Faculty Spotlight: Shefali Patil, Organizational Behavior

Written by Nicholas Kuehl

photo credit: Lauren Gerson

Dr. Shefali Patil teaches MAN 336H, the Organizational Behavior: Honors course. A graduate of the Stern School of Business at NYU as well as the Ph.D. in Management program at Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Patil first discovered her passion for research after entering Stern’s business honors program that encouraged students to consider research. Dr. Patil quickly found that she enjoyed the freedom that research offered her as she walked the streets of New York, thinking of new questions and ways to collect data to answer those questions.

Dr. Patil’s course is often described by students as “a lot of fun,” “eye-opening,” and “unexpected” as organizational behavior can often be misconstrued as “boring” and “intuitive.” Dr. Patil emphasizes during each class how organizational behavior is actually quite multi-faceted in that decisions and characteristics that are often considered to be positive can be negative in certain situations. Because her research focuses on organizational behavior in public policy organizations, Dr. Patil’s students are also able to appreciate how organizational behavior concepts can impact everyone’s lives through the actions of police officers, politicians, firefighters, and other public officials. By filling every class with interesting exercises and activities, Dr. Patil encourages students to always look at the flip-side of every decision, which helps students develop the cognitive ability to break through typical patterns of behavior and become independent thinkers. As Dr. Patil has experienced since her childhood, being an independent thinker allows you to surprise others by challenging their expectations and by thinking of unexpected solutions to all sorts of problems, including those in the business, public policy, and personal realms.

As for her Canfield BHP students, Dr. Patil appreciates their intellectual horsepower, their enjoyment of rigorous thinking, and their penchant for abstraction. In fact, Dr. Patil has noticed over the years that her CBHP students often, when exposed to new knowledge, discover where the holes in current knowledge are and form, without being prompted, interesting hypotheses. As a result, Dr. Patil has heard many potential research questions hiding in the questions her CBHP students ask her.

Dr. Patil has this advice to offer current CBHP students: “Remember to do activities and learn new skills outside of your chosen field. Of course, rising to the top in your field is going to take immense effort, dedication, discipline, and resilience. It is a grind, no doubt. But, you also never know what new ideas you may come up with based on your experiences outside of your field—or the people you might meet who will put you on a path you never envisioned.” She believes that when coupled with independent thinking and abstraction, these new ideas and insights can lead CBHP students to have an immense impact in their careers and on the wider world. As a personal example, Dr. Patil recalls how her tennis doubles partner (a software engineer) and her tennis coach helped her identify the connections between the challenges athletes face and the challenges faced by the police officers she was studying. Her partner and coach’s unique experiences were able to  get out of a research slump and recognize new patterns and solutions that are faced by all sorts of decision makers.

Outside of class, Dr. Patil greatly enjoys playing video games with her younger brother. In addition, as mentioned above, Dr. Patil enjoys every aspect of playing tennis with her doubles partner and tennis coach, both of whom she finds endlessly inspiring and motivating.