When Lalin Anik was growing up she wanted to be a professional athlete. To be clear, this wasn’t like the uncoordinated kid bouncing the basketball off his foot in the 4th grade YMCA League. Anik was good. For more than a decade she competed for the Turkish National Swim Team in her native Istanbul. She won championships and set national records and, indeed, she was a professional swimmer for two decades.
But for all of that talent, swimming wasn’t enough to keep Anik engaged. So she simultaneously romanticized visions of working in marine biology. As a self-proclaimed chronic question asker, the thought of swimming next to whales and dolphins and learning about how they tick seemed like an ideal life path.
While she was in high school, she “stalked” Dan Rittschof, a marine biologist at Duke University. Eventually he invited her to the North Carolina-based campus before she started college to study crustaceans and crabs alongside him. “I realized I hated that,” Anik says, chuckling. “There were no whales. It was doing lab work and tagging crabs and looking at their migration patterns—nothing to do with my dream.” Also, not very exciting for a 16-year-old.
Anik didn’t dream of becoming a business school professor as a child—what kid does? But when Virginia’s Darden School of Business hired her as an assistant professor this year, that’s what she became. And her story is not uncommon to the 140 other newly hired graduate-level faculty at the Poets&Quants top 25 schools. While some are newly minted doctors of philosophy and others were astute veterans hired away from rival schools, many followed a path of trial and error before ending up instructing some of the best business minds in the world.