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 Sherony shines in classroom

By Tim Newton

Kate Sherony
Kate Sherony's Spudnuts Museum houses a collection of items from the 1950's doughnut shops.

 

Kate Sherony, PhD '02, is still looking for the beach.

The native of Highwood, Illinois, earned a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Iowa before going to work with a drug abuse council and a manufacturing firm, both in Iowa. She returned to her alma mater to get an MBA, and then taught for more than 15 years at Mount St. Clare College, a small private school in Clinton, Iowa. All those years in the Midwest made her yearn for an ocean setting, so she decided to quit her job, sell her home, and look for an institution close to water where she could earn a doctorate.

That was before she called Purdue.

"Kelly Felty was just fabulous, and her enthusiasm encouraged me to come here for a visit," Sherony says, referring to the assistant director of administration for Krannert Doctoral Programs. "I liked what I saw, and decided Krannert was the place for me."

Sherony began work on her doctorate in organizational behavior and human resource management in fall 1998, and was an immediate hit in the classroom. She received an Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award or Certificate of Teaching Excellence almost every semester she taught. She was highly rated by both graduate and undergraduate students, earning close to a dozen awards. Her classroom proficiency earned her the rank of Associate Fellow in the Purdue University Teaching Academy.

Her teaching success comes as no surprise to her major professor, Steve Green, Basil S. Turner Professor of Management.

 "Kate's experience allows her to step into any teaching context and to excel," Green says. "I am absolutely confident that Kate can teach in any venue and be among the best. She is creative, intellectually demanding of her students, fun, and warm, and she seems to pull it all off with grace and style."

Sherony, who credits Green with "helping me see things in ways I never did before," says that teaching has always come as second nature. "I think you have to make the material relevant to what the students face,' she says. "I want my students to work hard, but have fun at the same time. I'm a ham and an entertainer."

Not surprisingly, her dissertation had a tinge of show business as well. She investigated how a leader's emotional expression influences relationships and work performance. She hired four student actors to portray supervisory leaders. The actors each interacted with three groups of student workers. The actors said exactly the same things to each work group. But, with one group the actors used positive facial expressions and non-verbal cues, with another group they used negative emotional expressions, and with the third group their emotional expressions were neutral.

Predictably, workers thought more of the positive supervisors and were more productive with them than the negative leaders. "As my mother always said, it's not what you say, it's how you say it," Sherony says.

Sherony's research has been recognized at a high level. A paper she co-wrote with Green about coworker exchange was published in the prestigious Journal of Applied Psychology earlier this year.

The gregarious Sherony says that coming from a small private college to a large university like Purdue was a big adjustment. It didn't take her long to acclimate, though, and become integrated into the Greater Lafayette community. She's been the recording secretary for the Historic Ninth Street Hill Neighborhood Association in Lafayette, and is an advisor to the personnel committee of the Tippecanoe County Historical Association's Board of Governors. In addition she's opened a "very campy"  Spudnut museum in her apartment, a tribute to the doughnuts, made from potato flour, that were popular half a century ago.

Sherony is continuing to teach at Purdue this year, and will look for a full-time position in the spring. She still has her dream setting in mind.

"When I close my eyes, I find myself near a beach, maybe somewhere in North Carolina," she laughs. "Maybe I'll make it this time."

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