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World’s Best B-School Professors: Austan Goolsbee

Former chief economist for President Obama, Austan Goolsbee is one of the world’s best business school profs

Austan Goolsbee

Booth School of Business

Age: 41

Claim to Fame: Former Economic Advisor to President Barack Obama


Massachusetts Institute of Technology, PhD, Economics

Yale University, MA, Economics

Yale University, BA, Economics

At Booth Since: 1995

Fun Fact: Insanely committed to his work, was spotted in the classroom on his wedding day, tuxedo and all

What do you like most about your current job?

Getting to spend every day around amazingly interesting and smart people. And plus, not having a boss telling you what to do.

What do you like least?

Hmm. I suppose that academic researchers, in general, can get a bit isolated when they are deep into their work. I don’t like that too much. I like talking to people. But overall, you will never hear a complaint from me. Booth is like paradise.

What does it take to excel as professor at a business school?

Given the almost unreal caliber of the students at Booth, it definitely takes some respect of the people you are teaching. And with the unparalleled quality of the faculty–Nobel laureates, MacArthur genius award winners and so on–to excel at creating content, you can’t be afraid to take your lumps in seminars and workshops.  It’s how you learn.  It helps not to take yourself too seriously.

Last spring Austan Goolsbee made headline news when he announced his decision to leave his post at the White House where he attempted to help bring order to the fiscal chaos the United States has seen over the past three years. In 2008, Goolsbee was as a top economic adviser to then presidential candidate Barack Obama. Following the election, he was added to the president’s economic adviser’s council then promoted last September to chairman of the council.

If you weren’t teaching, what would be your dream job?

Doing voice overs for car commercials. Or being a correspondent for The Daily Show.

Goolsbee is no stranger to politics. Prior to joining Obama’s team, he was a member of the Panel of Economic Advisers to the Congressional Budget Office. His curriculum vitae also attests to his work as a research associate for the National Bureau of Economic Research, a research fellow at the American Bar Foundation, and his membership to the U.S. Census Advisory Committee.

Bidding farewell to Washington, Goolsbee returned to academia this fall as the Robert P. Gwinn Professor of Economics at Chicago’s Booth School of Business. When asked why he decided to leave such a high-profile position with the President of the United States, Goolsbee cited not wanting to jeopardize his tenure position held at the University of Chicago.