2016 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Brian Wu, Ross School of Business

Brian Wu Michigan Photo 2 (1)

Brian Wu

Associate Professor of Strategy (with tenure); Faculty Director, China Initiatives

Strategy Department, Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Brian Wu is a busy man. Aside from being an award-winning researcher and teacher, he also serves on several committees of the Academy of Management and the Strategic Management Society. Not to mention, Wu is the school’s faculty director for the school’s China Initiatives along with being the associate editor for Strategic Management Journal. How does he get so much done? Simple: He didn’t carry a cell phone for three years and rarely consults social media. But Wu is no dinosaur. A master case teacher, Wu is known for fostering lively and insightful discussions, with his classes described as “joyous yet rigorous.” He holds a Ph.D. in management from the Wharton School and has taught at Ross for nearly a decade.

Age: 39

At current institution since: 2007

Education: Ph.D. in Management, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, 2007

Courses you currently teach: Mergers, Acquisitions, and Corporate Development.

Professor you most admire: Daniel Levinthal, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

“I knew I wanted to be a b-school professor when…I applied for graduate school.”

“If I weren’t a b-school professor…I would probably be either a park ranger or a cook.”

Most memorable moment in the classroom or in general as a professor: When students told me I had an impact (even a small one) on their thinking.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? My most recent research publication: “When Suppliers Climb the Value Chain: A Theory of Value Distribution in Vertical Relationships” (co-authored with Zhixi Wan), forthcoming in Management Science.

What do you enjoy most about being a business school professor? Integrating academic research with business practice. This process not only gives me fresh research ideas, but also makes my teaching more effective.

What do you enjoy least about being a business school professor? Integrating academic research with business practice. It is tough to do so. In fact, from a pure research perspective, I think it is less complicated to be more abstract and more specialized.

Favorite book: A Chinese novel called Hong Lou Meng. It has been translated into English by David Hawkes. The English title is The Story of the Stone or The Dream of Red Chamber. It is actually not the type of book I would normally read, but I admire it the most of everything I’ve ever read. It is a masterpiece.

Favorite movie: Crazy Stone, a 2006 Chinese comedy directed by Ning Hao.

Favorite type of music: I do not really listen to music. But sometimes I listen to songs by Andy Lau, a pop singer from Hong Kong, China.

Favorite television show: Friends

Favorite vacation spot: Australia (areas around Sydney). It was the first place that my wife and I traveled to 15 years ago. I hope to go back there again one day.

What are your hobbies? Running. But my friends like to call it jogging, because I’m extremely slow (5 hours, 5 minutes, and 50 seconds for the Detroit Free Press Talmer Bank Marathon in 2014).

Twitter handle: I don’t have one. I try to minimize the use of social media. In fact, I did not even use a cell phone for three years (2012 to 2015). It was one of the most productive periods in my life.

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…… perks like Google offers (e.g., free gourmet cafeterias, gyms, haircuts, and nap pods), so we can concentrate on innovation at work. We have some of these at Ross School of Business for a reasonable cost.”

Students say…

“Professor Wu’s class was a highlight of my MBA experience. His ability to facilitate meaningful and dynamic class discussions was fantastic. Each seminar, he would lead us on a convoluted journey through all aspects of a given business case, engaging the entire class in a deep debate with seemingly with no feasible resolution in sight, before deftly driving to a coherent takeaway —  a true aha! — at the last moment. I learned so much from him.”

Jane Fuerst, MBA ’15

“Brian is a passionate teacher whose educational style reflects his genuine interest in transmitting his love for research to students. His classes consist of joyous, yet rigorous, intellectual activities where students are taught how to develop an inquisitive mind. In his PhD course on Corporate Scope, he covers material from multiple disciplines, from finance to operations, with his open mindedness and curiosity to learn. Thanks to his teachings, many students learned how to see further by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Christina Zafeiridou, PhD Candidate


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