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2017 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Szu-chi Huang, Stanford GSB

Szu-chi Huang

Assistant Professor of Marketing

Stanford Graduate School of Business

What is one of the best compliments that a professor can receive? It would have to be having your students regard you as “unforgettable.” At the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Szu-chi Huang is both a driver of impact and a source of inspiration for her students. An assistant professor since 2013, Huang is best known for taking her students on life-changing expeditions to China, where she immerses them in the cultural, political, and business nuances of the world’s largest economic power. “The way she built at atmosphere of energy and enthusiasm meant students were truly devoted to the trip and meeting our Chinese counterparts,” explains one student. “She showed exemplary leadership in this regard.”

Along with overseeing this exchange program, Huang also teaches Consumer Behavior, an experiential course that three in four students rank as “Exceptional” (with an overall score of 4.8 on a 5.0 scale). Outside of class, Huang notes that her research focuses on consumer motivation. “My findings inform businesses and organizations on how to sustain stakeholders’ engagement through adaptive incentive systems and loyalty programs, and help individuals in their continuous pursuit of important goals in life,” she tells Poets&Quants. As a result of her work she was named both a Marketing Science Institute Young Scholar and an American Marketing Association Sheth Distinguished Faculty Fellow in 2017.

Age: 36

At current institution since: 2013

Education: Ph.D., Marketing, University of Texas at Austin (2013); M.A., Advertising, University of Texas at Austin (2008); B.S., Business Administration, National Taiwan University (2002); B.S., Economical and Financial Laws, National Taiwan University (2002).

List of courses you currently teach: For MBA students, I teach Consumer Behavior and I am the faculty advisor for STEP (Stanford-Tsinghua Exchange Program). For PhD students, I teach a seminar on Consumer Behavior Classics.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I’m currently researching when and why people would avoid information from their social environment (such as muting friends’ progress notifications on Fitbit). My research finds that although sometimes we feel vulnerable about how we are performing on our goals and would rather avoid information about how others might be doing better than us, this is exactly the moment we should have this information in order to stay motivated towards our goals.

Professor you most admire: There are too many! My dissertation advisors, Susan Broniarczyk and Ying Zhang, my faculty mentor Jennifer Aaker, and my research mentors Angela Lee, John Lynch, and Meg Campbell. They are amazing scholars and successful teachers. They provide me with unconditional love and support, while pushing me to be the best scholar, teacher, and colleague I can be.

“I knew I wanted to be a B-school professor when…I honestly had never thought about it until I realized that 1. I loved doing research at UT-Austin and I wanted to learn more, and 2. I needed a full fellowship to continue my graduate study. The marketing department at UT-Austin gave me the opportunity and support I needed to continue learning and conducting the research I love. One thing led to another, and I soon found myself on the job market searching for a faculty position.”

“If I weren’t a B-school professor…I would be back in the advertising industry in Asia, designing marketing campaigns and producing television commercials with international and Hollywood celebrities.

One word that describes my first time teaching an MBA class: Showtime!

Most memorable moment in the classroom, or in general, as a professor: I was on a global study trip in Asia with my MBA students, and we started a discussion on the bus about “What is Beauty” in the East vs. in the West and its implication to the cosmetic industry. As a young female faculty from Asia and now working in the US, I found this discussion liberating (with a healthy dose of awkwardness).

What professional achievement are you most proud of?  Being selected this year as an MSI Young Scholar and as an AMA-Sheth Distinguished Faculty Fellow.

What do you enjoy most about being a business school professor? It challenges me on every dimension (intellectual, emotional, physical, and even spiritual) every day. It is awesome.

What do you enjoy least about being a business school professor?  A long day of meetings.

Fun fact about yourself: I almost died in a mosh pit at a Wu Tang Clan concert. Never buying front-row seats to a hip-hop concert again.

Bucket list item #1: Kayak next to the whales in the Sea of Cortez

Favorite book: “Taipei People” by Hsien-yung Pai 

Favorite movie: Big Fish

Favorite type of music: Jazz when I relax, hip-hop when I work out, and classical music when I miss my family in Taiwan

Favorite television show: Boardwalk Empire

Favorite vacation spot: Turkey

What are your hobbies? Yoga, jogging, dancing, music, art, movies, watching sports, trying new restaurants

Twitter handle: N/A

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…a grand piano in the middle of the faculty lounge.”

Students say:

“I had the pleasure of meeting Professor Huang on my Global Study Trip to Shanghai and Seoul. I was struck by her keen understanding of consumer markets, especially in Asia, demonstrated by deep knowledge of consumer psychology and her own experiences building brands in Asia. And, most importantly, Professor Huang is such a personable, down-to-earth individual, whether she’s telling stories about her experiences on advertising shoots in Taiwan or leading a toast for an alumni dinner.”

“She has had a tremendous impact on my experience during the Stanford Tsinghua Exchange Program (STEP). During our trip to Beijing Thanksgiving last year she led very insightful debriefing sessions after each speaker and company visit that highly contributed to my learning about China. Her ability to make everyone feel heard and at the same time challenging us to rethink our own views is outstanding.”

“She has been an inspiration to me and has guided me through the process of starting my own company. Her class “consumer behavior” was one of the most interesting and practical courses I’ve taken at Stanford business school and it has directly helped me in terms of designing my startup’s go to market strategies which proved to be working quite well. Without her guidance and encouragement, I wouldn’t have pursued my entrepreneurial career. Her charisma, passion and her way of introducing marketing experiments to classrooms are so rare to find, especially for her age.”

“I met Szu-Chi as the academic and program advisor for the Stanford-Tsinghua Exchange Program (STEP). Before the experience, I knew next-to-nothing about China. In fact, that’s why I signed up. And I can confidently say it was because of Szu-Chi’s tireless involvement that I went from 0-to-60 on the intricacies and complexities of the Chinese market. What’s more, through a combination of her deep expertise in consumer behavior, cultural understanding of the complexities of the Chinese and American markets, and her infectious energy, Szu-Chi has been one of the most influential professors I have met at the GSB.”

DON’T MISS: THE FULL 2017 ROSTER OF THE WORLD’S 40 MOST OUTSTANDING BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSORS UNDER 40