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).