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World’s Best B-School Professors: Greg Fairchild

“Inspiring, warm, open and tough.” That’s how one student describes Darden’s Greg Fairchild, one of the world’s best business school professors

Greg Fairchild

Darden School of Business

Age: 47

Claim to Fame: Emerging domestic markets


Columbia University, PhD

Columbia University, MPhil

Darden School of Business, MBA

Virginia Commonwealth University, BS

At Darden Since: 2000

Before Darden: Columbia PhD; Brand Management at P&G

Fun Fact: Did fashion marketing at Procter & Gamble and Saks Fifth Avenue

If I wasn’t teaching, my dream job would be: Proprietor: Chef in a Fusion Restaurant

Best part of the job: Engaging with students who will make the world a better place

Worst part of the job: I teach for free. My compensation is for grading.

What started out as a trip to business school to get ahead in the fashion industry turned into a lifetime of teaching and research for Darden professor Greg Fairchild.

Fresh out of college, Fairchild’s hard work as an undergraduate paid off when he landed a job at New York’s famed Saks Fifth Avenue. As a manager in the women’s department, his day to day tasks ranged from managing a team of eight to closing the deal on $6,000 couture dresses. When his mentor (senior VP of Saks) asked him how far he’d hoped to take his career, Fairchild replied that he had his sights set on general manager. So the mentor advised him that, to get on the fast track, his ticket was the MBA degree.

As it turned out, Fairchild’s advisor couldn’t have been more wrong. “Out of 300 students in my MBA class, maybe three of us were from retail.” Likewise, Fairchild says when he completed the degree, there weren’t many retailers breaking their necks to put him on the “fast track.”

Yet there was a silver lining. His time spent pursuing his MBA afforded him some unique opportunities which eventually laid the groundwork for him to become a top business professor. Oddly enough it would come to pass that he would teach at the very school he attended for his own MBA.

While pursuing his MBA at UVA’s Darden School, Fairchild participated in a trip to Moscow where the students were tasked marketing a Pizza Hut operation in the region. As he thought through how to sell an American product in a communist market, Fairchild penned a case which later became one of Darden’s most frequently taught and best-selling case studies.

But it wasn’t his ability to write a good case study that got him thinking about a teaching career. It was the encouragement of a Darden professor who saw Fairchild’s potential and pointed him in the direction of a PhD. Still, Fairchild couldn’t picture himself in any industry outside of fashion. Even after completing his degree at Darden he remained connected to fashion as best he could, accepting a position in Procter & Gamble’s cosmetics division. “Not until I asked myself, ‘what if you could have a career where you could study businesses around the world and the ways in which these businesses enter into new markets?’” With this defining “ah-ha” moment, Fairchild headed to New York to pursue his PhD at Columbia University.

Fairchild is now a recognized and influential business professor at Darden. He leaves the study of big business to his colleagues and instead chooses to focus his research at the opposite end of the spectrum, honing in on an area he calls emerging domestic markets. More specifically, Fairchild is interested in studying inner city communities and ways to apply big business principles in areas that are generally viewed as high-risk.

Students Say:

“Greg is truly an inspiring, warm, open and tough professor.  Don’t be fooled into thinking he is a pushover by the “softer” side. He pushes students in often uncomfortable directions knowing, while they can’t quite see it, that they will succeed. I have truly grown in so many ways under Greg’s careful guidance. He is in many ways ‘one of a kind.'”