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World’s Best B-School Professors: Barbara Kahn

Barbara Kahn

The Wharton School

Claim to Fame: Former English Lit major turned Business School and Professor Extraordinare

Age: 58


Columbia University, PhD, Marketing

Columbia University, MPhil, Marketing, 1984

Columbia University, MBA, Marketing/Statistics, 1982

University of Rochester, BA, English Literature

At Wharton Since: 1990 to 2007; returned to Wharton in January 2011

Before Wharton: Dean of the School of Business Administration, at the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida

Fun Fact: I got to throw the first pitch at a Florida Marlins game, and I got it over the plate (and I’m a lefty).

If I wasn’t teaching, my dream job would be: CMO for a cool Internet start-up

Best part of the job: The best part of my job is research and teaching. I get to work on research problems that I find intriguing and that have relevance to managers. I also really like teaching and influencing and mentoring bright young students. In academia, you are always surrounded by interesting, creative, intelligent people.

Worst part of the job: I’m not sure if this is the best or the worst part of the job, but the students never age. The undergraduates are always 18-22 and the MBA’s are always average age 26-27. It’s a little bit like the intersection of “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” and “Groundhog’s Day.”

In early 2011, Professor Barbara Kahn returned to the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School after spending three and a half years as dean of the University of Miami School of Business Administration. During her short tenure in Miami, this marketing expert put her skills to good use, strengthening the business school’s brand in a crowded B-school marketplace. Under Kahn’s leadership, Miami’s school of business launched new academic and global initiatives and saw a jump across various B-school rankings.

In addition to her success as dean, Professor Kahn is best known for her scholarly work which centers on variety seeking and brand loyalty. Her research provides marketing managers with a better understanding of the consumer choice process. She has published more than 50 articles in leading academic journals and, between 1982 and 2006, she was the world’s seventh most published author of articles in the most respected marketing journals. In a way, you can say Kahn returned home having spent 17 years of her teaching career at Wharton before accepting the dean’s position in Miami.

Since rejoining The Wharton School, Kahn has also been appointed as director of the school’s Jay H. Baker retailing center, a think-tank for retail research, education, and practice.

Students Say:

As a student with a marketing background and retail industry experience, I applied to work under Dr. Kahn in a field application study on branding this spring for a large apparel retailer. Every meeting, Dr. Kahn provided new insight, angles and research to use for our study. Her extensive knowledge of the newest retail and marketing thought and trends changed my perception and approach to addressing our task, which I at first thought was an open-and-shut case. She constantly challenged me and my team to push harder and kept me asking myself “can I do more? What will Dr. Kahn say of my progress and findings?” It is a rare thing to have a professor that can push an already driven student beyond what they thought was possible and have them walk away from an experience feeling enriched. I hope I will be honored to work with her again during my last year at Wharton.” — Lauren Bitar – Current MBA Student

“Barbara Kahn changed my life in a very powerful, positive, non-cliché way. As my advisor, she taught me what being an academic researcher means – that we have the privilege to create and disseminate knowledge, investigating topics that are both intellectually appealing and managerially relevant.  I am forever grateful to her for the time, attention, support and encouragement she gave me as a doctoral student as well as an assistant and now associate professor. I am a better teacher, researcher, and scholar as a result of having been trained by her and working with her. It is hard to spend time with Barbara without being inspired by her passion for research, commitment to excellence, and sincere concern for other people. She truly is one of a kind and I’m honored to be her student.” — Andrea Morales – Wharton Alumnae, currently an Associate Professor at Carey School at Arizona State University