Five Questions with Niki den Nieuwenboer

In our Five Questions series, faculty of the University of Kansas School of Business share their insights, experiences and advice for students.

Niki den Nieuwenboer

Niki den Nieuwenboer is an assistant professor of organizational behavior and business ethics at the KU School of Business. She teaches courses on behavioral ethics and ethical decision making.

1. What got you interested in your field, and what has been the most rewarding part of being involved in it?

So my field is unethical behavior in organizations, focusing mostly on why “normal” and otherwise “good” people do bad things. I got interested in it maybe because I grew up next-door (in the Netherlands) to a famous crime journalist whom I looked up to. My other reason is more along the lines of “research is me-search”; due to an undiagnosed learning disability, I had a hard time meeting expectations in school at an early age, and I sometimes did things in a more clandestine, under-the-radar kind of way to appear to meet expectations, or to generally circumvent rules that weren’t really being monitored anyway. (Many folks with my learning disability have done such things.)

Most rewarding is that it is just interesting and I like the act of research. It is very creative and requires a lot of thought. It’s like a puzzle that needs solving. I truly enjoy just the act of research.

2. What is your favorite part about being a Jayhawk?

I like being part of a larger brand with a clear identity that unites so many people. I also like the overall culture in Kansas of honest and hard work, but also modesty and openness. I love our students, and I love Lawrence. I love the care and efforts that are being put in to making this university inclusive to all different races and genders and sexual orientations.

Really, what is not to like?

3. What would see yourself doing if you weren’t a professor?

I’d probably be a consultant, as I was before I went to doctoral school. But I would also know that I wouldn’t be as fulfilled by my job as I am being a professor.

4. If you could require students to read one thing before graduation (outside of your class reading), what would it be and why?

Hmm, difficult. It is not a “thing” but more a general type of literature. I’d tell them to read something about economic anthropology, which is a literature that talks about how other cultures think about things like work, time, money, etc. I took a course in economic anthropology during a master’s in applied ethics that I got from the Catholic university in Leuven (in Belgium), and it was eye-opening. It taught me a lot about why and how the Western world differs so fundamentally from non-Western worlds and taught me to have more respect for those other cultures. With the ever increasing globalization, I think having some notion about how fundamentally different Western culture is from some other cultures, even in the basic assumptions and approaches to life, is quite important.

5. What advice would you give your college self?

To be more comfortable and sure about my capabilities and that, in life, things have a way of working out for themselves, so I should just trust the process and not be so anxious about everything. I’d tell myself to not worry so much about proving myself or about “being right,” and to be more compassionate and giving to others because that is very fulfilling.

Den Nieuwenboer holds master’s degrees from Leiden University (the Netherlands) and KU Leuven (Belgium), as well as a doctorate from RSM Erasmus University (the Netherlands).

By Casey Gamble