2021 Best 40-Under-40 MBA Professors: Richard Gardner, University of Nevada Las Vegas

Richard Gardner is a 40 Under 40 professor. Courtesy photo

Richard Gardner

Assistant Professor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Richard Gardner hits the exact balance of strong and impactful research and teaching prowess and student popularity that we set out to recognize with this award. With more than 1,100 Google Scholar citations, Gardner, who is a management and leadership professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas is one of the more accomplished professors to make this year’s list.

“Among other things, I am researching the topic of Impostor Phenomenon—which is the feeling of not belonging despite demonstrating capabilities and achievements that merit acceptance,” Gardner says of his research. “This is a concept that has been around in some of the psychology literature for a while but has only recently been investigated in the management literature. In researching the impostor phenomenon, it has been fascinating to learn how debilitating it can be for people who really are not impostors.”

Gardner becomes the first professor from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to make our Best 40 Under 40 MBA Professors list.

Current age: 39

At current institution since what year? 2015

Education: Ph.D. in Management from Texas A&M University. Master of Public Administration and B.S. in Business Management, both at Brigham Young University.

List of MBA courses you currently teach: MBA 763 – Leadership, Teams, and Individuals


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I was completing my undergraduate majoring in business and a minor in statistics. I really liked both subjects and tried to find a profession that would fit those interests. A business school professor fit extremely well!

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

Among other things, I am researching the topic of Impostor Phenomenon—which is the feeling of not belonging despite demonstrating capabilities and achievements that merit acceptance. This is a concept that has been around in some of the psychology literature for awhile but has only recently been investigated in the management literature. In researching the impostor phenomenon, it has been fascinating to learn how debilitating it can be for people who really are not impostors. The coping mechanisms to these internal feelings are also intriguing, such as who you reach out to for support. I hope to uncover useful tools that organizations can use to mitigate some of the negative effects of the impostor phenomenon.

If I weren’t a business school professor… I’d probably be working in HR someplace or I’d probably try to find a job with something that could get me outside, such as working for the Forest Service.

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

I try to take the perspective of being a student in one of my classes and think of the things I would like and would not like. When I start to see students check out during class, and I inevitably do, I take it as a cue that I need to make class more engaging somehow.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Trepidation

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: Be careful about what work you create for yourself. There are so many amazing tools that can be implemented in teaching and research, but I think it is important to be selective in what tools you choose and what opportunities you pursue.

Professor I most admire and why: This is a tough one because I have had some fantastic professors and it almost seems unfair to choose just one. I will limit myself to two (which is probably still unfair). John Bingham at Brigham Young University was my very first management professor in my undergraduate program, it was also his very first semester teaching as a professor. I knew that I was interested in management prior to his class, but he had a very holistic way of teaching that was engaging and informative. He was also willing to talk with me when I started considering a PhD in management. My second one is Elizabeth Umphress at the University of Washington. She has been a great collaborator and always willing to listen to my weird research ideas. She has also given me so many opportunities to grow and develop in my field.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

I love it when the lights go on and they see the application of class materials in their own lives. It always feels good when a student lets me know that some management principle that we were talking about in class is a real-world issue they are dealing with at work.

What is most challenging?

Grading. I really wish I could figure out a way to give grades that I felt more comfortable with.

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

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

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Slow. Grading is one of my least favorite things to do so I sometimes put it off for a bit.


What are your hobbies?

I love to get outside when I can. Hiking, camping, mountain biking, anything really. I have also recently gotten into photography, which really just gives me something else to do while I am outside.

How will you spend your summer?

Besides the typical work-related activities of research, I hope to get outside and visit some national parks. There are lots not far from where I live, so it’s really convenient.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Grand Teton National Park. I worked there one summer right after high school and always love to get out there when I can.

Favorite book(s): I usually read some non-fiction history-related books or biographies.

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

I love “A River Runs Through It”, which is a movie based off of a book about two brothers “coming of age” but in their own ways. It takes place in early 1900s Montana and involves fly-fishing, so what’s not to like?

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

Not much gets me pondering about things more than a really good Stephen Sondheim musical.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… I wish business schools had a lot more involvement with students doing service projects in organizations to learn more about companies and industries. My students always appreciate opportunities to see how class principles can be applied to organizations in real time.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… Deliberately experimenting with different management ideas. I think companies are pretty good at understanding product development and toying with different marketing techniques but do not always think of employee development in the same way.

I’m grateful for… Great friends within my field. It is so helpful and meaningful to have a handful of people that I can call at any given time and talk about a research-related question, a career issue, a teaching dilemma, a current event, and a life issue all in the same conversation.

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

“Dr. Richard Gardener teaches Leadership at UNLV. He has put together a very dynamic and interactive curriculum. He requires a great deal of student involvement through activities and case reviews and his lectures are engaging and include multimedia sources from podcasts to videos as well as generous opportunities for class discussion. After each class he requests feedback from the class and follow up to make adjustments that reflect that feedback. This was one of my first classes in the MBA, and through his team building projects I met and bonded with a great group of classmates that have continued to be colleagues. Dr. Gardener is very deserving of this award.”

“Dr. Gardner teaches with passion and incorporates his personal stories and experiences into his lectures. His classes are engaging and include realistic activities and groupwork that help students develop transferrable skills. In addition to being able to easily engage an MBA class full of varied backgrounds at one of the most diverse universities in the United States, Dr. Gardner also finds time to complete research on numerous topics. One that sticks out in my mind is his imposter syndrome research but he also is an expert in Socialization, Ethics, Dysfunctional Behavior, Organizational Behavior, Leadership, and Negotiation. He has also given numerous conference presentations and received grants and awards for his research. Dr. Gardener is knowledgeable and willing to help students, faculty, and staff with whatever they need. I think Dr. Gardner is an incredible professor, researcher, and colleague. He is deserving of this award and I hope you will agree.”

“He is passionate, professional, approachable knowledgeable, and most importantly, he improvised his teaching for COVID-19. We were all nerve racks as the first semester MBA students, but he kept calm and carried on with a sense of humor to ensure both the phonenmonal quality of teaching and student-professor relationship.”


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