encouraging people to take time out of their daily routines to practice mindfulness, a subject that is not new but still relatively rare for study among business school academics.
The 36-year-old assistant professor of organizational behavior at Imperial College Business School has made mindfulness among the areas to which she brings her formidable thinking skills. She has discovered that the practice of awareness of the present, unconcerned by the immediate past or the future, allows people to become more generous and helpful towards their colleagues. And it only takes a short and simple mindfulness exercise to put them in that more giving frame of mind.
She practices what she teaches. “I do not just teach what I read in a textbook, but things that I have rather experienced or implemented for myself in my life,” explains Noval. “As a result, I am also very focused on students’ personal growth, attempting that what they learn does not stay with them as an abstract theory but can be instead immediately applied to their real every-day lives.”
An award-winning teacher and researcher, Noval not only possesses an unstinting spirit; she is also a true citizen of the world. A native of Argentina, Noval has lived and worked in the U.S., France, Germany, Austria, and the U.K. She speaks six different languages including Spanish, English, German, French, Portuguese, and Italian. Noval was chosen to this year’s list because of the dozens of positive and thoughtful nominations we received from her very grateful students.
“Laura has been teaching large classes in different programs since she joined Imperial College,” one nominator told us. “She is diligent, creative, and takes her teaching very seriously. She is a good scholar overall and has had good quality publications early in her career. She is a great organizational citizen. She has endured difficult personal circumstances in the past couple of years, yet she has continued to perform all her roles as researcher, teacher, and organizational citizen with professionalism.”
In 2019, Noval won the Best Undergraduate Teaching Award at Imperial College — a testament to her teaching chops and popularity among a wide range of students. “Laura is an excellent colleague, cares deeply about her students, and is constantly trying to determine how to translate the most cutting-edge research on business ethics into teaching lessons for her students in the programs she is teaching in,” another nominator said. “She also has them do personal growth essays as a way of self-reflection and growth in terms of ethical behavior.”
If Noval wasn’t a business school professor, she says she’d own a small organic farm with lots of animals. It’s no surprise some of her favorite hobbies are planting trees and spending time with animals.
Laura J. Noval
Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior
Current age: 36
At current institution since what year? 2017
Education: Ph.D. in Social Sciences
List of MBA courses you currently teach: Personal Ethics & Core Values
TELL US ABOUT YOUR LIFE AS A BUSINESS PROFESSOR
I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I completed my MBA at ESMT in Berlin; during this time, I found out how much I enjoyed researching and teaching topics related to organizational behavior.
What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?
I have recently discovered that mindful meta-awareness of one’s identity and identity needs (e.g., needs related to feeling good about oneself or about one’s group of belonging) can prevent individuals from engaging in the counterproductive defense mechanisms (e.g., self-serving reasoning) that are usually employed to protect those identity needs.
If I weren’t a business school professor… I’d be a writer, or own an organic small farm with lots of animals (or both).
What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?
My personal involvement in everything I teach; I do not just teach what I read in a textbook, but things that I have rather experienced or implemented for myself in my life. As a result, I am also very focused on students’ personal growth, attempting that what they learn does not stay with them as an abstract theory but can be instead immediately applied to their real every-day lives.
One word that describes my first time teaching: Present
Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: Most people will not understand what it is that you actually do.
Professor I most admire and why: Prof. Carla Escudero (Dr. in Biology, University of Mendoza) – because she elegantly combines consciousness and science in her research and teaching (i.e., she has a unique ability to actually include life within the study of the logic of life), and because she is very skilled in translating this deep knowledge to any audience in an understandable, precise, and applicable manner.
What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?
Their openness to receive information from a variety of disciplines and their willingness to discuss topics from different angles/points of view.
What is most challenging?
To overcome ingrained ideas that they have about what it is needed to succeed in business and in life, which are often based past models, and which often gets in the way of having a more meaningful view of business, and what can be achieved through it.
In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Open-minded
In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Disengaged
When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Someone that puts effort in making grading as a fair as it can be, as well as providing them enough feedback for their future development.
LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM
What are your hobbies?
Dance (arabic, samba), yoga, barre, and being with animals.
How will you spend your summer?
Doing research, planting trees, being with animals.
Favorite place(s) to vacation: Anywhere with a nice beach where dogs are allowed
Favorite book(s): As a fictional piece, “The death of Ivan Ilych” (Leo Tolstoy), and as non-fictional work, “Looking from emptiness” (David Williams Garrido), “The biology of belief” (Bruce Lipton), and “Meaning and void” (Eric Klinger).
What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?
My favorite movie is “Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind”, because it provides a clever illustration of how life is not be erased even if some moments are challenging or difficult to go through. What I see the movie clearly shows is that those bad moments or memories are as important as the good ones, so that wanting to erase them would contradict the very purpose of experiencing life.
What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why?
I don’t have a favorite artist, or type of music, as I usually like a mix of different types, some of my favorite thought include Brazilian music (samba, bossa nova) and Latin-American in general.
THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS
If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… Grading would disappear or diminished in importance, students would be there more for the actual learning and not so much for the final outcome (such as the diploma). Teachers would be there more as a facilitator of students’ development by, for example, focusing more on teaching processes by which students can reach their own insight rather than providing pre-determined packages of insight for them to follow. Finally, the teaching would include more real-life experience beyond the classroom, also including real-life outside the office (seeing what is actually happening in the world, in nature, etc.).
In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… Thinking in a more comprehensive, integral manner about what they are doing, why they are doing it and how they are doing it. That would entail avoiding narrow frames about who they are and what they are trying to achieve, often based on past and outdated schemas (for example, exclusive focus on money, growth, or generally, more for more without knowing what for), and instead embracing more comprehensive purposes, which would be of benefit not only for themselves but also for others.
I’m grateful for… Life, family, animals, people, plants, the Earth, the Sun.
Faculty, students, alumni, and/or administrators say:
“I love how interactive Dr Noval’s lectures are and how easy they are to integrate into one’s life. I felt like I was learning life skills more than just examinable content which made it super easy to engage. I also enjoy the different forms of content she incorporates into her lectures. She often uses videos which are really helpful in keeping us awake. Dr Noval’s readings are also really amazing.”
“I think Laura did an incredible job in teaching us such difficult, abstract, complex topics in a simple, thorough way. Her lecture slides perfectly complemented her verbal teaching during the lecture, making it easy to follow the lecture. Her use of case studies and anecdotes were brilliant in helping me understand the vague concepts in this topic, also making it easier to remember these concepts in the long term.
I found her teaching to be truly inspiring and motivating. She really emphasized the importance of understanding OBHRM topics and the importance of relating them to our own experiences. For example, I now feel more able to reflect on my own past experiences and better prepared for future complicated situations I might find myself involved in.
The various concepts and phases she emphasized throughout the module are ones I feel as though I will always remember, such as “the map is not the territory”! I feel as though her own opinions she voiced during the lecture spoke a lot of truth and made me see things in ways I have never seen before. I feel that Laura seemed to be the perfect person to teach us OBHRM because not only does she clearly have a lot of experience and a deep understanding of the topic, but also a genuine passion and enthusiasm for the topic, which made me more willing to learn and understand it.
Overall, Laura was a great lecturer. I feel inspired by her course, teaching, experiences and opinions. She always welcomed our opinions and any questions we had during the lecture and made her lectures engaging. The concepts she has enlightened us to are ones I will remember for a long time. I am genuinely impressed with Laura and will certainly miss her lectures!”
“I loved having discussions with Laura about the different topics she was teaching us. It is very rare that you get a teacher who is so open to new ideas and encourages people to provide their different opinions on matters. If more people were like this the world would be a better place.”