Ambika Prasad, lecturer in A.B. Freeman School of Business and instructor of first-year Colloquium "Understanding Diversity in the Workplace."
How do attitudes and biases affect behavior in the workplace? How can diversity impact workplace outcomes? How does legislation protect people from discrimination and encourage diversity? These are some of the questions Professor Ambika Prasad and her students are exploring in a fall Honors Colloquium,“Understanding Diversity in the Workplace.” A lecturer in Management within the A.B. Freeman School of Business with a background in industrial organization and psychology, Professor Prasad offers valuable insights to first-year Honors students.
In her Colloquium, Professor Prasad introduces students to the idea of diversity, exploring what it means and how it affects cognitive processes through prejudice, attitudes towards other groups, and privilege. This process involves exploring all of the social psychological phenomena that can emerge from group and individual identities. She leads the class to further analyze a given phenomenon, examining how stereotypes play out at work and how they might influence an evaluation of a peer’s performance. Professor Prasad also teaches her students about the legal framework that forms the background for diversity by studying the Civil Rights Act, affirmative action programs, and more. Her hope for the class is to have them “understand first what diversity is in a very pure sense, then expand into specifics.”
As an undergraduate, Professor Prasad studied social psychology, fascinated by “how we behave in groups in society.” After she started working, she realized how much these psychological concepts translated into work through the stereotypes and opinions individuals hold about other people, groups, and the work itself. From this, she transitioned into the field of industrial psychology, which merges social psychology and the workspace, leading her to study stereotypes and leadership. Now, she teaches Organizational Behavior, Human Resource Management, and Leadership classes in the business school. Professor Prasad says that if you had asked her 20-30 years ago if this is what she would be doing, she would have probably said no. Her current specialty developed as a result of her educational and workplace experiences over the years, beginning with her undergraduate education.
Professor Prasad was excited to teach a class through the Honors Program since she has the flexibility to create her own class for curious first-years, bringing in elements from different disciplines and merging them together. She was also enthusiastic to work more closely with Honors students in a smaller classroom setting. Since diversity is her research interest, Professor Prasad especially appreciated the flexibility the Honors Program allowed her in creating the class, giving her an opportunity to “really stay in touch with what appeals to [her] heart.” While diversity is a piece of the big picture in her other courses such as leadership or human resources, she has enjoyed having the opportunity to dive deeply into diversity as a topic, rediscovering, with her students, some of the old literature and connecting her to newer literature that she had yet to explore.
Professor Prasad enjoys teaching the Colloquium with “such a fun group of students” who actively participate and ask many questions. The Honors students in her course are a diverse group, which she says “adds to the richness in the class.” Some of the class discussions have been especially robust, such as when they covered the ideas of equality and justice, which sparked a particularly lively discussion. These types of discussions from her Colloquium influence how she teaches her business school classes, and she hopes to provide similarly engaging experiences for her business school students. Ultimately, Professor Prasad’s experiences teaching this course have not only helped her reconnect with her scholarly roots, but have also led her to more deeply engage with both Honors students and the broader Tulane student population.
All faculty interviewed recommend a book they find compelling and important.
Professor Prasad’s book recommendation is Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, a book which she recently rediscovered after seeing it on PBS’s Great American Read list. She recommends this book to everyone since it provides a meaningful perspective on life as a journey and the value of both joys and losses.