2016 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Valerie Karplus, Sloan School of Management

Valerie Karplus MIT

Valerie Karplus

Assistant Professor, Global Economics and Management

MIT, Sloan School of Management

Forecasts suggest that rapidly developing nations such as China will be responsible for most of the growth in greenhouse gas emissions over the next 50 years. Valerie Karplus isn’t sitting back waiting for it to happen. Instead, she’s doing something about it now and using her expertise on China’s energy system – including technology and business model innovation, energy system governance, and the management of air pollution and climate change – to help correct the course we’re on. From 2011 to 2015, she directed the MIT-Tsinghua China Energy and Climate Project, a five-year research effort that focused on analyzing the design of energy and climate change policy in China, along with its domestic and global impacts.

Alongside her research, Professor Karplas teaches Entrepreneurship Without Borders and New Models for Global Business, along with co-developing an all new course at MIT on Global Energy Markets and Policy. She also serves the university as a faculty affiliate of the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change and the MIT Energy Initiative.

Age: 35

At current institution since: 2006

Education: B.S. Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and Political Science, Yale University, 2002; M.S. Technology and Policy / Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2008; Ph.D. Engineering Systems, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2011

Courses you currently teach: New Models for Global Business, Entrepreneurship without Borders, Mentor for Global Entrepreneurship Lab, China Lab, and Global Organizations Lab

Professor you most admire: Elinor Ostrom

“I knew I wanted to be a b-school professor when…I discovered I could apply my diverse interests in the management of technology and innovation, the natural sciences and engineering, and global affairs and policy to advance solutions to major challenges facing society—a hallmark of scholarship at MIT.”

“If I weren’t a b-school professor…I would spend my days painting and writing novels.”

Most memorable moment in the classroom or in general as a professor: Leading the CEOs of the MIT Sloan Global Entrepreneurship Lab companies in the Marshmallow Challenge (a game that requires building a structure out of tape, string, and pasta, then placing the marshmallow on top within 18 minutes)—this exercise led to an abundance of creative designs and unexpected insights.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? Building a cross-border, multi-disciplinary research team involving energy economics researchers at MIT and Tsinghua University. Our team contributed to analysis that supported U.S.-China cooperation on climate change ahead of the 2014 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, where Presidents Obama and Xi jointly announced their intended pledges for climate action ahead of the Paris Climate Talks.

What do you enjoy most about being a business school professor? I thoroughly enjoy the variety of topics and challenges I am able to tackle as a business school professor. I also enjoy experimenting with a variety of interactive classroom formats, including simulations, business cases, and debates.

What do you enjoy least about being a business school professor? The fact that a day only has 24 hours—I could easily fill twice that much time with all of the exciting opportunities.

Fun fact about yourself: When I was young I used to draw cartoons everywhere.

Favorite book: The Giver

Favorite movie: The King’s Speech

Favorite type of music: Classical

Favorite television show: Top Gear

Favorite vacation spot: Big Sur, California

What are your hobbies? Skiing, Painting, Running, Yoga

Website: vkarplus.com

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…even closer integration between the classroom and practice. It would also serve jianbing (a Chinese fried-egg pancake often eaten for breakfast) in the canteen.”

Students Say…

“Prof Valerie Karplus, who served as my mentor, is highly approachable and supportive. She always inspires us to approach problems from different perspectives, and with an eye for detail. She teaches us how to think rather than what to think.”

Yuting Fang, MIT Sloan Master of Finance Program, Class of 2016

“At MIT Sloan, students typically have significant industry experience in addition to the required academic background.  Accordingly, each student brings with them domain-specific knowledge from a variety of different disciplines, the benefit of having been exposed to a wide range of teaching styles, and varied life experiences. Given this diversity, finding ways to effectively reach all students is a challenge – Professor Karplus continually rose to the challenge. She made a concerted effort to connect the class to the subject matter using her insight, inclusive teaching style and current case studies, thus making the class concepts both meaningful and relevant. She also excelled at connecting us with our fellow classmates.  I found her to be an extremely effective educator.”

Dave Whyte, MIT Sloan Ph.D.; currently Head of Cyber Security, Bank for International Settlements

“Professor Valerie Karplus is truly the guru of international strategy. Her classroom is always filled with the most dynamic and interesting discussions (and sometimes debates) of international strategy and culture. Drawing from examples as diverse as Xiaomi, CEMEX and Uniqlo, Professor Karplus helps students build the necessary frameworks to better analyze and think through different internationalization strategies. She challenges students to not only determine HOW companies should go global, but also answer the question of IF companies should go global at all. Professor Karplus is one of the most engaging and thoughtful professors, and her class – New Models for Global Business should be on the shortlist of must take classes.”

Jake Chen, MIT Sloan MBA Class of 2016


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