Meet Our New Faculty: Ovul Sezer

By: Sarah Magnus-Sharpe
ovul sezer photo

Meet Ovul Sezer, a new faculty member from across the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. Sezer earned her PhD in organizational behavior at Harvard University. She joins the Cornell Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration as assistant professor of management and organizations.

Learn more about Sezer’s area of expertise, her research focus, courses she will be teaching and other interests in this Q&A.

Ovul Sezer I Assistant Professor of Management & Organizations I Nolan Hotel School

What are your research and teaching areas of focus?

My research focuses on Impression (Mis)Management—the mistakes we make when we want to impress others. We all think we know how to make a positive impression, and we can easily spot the mistakes others make, but when it comes to our own missteps, we tend to be blithely oblivious. I identify these mistakes and investigate how we can better navigate our social world. How can we signal that we are both competent and likeable? How can we brag wisely? How can we give valuable feedback in a way that strengthens our relationships rather than harming them? How can we network less awkwardly? My research identifies useful strategies for making better impressions. 

What class will you be teaching this year?

I will be teaching HADM 1150 Organizational Behavior and Leadership Skills.

What attracted you to the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business and to the Cornell Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration?

There are so many things that attracted me to Cornell. First of all, it is one of the best universities in the world with amazing scholars and students. I feel incredibly fortunate to be part of this great community and feel inspired every single day. Second, my research is at the intersection of organizational behavior, behavioral economics, and social psychology. Cornell has been a leading research institution in these areas with scholars who are pioneers in their field and it is very exciting to be part of that. Also, very importantly, I care very deeply about the impact that my research has on people’s lives and the impact that it has on organizations. The Nolan Hotel School is a fantastic place that gives the opportunity to work with research partners in industry. My colleagues here really inspire me to do research that has both theoretical contributions to our knowledge and practical contributions to the real world. The school’s emphasis on real impact deeply resonates with me. I am very excited to be at a place where I can make a real impact on society.

Have you adapted your research or teaching focus in any way because of COVID-19?

I have been teaching in hybrid and fully online formats since the beginning of the pandemic to make sure our students still learn through engagement, discussion and active listening. Course materials are accessible for both formats, using videos, online sources, lively discussion forums, readings and Zoom discussions. Due to the stressful nature of the beginning of the pandemic, I try my best to incorporate humor into my classes and prepare a trailer video for online formats. Here is one example:

What first sparked your interest in your research area?

I was a math major at Harvard and during my junior year, I spontaneously attended a class on experimental economics and decision making. The ideas shared in that class changed my life. I was so fascinated by how people’s intuitions can be misguided, and how decision making is an area that impacts our lives in all domains. I decided to get a PhD in Organizational Behavior at Harvard, and I have been very passionate about studying human behavior using experiments ever since.

How did you know you wanted to teach? What do you like best about teaching?

My favorite aspect of teaching is knowing that our talented students learn something new, and they feel interested in the material. The ideas that I propose in class, really changed my life when I was a student, and it is incredibly rewarding when it influences my students’ mindsets as well. My favorite part of teaching is witnessing the effect it has on students’ lives and learning how they are inspired.

What do you do to recharge?

I am a stand-up comedian. Using my observational social scientist skills for humor has been a great experience, and when I can make my audience laugh, I feel very recharged.

To learn more about Ovul, visit her social media accounts at: Twitter: @ovulsezer and Instagram: @ovulsezer1