2015 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Mushfiq Mobarak, Yale School of Management

Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak

Professor of Economics

Yale University School of Management


Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak Yale-2

As Poets&Quants was putting together the top 40 Under 40 list, Yale School of Management professor Mushfiq Mobarak was leading a group of students to the Amazon, to study a “sustainable settlement” project intended to help families make new homes and livelihoods without having to clear forest land. The economics prof has a wide reach, with other research projects in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Kenya, and Malawi, where he conducts field experiments to identify technologies and behaviors that can improve welfare in the developing world. The fruits of his research have an even broader reach, appearing in media around the world. A winner of several teaching awards, Mobarak is co-chair of the Urban Services Initiative Poverty Action Lab at MIT, and has a PhD and master’s in economics from the University of Maryland-College Park.

Age: 38

At current institution since: 2007


Ph.D. Economics, University of Maryland – 2002

M.A. Economics, University of Maryland – 1999

B.A. Mathematics and Economics, Macalester College – 1997

Courses currently teaching:

MBA International Experience Trips to the Brazilian Amazon and to the Sumatran rainforest, focusing on agriculture and deforestation

Strategies for Selling New Products in Developing Countries

Economic Strategies for Doing Business in Emerging Markets

Professor you most admire: (1) Esther Duflo, Abhijit Banerjee and Dean Karlan for their efforts to make rigorous evaluation an essential part of the conversation in the development and policy-making communities, which has enabled the rest of us to do higher-quality and more impactful work, and (2) Mark Rosenzweig and Chris Udry for not letting us lose sight of the important questions and the issues affecting poor countries.

“I knew I wanted to be a b-school professor when…” . . . I realized in high school that economics uses rigorous analytical methods to address interesting and important problems directly affecting human lives.

“If I weren’t a b-school professor…” then I would like to run a tiny island nation, setting policies to improve welfare unencumbered by the bureaucracy or politics characteristic of larger countries.

Most memorable moment in the classroom or in general as a professor: (1) My uncomfortable silence when my 3-year-old asked me in my office, “What do you actually make in here, that Yale has to pay you money?”, (2) Graduate students at Yale vehemently arguing with my 5-year-old (who had come in to help me teach a class about Indonesia) about whether Komodo dragons kill their prey using poison or bacteria in their mouth . . . until a classmate reminded them that they were arguing with a 5-year-old.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? Whenever my research results have found their way onto policymakers’ desks, and affected the way they think, or conduct their work.  Getting tenure at Yale was pretty cool too, because it allows me to work alongside the nicest and smartest group of colleagues imaginable.

What do you enjoy most about teaching? Having an impact on the way others think, because I have realized that the impact I can hope to have on this world will be mostly indirect, through my students.

What do you enjoy least? Students not interested in learning, and only interested in developing a career. I have also developed a pet peeve about students who use the word “like” too frequently when they speak.

Fun fact about yourself: I travel a lot with my children, for both my work and for fun. My daughter had visited all inhabited continents by the time she was 7, and my son had elite status on United Airlines when he was 2. I have traveled to 60+ countries; 9 of them in the company of Yale MBA students.

Favorite book: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri; Felu-da Series (in Bengali) by Satyajit Ray

Favorite movie: Cidade de Deus, Slumdog Millionaire, Boyhood, Avatar, The Usual Suspects.

Favorite type of music: Tracy Chapman, Pearl Jam, pre-Achtung U2.

Favorite television show: Breaking Bad, the Jon Stewart Show

Favorite vacation spot: Cayman Islands, Rio de Janeiro/Brazil, Cape Town/South Africa, Sydney.

What are your hobbies? Snorkeling, diving and trekking, in oceans, rivers, rainforests and savannahs to see wildlife

Twitter handle: @mushfiqmobarak

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…” a much broader, global perspective on business. Developing countries need the innovations that B-school graduates would like to produce.

Students say…

Professor Mobarak is an incredible resource to students at the Yale School of Management as a researcher at the forefront of development economics. His cutting edge studies in affiliation with leading development think tanks are constantly informing which interventions work and, just as importantly, which do not work to alleviate poverty in the real developing world. In addition to incorporating these real-life insights in the classroom, Professor Mobarak is also hilarious, engaging and not afraid to push and challenge students to achieve new levels of understanding.

– Rebecca Gong, MBA/MPA ‘15

Mushfiq does an amazing job of challenging ideas and people but also making students feel comfortable to share their own doubts and questions.  Whether he was taking us around Indonesia to learn about the economic and business climate, hosting a panel at a conference, or teaching his elective, Mushfiq makes every moment a learning moment (and generally also a funny one).  Not only is his research and work inspirational but his down-to-earth style as a professor is refreshing.  Never a dull moment when you’re learning from him.

–Anita Jivani, MBA’15

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