2015 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Liad Wagman, Stuart School

Liad Wagman

Assistant Professor of Economics

Stuart School of Business, Illinois Institute of Technology



Dr. Wagman works on research topics in the areas of industrial organization, economics of information, and entrepreneurial finance, studying issues of information utilization and trade, innovation, e-commerce, and consumer privacy. He’s the recipient of a $30,000 grant from Yahoo! Labs, a $25,000 grant for interdisciplinary research from IIT, a fellowship from the Program for Advanced Study in the Social Sciences, and the International Conference on Artificial Intelligence Outstanding Paper Award. At IIT, he is the recipient of an Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award.

Age: 32

At current institution since: 2009

Education: PhD, Economics, Duke University, 2009; MA , Economics, Duke University, 2006; MSc in Computer Science, Stanford University, 2004; BSc in Computer Science and BA in Mathematics, University of North Carolina, 2002

Courses currently teaching: Managerial Economics, Game Theory, Negotiations and Strategic Decision Making, Microeconomics, Competition in the Global Marketplace

Professor you most admire: Curtis R. Taylor – incredible economics professor, researcher, and person. Blind since age 21, he has since run 6 marathons, advised numerous students, been a close mentor to many, a great colleague, and just a really good friend.

“I knew I wanted to be a b-school professor when” I knew I could marry my love for technology, entrepreneurship, and innovation with my passion for studying new economic issues that are brought forth by innovation. What could be more rewarding?

“If I weren’t a b-school professor” I’d probably alternate semesters between an economics department and Silicon Valley. Not as efficient, but I would make do!

Most memorable moment in the classroom or as a professor: There are many, and I remember such moments from every semester during which I’ve taught. From running an all-pay auction for a $20 bill in class with hundreds in revenue, to running an OPEC cartel simulation that somehow transformed into a game of Settlers of Catan, to just seeing the outrage in students’ eyes when we discuss the politics of Cap & Trade, or firms’ ROI from lobbying, or the welfare implications of monopolies. It’s all been truly rewarding.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? From a teaching perspective, I am proud of being awarded the Bauer Teaching Award – a university-wide award for which a single faculty is selected each year. From a research perspective, I am proud of receiving the Outstanding Paper Award at the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) conference – it was awarded to two papers out of approximately 1,000 submissions.

What do you enjoy most about teaching? I enjoy engaging with students, tapping their interests and connecting them with the material, the often unpredictable class discussions we end up having in class, seeing how students apply the concepts we cover in and out of class, during their studies and well after graduation, making life-long connections, and seeing how what we preach as teachers is being practiced by our students. It’s all extremely rewarding.

What do you enjoy least? Grading. That’s why I always have a TA!

Fun fact about yourself: I was born and raised in Haifa, Israel. I was part of a team that won the Israeli Junior Achievements competition when I was in Middle School – an entrepreneurial contest in which teams of middle school and high school students develop, market, and sell new products. While ubiquitous in today’s burgeoning smartphone market, our product was quite innovative at the time – over a decade before the introduction of the iPhone – we came up with eco-friendly low-cost phone cases for the world’s most popular cellular phones at the time, the Nokia 2110, 3110, and 3210 models, and their variants. Hundreds of millions of units of these phones sold worldwide, and phone cases, let alone low-cost cases that promoted environmental sustainability, were scarce.

Favorite book: To Kill a Mockingbird

Favorite movie: Interstellar

Favorite type of music: Alternative

Favorite television show: Survivor

Favorite vacation spot: Florida Gulf Coast

What are your hobbies? Reading, exercising, traveling, cooking, real estate

Twitter handle: @wliad

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have” Entrepreneurs-in-residence, startup accelerators, and technology parks – this is done at select b-schools to a fairly limited extent, but there is an opportunity here for so much more.

Students say…

He followed a practically oriented approach towards class material. For instance, he made class very interesting by making us learn about the economic aspects of OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) through a bidding competition by clubbing students into groups of different countries and then we played 8 bidding rounds for oil prices. Thus, this made class interesting and we learned a lot about different bidding techniques by just analyzing the current bidding rates. He gives you personal attention to a question, even if you bump into him anywhere on campus. He is a learner too, for instance, once we were discussing about the different issues of oil importing from different countries, like when India reduced its dependency on oil imports from Iran, and I discussed with him about out of course topics and questions, he always replied to them correctly with appropriate logic. The most valuable thing I learned in his class is the way of looking things with economic perception of supply and demand constraints. He made us learn in a cheerful and humorous manner. AND HE IS A BIG APPLE FAN, that brings a lot of things in common between me and him. That is why he is on the top in my favorite professor’s list.

– Prakhar Jajoo, MBA student, fall 2014

What I enjoy most about Prof. Wagman’s teaching style was that he used current examples to explain the materials. I barely had a background in managerial economics, but with his lectures and current examples it was easier to catch up. For example something that students are most interested about is usually Apple vs Android, and we use the news about it to understand the material that we were developing at the moment, like game theory. He points out the positive and negative ways to apply the theories that we were learning, supporting with current examples, and developing critical thinking. His approach is different than other faculty since he most of the days came with some article from the news of that week, and taught us how to read between the lines of what was going on in the company that we were focusing on, applying the materials of the course. So in general terms, he makes managerial economics easier to understand and taught us how to apply it using familiar examples and reading the economic news with a critical view.

– Marta Hurtado – MBA student, fall 2014

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