To help students problem solve, he deploys a number of methods, including case studies, which allows them to dig deep into statistics and describe, defend, analyze and critique findings. Also, he uses role playing to give students the chance to try to execute what they are learning.
“I love the case method and also weaving in application,” he says. “I want them to develop confidence.”
Still, one of the most compelling parts of the coursework is the fact that Bermiss can draw on his passion.
“It’s a cool course for me because it dovetails with my research,” says Bermiss. “I push students to develop hypotheses about the causes of the central issues firms face with talent management and then use data to test those hypotheses. It’s applied statistics.”
An award-winning researcher, he focuses on strategic management and organizational theory, studying how institutional factors shape a company’s perception and how human capital movement influences a company’s ability to compete.
He and Rory McDonald of Harvard Business School have researched how an employees’ political ideology relates to their relationship with the organization. The duo tracked the movement of more than 40,000 investment professionals in the U.S. private equity sector over a 10-year period.
In the article “Ideological Misfit? Political Affiliation and Employee Departure in the Private Equity Industry,” they explored how political ideology has crept more and more into various parts of people’s lives, specifically their workplaces. The focus of their attention was whether people were more likely to move if the company’s political stance diverged from their own.
Now, Bermiss is working on more research about how angel investors might be impacted by the political ideologies they hold.
Love and hip-hop
A family man, Bermiss is motivated by his wife, Traci, and their two children. Traci works for IBM and recently moved within the organization from the marketing function to the human resources area as a global diversity and inclusion leader.
“Now, she has developed a newfound respect for my work,” says Bermiss.
The family is enjoying the Triangle and its ideal location for exploring the state, including an Outer Banks vacation. “Being close to the beach is awesome,” says Bermiss, who likes to play basketball and is an amateur golfer looking to play more often in the beautiful weather in North Carolina.
Beyond teaching, research, and family life, Bermiss has come to be known for his annual reviews of hip-hop music. The tradition began when he was at Northwestern and missing his friends back in New York. They used to get together to discuss their favorite music, and Bermiss felt empty without the debates about lyrics and nuance.
So, around the holidays, he wrote an email to his friends with all his thoughts on the year’s most impactful hip-hop albums. People kept asking for the next edition, and the annual tradition was born. Today, Bermiss continues to share his yearly list of best albums and even hosts a podcast. His favorite hip-hop artists include Jay-Z, Nas, Kanye West, DaBaby and Rapsody, who is from North Carolina.
In his 2020 list, he declared the best album of the year as “Extinction Level Event 2 (ELE2): The Wrath of God.” Busta Rhymes has spoken of how hip-hop can influence change and his commentary is relevant to Bermiss’ approach to being a professor and his love of the music genre: “Hip-hop reflects the truth, and the problem is that hip-hop exposes a lot of the negative truth that society tries to conceal,” has said Rhymes. “It’s a platform where we could offer information, but it’s also an escape.”
Listen to Bermiss talk with Ayana Younge (PhD ’20), a postdoctoral research associate, about transitioning to UNC during a pandemic, his research and his music playlist.