“I love inspiring and helping people, and I want to do it in an academic setting,” says doctoral student Natalie Liberman. (Photo courtesy of Natalie Liberman)

Meet Natalie Liberman:
Delivering Outstanding Instruction During the Pandemic

By Eric Hollenbeck

Natalie Liberman, a doctoral student studying management, has garnered a lot of attention recently for her work in the classroom. Most notably, Liberman has earned praise for her upper-division course in negotiation skills. The course is one of three she teaches, and the only one held in-person prior to the statewide stay-at-home orders issued in March.

In May 2020, Liberman received the Outstanding Doctoral Student Teaching Award from the Carson College recognizing contributions in the classroom. Students and faculty alike praise Liberman for her teaching approach and engagement with students.

“Natalie is a phenomenal teacher,” says Tom Tripp, professor of management and senior associate dean for academic affairs for the Carson College. “She was one of the best new educators from the doctoral program I’ve seen when she taught the undergraduate negotiations courses.”

“I love making a difference and making class fun and enjoyable,” says Liberman. “I’m going to go the extra mile to make sure students get their tuition’s worth.

The road to the Carson College

While she was an undergraduate student in marketing at California State University, Long Beach, Liberman worked in management positions for two national retail corporations. At the time, she envisioned a career path that would lead her up the corporate ranks. But as time went on, she began questioning whether that was the best fit for her.

“After some time, it felt soul-sucking,” she says. “I wanted to help people, and although helping people is still an important part of being a manager, at the end of the day, it’s more about corporate profits.”

Liberman soon discovered her true passion was in mentoring and helping others develop skills to prepare them for their careers. She enrolled in the MBA program at Cal-State with an emphasis on human resources management and began working as an assistant in a research lab, studying the brain activation of people going through a job interview process.

The study of business psychology, specifically in the area of management, emerged as the area Liberman felt would be the most rewarding in terms of a career. After she earns her PhD, Liberman says she would like return to Cal-State to teach and mentor students.

“Inspiring students and helping them choose a career path, one that they will enjoy and not feel stuck in, is the main reason I wanted to become a teacher,” she says.

Cultivating a rewarding student experience

Liberman combines a deep commitment to students with her love of teaching. Tripp says he was struck by the rapport she builds with her classes. Students are engaged and feel comfortable contributing to class discussion, even when they are “cold-called” in class. “Given all her efforts, it’s no surprise the course is so successful,” he says.

“I love inspiring and helping people, and I want to do it in an academic setting because I think that’s where I can impact the most lives,” she says.

Liberman reflects on moments in her undergraduate education and early career, where she felt unsure of her path, and uses those experiences to create a more meaningful experience for her students. “I don’t want the barrier between the student and professor in my classes,” she says.

Adapting to remote teaching in the age of COVID

Liberman admits the switch to online classes has brought about some challenges, but it hasn’t deterred her from making sure she delivers on her promise to students.

“I will deliver the same content, regardless of whether it’s online or in person. I’m going to give 100 percent.”

Liberman says instructors have to be adaptable when challenges arise, such as technology failures. It’s also important to recognize student frustrations and address their concerns, she says.

“You have to think quickly, stay positive, and keep the flow going as best you can. I know we are all struggling during the pandemic, and I make it a point to share resources that I think will help students,” she says.

“I deeply care about my students as people, and you have to acknowledge what is happening in the world.”