Kira Reed, associate professor of management at Syracuse University‘s Martin J. Whitman School of Management, had many strong influences and defining experiences early in life, which set her on a course for career success that would lead to academia.
Reed’s parents were her first models of a strong work ethic and a principled approach to life.
“I grew up in the city of Chicago. My father was a Chicago police officer and my mother was a Chicago public school teacher,” said Reed. “They both instilled in me a commitment to service and mentoring others, as well as an understanding that discipline is required for success in all things.”
Her mother also showed her that learning can be lifelong if you put in the effort.
“My mother earned two master’s degrees at night and over her summer breaks from teaching,” added Reed. “Due to my father’s work schedule, there were occasions when I would go with her to class. I wasn’t even 10 years old, but I came to realize that education didn’t have to end at early adulthood.”
The time that Reed spent in the classroom with her mom provided an early glimpse into college life.
“I loved sitting in on my mom’s class,” she said. “Everything about the college campus was exciting.”
That youthful intrigue with higher education would stick with her.
Another defining experience came when Reed entered the INROADS pre-collegiate program designed to introduce African American, Native American and Latino American students to careers in corporate America. It was in this environment that she learned about opportunities in banking and found mentors in banking who would influence her choice of major in college and her eventual career.
Through INROADS, Reed secured a four-year internship with Northern Trust Bank.
“I felt a great deal of loyalty to Northern Trust,” shared Reed, who went to work for the bank after graduating from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with a B.S. in finance. “My connection to Northern Trust and the banking industry is evident today, as I have published three studies using the banking industry as my sample population. Additionally, in teaching strategic management courses, I incorporate quite a few readings from the Federal Reserve, and I introduce students to a breadth of terminology that is important when interacting with business associates.”
Like many of her mentors and superiors within Northern Trust, Reed decided to pursue an MBA from Northwestern University. And like her mother, she continued working while going to school. Taking the majority of her classes at night, Reed earned an MBA with concentrations in organizational behavior, management and marketing. She wasn’t quite done learning, however.
“As a master’s student, I was allowed to take a doctoral seminar for graduate credit,” shared Reed. “This experience solidified my desire to go into academia. The idea of conducting research that could be applied to a corporate setting was fascinating to me.”
Within a month of graduating from Northwestern, Reed entered the doctoral program of the University of Connecticut, where she would earn a Ph.D. in management. After successfully defending her dissertation, Reed taught for a year at Iowa State University before joining the Whitman faculty.
“I interviewed at SU during my last year as a doctoral student and I fell in love with the University,” she added. “When I was offered the chance to teach at Whitman, I couldn’t deny that SU was where I really wanted to be.”
After 15 years at Whitman teaching strategic management and leadership courses at the undergraduate and graduate level, Reed said she is still evolving as an instructor.
“Students today process information differently than when I arrived, and they want, and deserve, their instruction tailored to their learning preferences,” she explained. “It is important that I understand how students learn best and make adjustments accordingly in how I present curriculum. Communications channels and technology are changing rapidly, which impacts students and faculty. I think we are all adapting and growing together.”
Despite the changes, one constant for Reed has been her research focus, which draws on her banking days and has real-world connotations.
“I enjoy research that can have a direct impact on businesses. This is why I have used banks as a sample population, as well as our alumni, in tracking career progression and goals,” she explained. “I am currently working with a recent Whitman doctoral alumnus, Greg Serdar ’17 Ph.D., who teaches at Minnesota State University, Moorhead. His research examines the combined impact of state and national politics on how firms operate and how politics affect firm performance. This research has tangible implications on where firms might locate their headquarters.”
In addition to teaching and research, Reed is actively engaged in the broader SU community and management profession. She serves as the chair of the University Senate Curricula Committee and is one of nine Senate representatives for Whitman.
“I am fortunate to work with peers across campus to ensure that the curriculum we are providing to students prepares them for their choice of postgraduate opportunities,” she added. “This requires us to evaluate if what we are teaching is relevant, timely and rigorous.”
Reed also serves as division chair for the Public and Nonprofit Division of the Academy of Management, with a membership of around 1,000 academics and practitioners from around the world.
“We come together at the annual Academy of Management meetings to discuss the latest research and pedagogical practices related to public and nonprofit contexts,” she explained. “Through interacting with and leading this impressive group, I have come to learn how city mayors have begun to view themselves as entrepreneurs to provide innovative solutions to administering city government services and programs and how nonprofit organizations are stepping in to fill the void as it relates to some government services. This blending of public, private and nonprofit sectors provides a new area of career opportunities and ways our students can contribute to society after graduation.”
Reed’s commitment to academia and industry is a distinct asset for Whitman.
“Kira is highly engaged and constantly works to make the department, our School and SU better,” shared Ravi Dharwadkar, management chair and Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor of Teaching Excellence. “She is actively involved in numerous organizations and initiatives, including the Syracuse University Senate and the Academy of Management. Beyond these engagements, Kira is a dedicated instructor, researcher and mentor to students. She is always willing to step in and help whenever needed.”
Being a mentor is something Reed said she mirrors from those who have influenced her.
“I have had strong, successful mentors throughout my career, both in banking and in academia, who have inspired me and provided unique perspectives on how to accomplish your goals. I hope to provide that same inspiration to students who want to become business leaders and to those who want to teach the next generation of business leaders.”
Reed’s commitment to the student-instructor relationship is evident by the sentiments of former students. “Dr. Reed was one of the people who I could count on for advice and encouragement during my time in the Ph.D. program at Whitman,” shared Frank Mullins ’01 MBA, ’11 Ph.D.,associate professor of management at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. “Earning a Ph.D. is no easy task, and Dr. Reed’s support proved invaluable in helping me stay on the path to completing my degree.”
The connections with students— both current and former—are exceedingly important to Reed.
“My proudest moments as a professor include keeping in touch with alumni,” she added. “I love it when alumni realize they can have a lifelong connection to Whitman and SU and the faculty. I want them to know we will always be there to encourage them, champion them and cheer them on in their success.”
Greg Serdar ’17 Ph.D. is one of many Whitman alumni who has maintained a connection with Reed—and his entails an ongoing working relationship that grew from her mentorship as his doctoral studies advisor. Both as a former Ph.D. student and today as a research collaborator, Serdar is grateful for Reed’s influence.
“Dr. Reed has shown me, by her own example, how to be a good researcher and teacher. I am grateful for the continued opportunity to work with and learn from her.”