The Best 40 B-School Profs Under the Age of 40

Terry Taylor of Berkeley's Haas School is among the world's 40 best business school profs under the age of 40.

Terry Taylor of Berkeley’s Haas School is among the world’s 40 best business school profs under the age of 40.

What does it take to be a great teacher of business?

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mark Van Doren once mused that “the art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” That’s an art that our 40 top business school professors under the age of 40 share with each other. They draw students into often esoteric subjects, inspire deeper thinking and engaged discussion, assisting in the discovery of new and powerful ideas.

Poets and Quants searched near and far to uncover this remarkable group of men and women, some of whom have barely reached the age of 30, yet they have made a name for themselves as rising stars in business academia. We asked B-school officials, students and alumni for favorites and then sorted through the nominations to come up with a list of the world’s top 40 business profs under 40.

An ambitious definition for a great teacher can easily be found in the words of Justine Lelchuk, a second-year MBA candidate at Harvard Business School and co-president of the HBS Student Association. “A master business school professor,” she says, “is someone who is a dynamic facilitator, clear communicator, active listener, passionate expert, provocative motivator, bridge between theory and practice, and just plain human.”

That last bit is an attribute that can sometimes be elusive for a professor who is deep in the weeds of an esoteric subject. But the absolute best profs show they can rise above their nerdiness. Like so many accomplished achievers in any field, they tend to be inherently interesting—often for the peculiar choices they’ve made in life and the odd interests that have consumed them. When Alison Fragale, 35, a leadership professor at North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, decided to go for her PhD in organizational behavior, she chose it over another serious option: moving to Vegas to become a casino dealer. Long before J.P. Eggers, 38, began teaching management at NYU’s Stern School of Business, he performed as a fire-eater and on the flying trapeze with a circus school (See our list of the top 40 B-school profs under 40 on the next page).

  • Anthony

    It’s “Knyazeva” Sisters and yes these are amazing. @ Andrea Carter Look into them.

  • WhatYouDoing

    You people who complain about ‘profs’ and ‘elite schools’ and all that need to get a life. Why does it bother you so much? What the hell are you doing on here? Just go live your life. Weirdos.

  • CanadianInCanada

    Canadian bschool should be shut down. They are that bad! The students that graduate have so little knowledge. Biggest issue is the 1 year programs that don’t even require a background in business.

  • bill

    And like it or not the best, or at least most able to pay, schools are in the US and London. Look at any ranking, at least some of which (I’m thinking the FT) are quite thorough and probably not biased beyond the most structural industry biases. Same goes for “research” vs. “teaching,” which is explicitly a measure of willingness to spend money, i.e., a likely correlation with hiring.

  • Bill

    There’s two from Spain.

  • sy banerjee

    Greyangel, that’s correct. Research schools get the best bunch of candidates, that includes the best teachers. Counter-intuitive for someone who doesn’t know how academia works.

  • annon1234

    Clearly one criteria for being best is teach at an elite school. That’s a shame. Most people don’t get to go to one of those. Be nice to know of other outstanding profs at schools that are down a tier or two.

  • greyangel

    lol – “best in the world” means “best in the US, plus London”. While the methodology of the ranking may be reasonable (even if unclear), and the professors mentioned here clearly are really great beyond any doubt, calling such national rankings “worldwide” deprives them of sense and validity.

    Claiming e.g. that there is not even a single professor as good from continental Europe is just silly.

    Everybody in Asia is worse, too? Srsly? 😉 Canada a no-no?…

    Also, even within the US, only professors from research-driven and not teaching-driven schools can teach? That sounds counter-intuitive.

    But making a ranking for the US plus London and calling it “worldwide” is just too bombastic – it’d be too little even for “international”, really.

    There’s certainly a mixture of grandiose and self-complacency in such claims and they lower the validity of this, otherwise useful, publication.

  • Scott

    I guess there are no great professors at non-elite MBA programs??????? You seriously need to widen your net- some of the best professors are at less-well-known MBA programs.

  • Rishi JAIN

    Thanka John/Andrea. A very nice post. Especially the student comments give a good flare of qualities of a Prof you would like to go to for your Phd.
    A very kind post to give subject wise details and where are the Profs in teir lives.
    Researching for my Phd.. a very helpful post.


  • AFF

    The stark reality is this:

    Business School “Professors” on the whole haven’t a clue about “real business”, that is to say, taking a business from concept to market to success. So if someone is coming in to “teach” business at 28, well, RUN. What the hell do you think you’re going to learn from them?

    These top schools train their students to create fantastic presentations, but you can’t train creativity. This is why the world’s most admirable business men do not have MBA’s, but instead have the ability to incubate ideas into realities. No true businessman who has the desire to create and build would ever lock themselves in the safe cradling arms of the ivory tower.

    “Consulting” for companies isn’t work experience, it’s just a way for company X to say that they had HBS or Wharton Professors endorse the program.

    Screw HBS or Wharton, it should be P&G University and Kraft College – That’s where the real knowledge is acquired. Enjoy your $130k debt.

    Commence the anger…

  • KT

    I’m not in b-school and don’t know much about business at all, but I found this article very interesting from the perspective of being a teacher, and hearing about some of those “gut” qualities about what makes a great teacher. I was really pulled in to some of the interesting life stories mentioned (fire eater?! Wow!) and their winding road to education.

    IME, many professors aren’t as thrilled about teaching as they are their research interests, so it’s awesome to see how these professors are combining both and conveying understanding to students with passion. I find it all very inspiring!

    As for the under 40 age tag, I think it’s awesome as well. As a young educator myself (30) I find a lot of comfort in knowing that I, too, can achieve this level of teaching excellence as well. I think students are really checking for someone young and relatable in the classroom. No offense to more “seasoned” educators. To see that they’re at the beginning of their careers, inspiring others like they are, it *is* inspiring to me on so many different levels.

  • I think the title for the article is not correct according to the election criteria, mostly US professors. It should be The US’s Best 40 B-School Profs Under the Age of 40. This is another of many examples of the ethnocentric and discriminating view of research and education that still dominates in our business environments.

  • Hubert en Martine van Nieuwerburgh-Naudts

    We are very proud of you, dear son…
    Your parents in Belgium,
    Mom & dad

  • @Susan Strayer: “Why do you keep referencing that you inherited the rankings.” I don’t . I said it once, to make a point, one that was clearly lost on everybody. “I cheer ideas and executions that I think work and speak out against those that don’t.” That’s what I was trying to do with my first comment, that one that got everyone so worked up. I won’t make that mistake again.

  • Susan Strayer

    @louis why do you keep referencing that you inherited the rankings? I inherited many things in my current job but that doesn’t mean I am stuck wiu them. And for the record, the same person can create brilliance and crap. I know, I’ve done both too. I don’t root for a person in business. I cheer ideas and executions that I think work and speak out against those that don’t.

  • @mbaTiger, you really need to get a grip. One comment about the story–a comment the editor himself agrees with–and you have me dropping nuclear bombs on P&Q’s office. When you come back to earth and want to have a serious conversation, let me know.

  • I am really enjoying this conversation.

    Is this “40 under 40” raking of professors a ‘coin-toss’ of a ranking vis-a-vis the BBW’s “Best Business Schools” ranking (although these 2 are completely different animals)?

    As a reader, I also wish to read such ‘anecdotal reporting’ by the people like Poets&Quants in addition to the ‘serious & methodology driven’ journalism by the people like BBW. As a reader, I have every right to be informed about different angles of the same story to obtain a holistic point of view. As a reader, I will decide for myself which rankings have merit and which don’t.

    @BBW, It seems to me that you are contradicting yourself. You defend what John did at BBW and attack what he does at P&Q. Great!

    If publishing of such ‘anecdotal’ piece of information by P&Q invites so much attack from BBW, I really wonder what will happen if P&Q publishes a super methodology driven rankings?! BBW would drop a nuclear bomb on P&Q’s office and everyone who enjoy reading them. I beg you P&Q guys to inform us in advance before publishing such rankings. I will take the first flight to Madagascar. I don’t want to die of a nuclear bomb attack.

    PS–Before leaving for Madagascar, I am going to attend Mr BBW’s class on time management & multitasking. Why him only? Coz, after honestly analyzing “tens of thousands of student survey responses, reading hundreds of recruiter survey responses, and evaluating every piece of research produced by every faculty member at every ranked school” for the BBW’s Business School Rankings; he has so much time at his disposal which he generously spends giving lectures on “maintaining standards” at P&Q.

  • Let me stick up for my old buddy Lou at BusinessWeek. He’s absolutely right in saying that our list is not the product of a rigorous and thorough methodology. It is a story based on many interviews with many people, but that’s different than a more systematic approach with a methodology that would allow one to state with great certainty that these are the world’s top 40 business school profs under 40. That said, the 40 people we picked are absolutely terrific, inspiring teachers who are making a meaningful difference in the world of business education.

  • Thanks Ana! Really appreciate your very kind remarks, and good luck to you as you start teaching.

  • ana

    I found this information very inspiring as I’m getting ready to start teaching at the college level in my 20’s. I have met many negative and mediocre professors, and this shows me that there are still professors who give 100% to teaching and make a difference, which is what I want to do. I also liked the fact that you mentoned how many kids they have. I am a woman and want to start a family, and this shows that you can have a family as well as be a great professor if you are passionate about it. Thank you for your research and info!

  • So let me get this straight. If I suggest John’s ranking is less than perfect I’m mud-slinging. If I defend myself I’m thin-skinned. If I say anything at all it’s because Poets&Quants is a huge threat and I’m terrified. Does that pretty much sum things up?

    This isn’t about me. It isn’t about the BW rankings. It’s about this 40-under-40 ranking. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d really like to hear more about that.

  • Two thoughts: first on Professors Reed and Fragale. I had the pleasure of attending each of their classes, and they were both fantastic. They are brilliant minds and outstanding instructors, and we are very fortunate at Kenan-Flagler to have them. I would also add to the list of best professors under 40 Bradley Staats–I’ve had him for two classes, and his brilliance, humor, and insightful, interactive teaching style make his classes among the very best. If the other 38 professors in this list are half as good as Adam, Alison and Brad, then the future of business school instruction is quite a bright one.

    And re: Lavelle and Strayer, I was a journalism major early in my undergrad career, and I remember one of my profs saying that journalists have the thinnest skin of any profession. Louis is certainly providing a warrant to that claim. I never would have compared the BBW rankings to these–completely different animals. That said, John and his team must indeed be a bigger threat than I would have thought.

    Nice job!

    James Culp
    MBA Class of 2012
    UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

  • @Susan, thanks for the thoughtful response. You have every right to disagree with the BW methodology, but consider this. The MBA rankings that I oversee were not my invention. They were created by somone else, someone who also does not have an MBA. Someone who’s name is John Byrne. The same man created a ranking you disagree with and a ranking you endorse. Pretty interesting, isn’t it?

    @mbaTiger…I don’t view the rankings business as my “personal property.” But it is a business that I’m engaged in, and when I see rankings like this one without a real methodology and without any transparency concerning sources, I consider it my duty to raise those issues. That’s not mudslinging or insecurity. It’s called maintaining standards, and if the behemoths don’t do it I don’t know who will.

    For the record, I hold no ill will against John, who I consider a close friend and who I have the deepest respect for. For several years now, I’ve been defending his creation, the BW ranking, against its many critics, and I’m happy to. But for anyone out there who wants to challenge the BW methodology, doesn’t it make more sense to tell the guy who invented it rather than the guy who inherited it?

    Louis Lavelle
    Associate Editor
    Bloomberg Businessweek

  • Emags

    Under 40? Big deal!! Check out the 2 Kniavaza sisters at the Simon School. They became professors at 19 and 21….that was about 4 years ago. Since then they have published research with Joseph Stiglitz.

    Posted on Wednesday, May 09, 2007 11:31:55 PM by iowamark

    Two Russian-born sisters are due to become assistant professors of finance in New York state later this year, even though they are only 19 and 21, university officials said Wednesday. Angela Kniazeva and her younger sister Diana were due to take up their new positions in September at the University of Rochester, where half of their students will likely be older than them.

  • Along with the article, I enjoyed the duet between Mr Lavelle & Ms Strayer. From the Mr Lavelle’s first comment I guess that Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s
    got a little insecure with the Poets&Quants rising success. Mr BBW seems to think that ‘rankings’ business is his personal property and nobody should trespass. Should Poets&Quants be happy with what Mr BBW is saying about them? Yes. When your competitors take notice of you and criticize you in your face, you know you have really grown big! Cheers!

    PS–I enjoy reading many articles published in the BBW and think that a media behemoth like BBW should not indulge in such mud-slinging.

  • JSL

    The data points shared w.r.t personal life are really good way to introduce the Profs., moreover i am sure about the fact that now data is available for some guys which by BBW standards would not be present 😉 …..well its not not what one says / puts out in a survey which is deemed true but sometimes historical reference build by B School of any area which counts when one decides to choose a b school….

  • zahid

    this is really an awesome collection/work. I appreciate these type of activities …..

    thank u

  • Great comment, Susan. Gives me some very useful things to consider about my choice.

  • @Louis you’re right about the beat coverage analogy. I hadn’t thought about it that way. Thanks for the differing perspective. However, if you were just covering the news of B-schools, I’d understand. But rankings get at experience and outcomes and I don’t think the Business Week rankings get at that effectively while rankings like this one do.

    Now, you might research and figure out where I went to B-school and say I’m just saying this b/c my school isn’t higher ranked. But I disagreed with the rankings methodology you used long before that. So much so that I applied to 4 top 30 schools, got in 3 of them (one was a top 5), waitlisted at 1 and chose the lowest ranked.

    Here’s where I think the methodology doesn’t work (and why I don’t like Best Place to Work rankings either). There are so many differing experiences students have during and after school it isn’t about best place to go, it’s best place to go for you and your needs and experiences.

    I came out of school making way above the average salary. I’ve been promoted twice since I finished at a F500. But that’s b/c of what I personally learned and what I have since done with the experience. It doesn’t have to do with how high my GMAT was or was not. And I’d say the same for an IBanker and a Brand Manager.

    The summer between Y1 and Y2 of B-school, I interned at The Home Depot. There were about 40 of us from all the top B-Schools. Where they were from didn’t impact their work. Sure, some may have higher GMATs, but when you excel in one area you lack in others–and they were lacking serious social, political and teamwork abilities.

    Look, this isn’t an attack. No matter how statistically reliable and valid the methodology and factors are, I disagree with the inputs and always will. They don’t get at the actual experience during the 2 years and the impact it has 2, 5, 10 years down the line.

    Why do you think such a huge percentage of B-school grads leave their jobs after 1-2 years post-grad? They choose the job on cache and “rank” rather than on best fit for what they want from a job and what they have to offer.

    I wish BBW wasn’t in the rankings business–that’s a study not a news story. But I get it, it sells magazines, which, if we’re being honest, BBW really needs right now.

    PS: do you really review every piece of faculty research at every school? How is that even possible.

  • @Susan: Why am I so worked up. Because “rankings” like this one give rankings a bad name, and I’m in the ranking business. And this coin-toss of a ranking isn’t even in the same ball park as BW’s “Best B-Schools” ranking, which is based on tens of thousands of student survey responses, hundreds of recruiter survey responses, and an evaluation of every piece of research produced by every faculty member at every ranked school.

    Thanks for reading my bio, and no I don’t have an MBA. But I think your suggestion that I need an MBA to do my job is a joke. (Do you need to be a congressman to cover congress? Do you need to be the president to cover the president?) Generally speaking, when media outlets hire somebody to cover a beat, they prefer folks who haven’t already drunk the Kool Aid.

    Louis Lavelle
    Associate Editor
    Bloomberg Businessweek

  • Kfan

    I like this love-hate relationship between bw and P&Q. Kind of nice to see the grudging respect mixed in with the no-holds-barred comments.

  • Everyone has a different idea or metric of what makes a great prof. For me, I really like former practitioners, as I found those teachers to be valuable in my previous grad school experience. (My two favorite and best profs were practitioners over the age of 60.) In fact, that’d be a great idea for a list or profile — the best teaching former practitioners in a given specialty (finance, marketing, etc).

    I also don’t find anything offensive about noting the prof’s personal info. This is a feature profile to introduce us to these people. You’d find the same thing in a newspaper profile of someone.

  • idnm

    @Susan: “Why are all the commenters so worked up?”

    Some probably because they didn’t make the list! 🙂

  • Why are all the commenters so worked up?

    @Louis: the methodologies the more “esteemed” publications tend to use, are based on biases culled from the relationships they have at those schools. Take the Business Week MBA rankings–just because you use a methodology doesn’t mean your “World’s Best” list is any more well-deserved. Take the data point on salary–a higher salary doesn’t always correlate with success. Ask any congressman.

    It’s great to see young talent in grad school–older, tenured professors tend to care less–they DEFINITELY don’t get better with age, at least when it comes to teaching. I can’t tell from your BW bio if you have an MBA, but it might help since you run the section on the topic.

  • Nothing. But it’s a little personal detail to give you a sense of who they are and where they are in their lives. Nothing more. Nothing less.

  • dsfsdlfk

    How nice and arbitrary.

    Tell me – what do marital status and number of children have to do with a professor’s quality?

  • Steve,
    This will, in fact, be an annual list, and your suggestion is a very good one. We’ll open up the nomination process next time to cast a wider net.

  • Steve Rudolph

    If you do this again in the future, I would like to see the nomination process opened up similar to how the Business Journals in many U.S. markets handle their 40 Under Forty awards.

  • Lou, I have to confess that we put the 40 age limit on the project in an attempt to identify the best young professorial talent out there. And you’re right: the list is quite subjective, culled from lots of interviews and conversations with B-school officials, students, alums, faculty. It is mainly based on anecdotal reporting, not a methodology.

  • Frankly, this ranking strikes me as subjective in the extreme. Before you go and slap a “World’s Best” headline on something like this it would have been nice to know who, exactly, you surveyed–how many people, which schools, etc.–and what, exactly, this “sorting” process involved. Was there any critieria beyond fond memories–things like experience (academic, corporate) or published research?

    My second point is why under 40? Does age really matter to anyone? And don’t profs get better with age, at least in the sense that they have more experience? Why not just the top professors, period?

    Louis Lavelle
    Associate Editor
    Bloomberg Businessweek

  • Nice post! But Andrea, I have one question for you – why so US-focused? What about faculty in top schools around the world? (Hint: INSEAD.)

  • LaurenHBS

    Congrats Prof. Ton, Piskorski, and Elberse! As someone who has been fortunate to have all three professors, I can honestly say all is well-deserved!

    ***Follow my new Twitter account for admission advice and updates on daily life at HBS!: @LaurenHBS