Kelli Levey Reynolds, December 20th, 2011
For a good time, call … Dr. Luis Gomez-Mejia, management professor at Texas A&M University.
Drawing on 30 years of travels and research, Gomez-Mejia wraps fun around the seriousness of concepts relating to management trends and executive compensation. His equally engaging research seminars examine organizational theory, various perspectives of organizations and decision-making.
Those are research focuses for Gomez-Mejia, who has been published more than 100 times. Two of his recent studies identified subtle factors that reduce pollution: stock-option incentives (rather than cash) that encourage management to take a long view of consequences and family ownership of businesses, in which personal reputations and community status are at stake.
While theoretical information frequently dominates class discussions, the tone is conversational with real examples thrown in, he said, “just to keep it interesting.”
Students find the approach lively and refreshing.
Mark Gibson ’11, whose final semester included a class under Gomez-Mejia, said his teaching style was a surprise. “Most of what we learn was done through class discussion rather than book learning, but what set this apart was that we were tested over our peers’ opinions and conclusions that we came up with as a group,” Gibson said.
“I’ve enjoyed his class and his unique perspective. He is well-traveled and has more than enough experiences to give our class a holistic view of the world.”
Before arriving at Texas A&M in 2009, Gomez-Mejia was a professor at Arizona State University and earlier taught at the University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Florida and University of Minnesota. And after stints in Spain and 15 Latin American countries, he strings his sentences together in a melodious thread reflecting the Portuguese and Spanish he spoke there.
Bringing him to Texas A&M was the $1 million Benton Cocanougher Chair in Business created in honor of the former business dean. The Cocanougher Chair was part of a chair matching program funded by Lowry Mays ’57 and his wife Peggy, who committed $7.5 million. Gomez-Mejia, the first holder of the chair, says he appreciates the honor. “That allowed me to be here, both financially and as far as professional standing,” he explains.
Gomez-Mejia considers Mays Business School a strong research culture with excellent scholars. “There is a very eclectic faculty from a broad scope of interests and backgrounds. That keeps things interesting,” said Gomez-Mejia, whose many teaching and research honors include the Hall of Fame of the Academy of Management.
Dr. Murray Barrick, previous head of the Management Department, considers Gomez-Mejia a great resource for Texas A&M. “Besides studying executive compensation more rigorously than his peers in the field, his research on family businesses and privately held companies has been extraordinarily impactful, in large part because he has obtained access to some unique data sources that bring light to the dynamics that determine the success of such firms.”
Barrick also said Gomez-Mejia contributes substantially to the department. “He is on the forefront of understanding the impact of different reward strategies,” Barrick said. “Consequently our students at Mays Business School get the most sophisticated instruction about how to effectively utilize rewards broadly, but also how to leverage pay to motivate and engage people at work.”
Barrick said undergraduate students and some of the college’s best doctoral students value his insights on the application of incentives, particularly the use of salary coupled with the opportunity for ownership, particularly in family-run businesses.
After a semester with Gomez-Mejia, management doctoral candidate Nai Wu ’13 said she wished she had taken his classes sooner. Wu said he provides entertainment with his anecdotes and examples from around the world.
“He is not intimidating at all,” Wu said. “In class, he always likes for us to comment and have a conversation rather than sit and listen to him lecture. He has a passion for his research and that is not always the case with professors. He is well-traveled so he has a broad worldview that he brings into our discussions. He brings in a lot of new information and a new perspective.”
Gomez-Mejia also is encouraging, she said. “Sometimes I am not very confident in my ideas, and he will help me get my idea to the next step. Overall, he is one of the best research professors I have ever worked with.”
Accounting senior Ramani Balijepally ’12 said she particularly enjoyed simulations in which students learned about a new country and the advantages, disadvantages, and economic and political factors of doing business there.
Doctoral candidate David Boss ’13 said Gomez-Mejia came to each session of his doctoral seminar â€” an informal, discussion-based environment â€” with more than enough material to facilitate discussion for 2Â½ hours.
As each class began, Gomez-Mejia asked students how current and past materials related. “Not only did this create great discussion,” Boss said, “but it also reiterated and solidified the material that we had covered up to six weeks earlier.”
Boss added that Gomez-Mejia’s casual manner facilitated free thinking without the fear of having to impress him or the other students. “He was open to any and all comments, which encouraged all students to participate and led to new ideas for future research.”
Sal Mistry ’14, another management doctoral candidate, said he is impressed with Gomez-Mejia’s ability to get to the heart of what students say. He once interrupted Mistry’s description of what he calls his “significant research idea” by saying, “The punch line about what you are talking about is …?”
“At that moment, I realized Dr. Gomez-Mejia doesn’t necessarily need all of the “background information’ as he is, one, extremely knowledgeable about many streams of research; two, extremely practical in the way he approaches a research question; and three, is able to take a complex idea and make it simple to understand,” Mistry said.
Barrick said Gomez-Mejia provides Aggies with management knowledge “that other scholars will only become aware of in a couple of years. He is one of a handful of truly top scholars in the field of management.”
More significantly, Barrick added, is Gomez-Mejia’s humble demeanor and willingness to volunteer within the college. In response to requests from Mays Dean Jerry Strawser, Gomez-Mejia agreed to serve on the college promotion and tenure committee and to lead a search for a key hire.
“He does all of this while engaging our faculty and doctoral students in discussions about the practice of management,” Barrick said. “We are lucky to have him as a colleague.”
To learn how you can support faculty in Mays Business School, contact:
David Hicks ’75
Assistant Vice President for Development
Texas A&M Foundation
(800) 392-3310 or (979) 845-2904