Sarah S. M. Townsend

Associate Professor of Management and Organization

University of Southern California Marshall School of Business

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 editorial board member for the Journal of Personality & 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 2016 "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

Fall 2020

If Not You, Who? Check out Dr. Townsend's new (online) 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

Graduate Student Wins Prestigious Fellowship and 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 Professor 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 2019

Professor of the Week!

Dr. Townsend was featured in Poets & Quants as "Professor of the Week." Read the full article here!

June 2020

Research Award

Dr. Townsend won SPSSI's 2020 Otto Klineberg Intercultural and International Relations Award for her paper, "Difference Matters: Teaching Students a Contextual Theory of Difference Can Help Them Succeed" with Nicole Stephens and MarYam Hamedani! 

May 2020

Congratulations to Graduating Research Assistants!

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 to Our Lab Manager, 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.

September 2019

Symposia Acceptances - Society of Personality and Social Psychology!

Mindy Truong and Dr. Townsend's symposium Diversifying Intergroup Relations Research and Liz Quinn and collaborator Dr. Allison Skinner's symposium Examining Reactions to Counter-Normative Couples were both accepted to the 2020 Convention!  Congrats!

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