Sarah S. M. Townsend

Interim Assistant Vice Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Associate Professor of Management and Organization

University of Southern California Marshall School of Business

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Dr. Sarah Townsend studies the psychological foundations of inequality. Her research reveals the dysfunctional behaviors and physiological costs that can result when individuals’ cultural norms collide with the dominant cultural norms of organizations. She examines how these“cultural divides” are often a hidden source of inequality, but how they can be used to lessen opportunity gaps and fuel greater cross-group understanding. Dr. Townsend uses a multi-method approach. She measures people's cardiovascular and hormonal responses along with how they think, feel, and act.

Dr. Townsend is an associate editor for Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin and an editorial board member for both Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and Academy of Management Discoveries. She has also been featured on Poets and Quants as "Professor of the Week" and was named a "Rising Star" by the Association of Psychological Science. Dr. Townsend's research has been published in numerous scholarly outlets and she has been an invited speaker at numerous events and conferences hosted by the Society of Personality and Social Psychology, the Academy of Management, the Association for Psychological Science, and the Society for the Science of Motivation. Further, her research has been covered by various media outlets, including The Atlantic, Huffington Post, New York Magazine, and The Washington Post.


Dr. Townsend teaches undergraduate, MBA, and executive courses on organizational leadership and the science of bias, diversity, and inclusion.

News & Updates

January 2021

Interim Assistant Vice Dean

Dr. Townsend has been appointed as the interim Assistant Vice Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Marshall. She is thrilled to take on this leadership role and work with Vice Dean Rindova to continue and build on Marshall's mission.

October 2020

PhD Teaching Award

Graduate student Mindy Truong won the 2020 Marshall PhD Teaching Award for outstanding teaching of BUAD 304 - Organizational Behavior and Leadership this summer. Mindy's class had among the highest ever enrollment for a summer section of 304!

May 2020

Prestigious PhD Fellowship & Research Award

Congratulations to graduate student Mindy Truong who won the Marshall Outstanding Researcher Award. Further, Mindy was also awarded the Marshall Global Branding Fellowship. This competitive fellowship is awarded on the basis of merit to outstanding senior PhD students.

March 2020

Congratulations Associate Prof. Townsend!

We are excited to announce that Dr. Townsend has been promoted to Associate Professor of Management and Organization, with tenure. A well deserved accomplishment!

December 2020

Paper Accepted for Publication

Dr. Townsend's paper with Nicole Stephens and MarYam Hamedani entitled "Difference-education improves first-generation students’ grades throughout college and increases comfort with social group difference" is now in press at Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Fall 2020

If Not You, Who? Dr. Townsend's new course!

This unique, speaker series class focuses on the challenges and opportunities leaders have faced in 2020. We will cover leadership implications of the pandemic, the movement for racial justice, and more. Learn more and register here!

May 2020

Congratulations to Graduating RAs!

Congratulations to our graduating undergraduate research assistants Nick, Hridee, and Amanda. Also, to graduate research assistant Veronica Perry, who was awarded the Order of Arête, the highest honor accorded to graduate students upon completion of their academic program. 

February 2020

Congratulations Liz; We'll Miss You!

Lab manager, Liz Quinn, will be joining the Social Psychology doctoral program at the University of California Santa Barbara where she will be working under the mentorship of Drs. Zoe Liberman & Brenda Major.