Take, for instance, Leslie Robinson, 38, of Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. The slight professor of business administration is one of the few instructors to make a repeat appearance on the “Top 40 Under 40”–an accomplishment that reflects an outstanding academic and teacher as well as an all-around incredible person. Robinson is credited with “bringing accounting to life” for her students–a task many would put on par with a miracle. From reviewing students’ backgrounds before the first day of class to running with MBAs in Reach the Beach, a 200-mile overnight relay, LesRob (as she’s affectionately called) has inspired a near cult-like adoration among her students–an entire class once serenaded her with Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson.”
Other “Top 40 Under 40” profs share Robinson’s zest for connecting with students through extra-curricular activities and athleticism. Duke University’s Bill Mayew played varsity basketball at UNC –Wilmington and still shoots hoops with MBA candidates, often blocking their shots in student-versus-faculty games. Not to be outdone, Greg Fisher, 37, of Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business has 45 marathons and 16 ultra-marathons under his shoes. The South African is also an Ironman triathlete, thrice over.
Others, such as Markus Giesler, 37, pursue entirely different professions alongside their academic careers. The marketing professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business maintains a recording studio in Germany and spends summers touring Europe with his band, the Rocksoldiers. These experiences color his classroom sessions and inform his research on entertainment and high-technology marketing. Adam Waytz of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, is also in the music industry. The boyish and bespeckled 33-year-old teaches values-based leadership and ethics in one world and tours the globe with his rap group, Kill the Vultures, in another.
These standout pedagogues bring their rich extracurricular lives to the classroom. They’re engaging and energetic. Giesler tells of walking out of intense lectures dripping with sweat–he’s also been known to set off smoke alarms (once while lighting his dissertation on fire) and to reconvene class at the mall for an impromptu market research lesson. Xiaoyan Zhang, 37, a finance professor at Purdue’s Krannert School, tells of losing three pounds for every eight-week class she teaches.
Many of Poets&Quants’ top profs liven up intense, and doubtless dull, subjects with humor and interactive lessons. Northwestern University’s Kelly Goldsmith, 34, is known for her ready wit, enthusiasm, and anecdotes. The Kellogg professor of marketing includes comical clips of her stint on the TV reality series “Survivor: Africa” in the class’ end-of-year review video. Wharton’s Michael Sinkinson, 31, teaches risk from an insurance perspective by simulating the game show “Deal or No Deal”–complete with the series’ suspenseful “thinking music.”
These young academic superstars also connect with their students outside the classroom and build genuine and lasting relationships. Sinkinson meets with students regularly for lunch, while Goldsmith is a staple at students’ performances and extracurricular activities. ESSEC Business School’s Nicolas Glady, 34, responds to student emails around the clock, often in a matter of minutes, regardless of the time of day or night.