2016 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Marco Di Maggio, Columbia Business School

Columbia Business School's Marco Di Maggio

Columbia Business School’s Marco Di Maggio

Marco Di Maggio

Assistant Professor of Finance and Economics

Columbia Business School

Columbia students love Marco Di Maggio’s class because of its real world applications. According to one student, “By looking through different lenses at established theory and engaging students with case studies that allow them to apply concepts in real-life situations, Professor DiMaggio makes his course valuable to the most inexperienced and to the proficient students in the topic.” What’s more, students say Di Maggio is upbeat, funny, and engaging, making discussions about corporate finance that much more interesting and enjoyable.

In his research studies, Professor Di Maggio focuses on corporate finance and market microstructure. Particularly, he hones in on how institutional investors affect the functioning of financial markets, and how career concerns as well as market characteristics–such as trading transparency and search frictions–can shape their behavior.

Age: 30

At current institution since: 2013

Education: PhD in Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2013

Courses currently teaching: Advanced Corporate Finance

Professor you most admire: There are too many to make a comprehensive list, which would include senior colleagues at Columbia and elsewhere. However, there are no other scholars that shaped my way of approaching this profession as much as Daron Acemoglu, Abhijit Banerjee, Andrey Malenko and Steve Ross, who I had the pleasure to have as my advisors at MIT. They also made me feel part of an elite community for being mentored by them.

“I knew I wanted to be a b-school professor when…my dream of becoming a business school Professor started during my undergraduate studies at the University of Naples Federico II. My undergraduate advisor, Marco Pagano, was the first person in my years in Naples to believe in me, and he was able to see in me the financial economist I wished to become.”

“If I weren’t a b-school professor…I would definitely be a stand-up comedian. When I was in college, I started writing monologues and screenplays poking fun at Italian politicians and social norms with discreet success as several tv comedians used my scripts during their shows. Probably, I will go back to writing sooner or later.”

Most memorable moment in the classroom or in general as a professor: There are many that I will remember and carry with me. They all have to do with the students realizing that the time spent in class learning various topics and tools might actually be very useful in the real world. For instance, last semester a student that worked for McKinsey & Company before graduate school prepared a brief presentation showing to the whole class how he would have changed his suggestions to the client if he had known real options (one of the topics of the course) before.

I also really enjoy the last class of my course, for which I organize a Jeopardy Quiz. I prepare a series of questions of different difficulty levels covering the main topics of the course. Students answer using electronic clickers, and the program automatically keeps track of the students’ scores. This helps me in reviewing the whole course, without making it boring, and it is an integral part of their grade, so students come prepared and usually enjoy a little bit of competition. At the end of the class, I reward the top three students with a cockade that I make myself.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? I still remember the time when I got the admission letter to the Ph.D. at MIT…I played “We are the champions” all night long!

What do you enjoy most about being a business school professor? Interacting with a very diverse group of engaged students that are eager to share their experiences and goals in life…and the pictures we take at the end of the semester with a selfie stick!

What do you enjoy least? Dealing with the students…after grading their exams.

Fun fact about yourself: I proposed to my wife by doing what I do best…a seminar presentation of a fictional research paper (with theorems and proofs) about our relationship written exclusively for her. Difficult to believe it, but she said “Yes!”

Favorite book: Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, and Pereira Maintains by Antonio Tabucchi.

Favorite movie: I watch too many to have only one, but Cinema Paradiso makes me cry every time and I cannot refrain from watching Carlito’s Way, Pulp Fiction, and Love Actually (yes I am a romantic comedy type of guy!) when they rerun on tv.

Favorite type of music: People keep telling me that I should have been born in the 60s based on my musical preferences.

Favorite television show: The Newsroom, House M.D., Breaking Bad, and House of Cards for giving me the illusion I’m cool, and Two and Half Men, Modern Family, and The Goldbergs for reminding me of the ugly truth!

Favorite vacation spot: The Sorrento coast in southern Italy is hands down my favorite place to spend some time off in all seasons.

What are your hobbies? In the last few years, I became an avid collector of urban art and I acquired works by the renowned Banksy and Shepard Fairey as well as a dozen of other artists. I also visit art shows and galleries every time I can. My wife complains that I do not have any space left on the walls, but I cannot resist when I see an artwork I like and I keep using the excuse that I am investing for my children…who knows who will be the next Andy Warhol!

Twitter handle: I do not tweet, partly because there seems something embarrassing and self-advertising about it and partly because I feel the risk of becoming addicted like I am addicted to my smartphone.

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…grades disclosed to recruiters and a strong interaction with practitioners to develop new courses that bridge theory with practice. Columbia’s efforts in this direction are remarkable thanks also to the privileged position in New York, which I am sure will provide a significant advantage in shaping the ruling class of the future.

Students Say…

“Professor Di Maggio is fantastic. He is an expert in his field and he finds ways to relate the material to students in an interesting and engaging manner. For instance, he prepared a jeopardy quiz for the last class to review the material with cockades and other prizes to make it fun. He combines deep content knowledge,calm and humor. Since the content can be dry at times it’s hard to keep a whole class engaged but I think he did great. He is also very receptive, knows when students don’t fully understand and he goes the extra mile to facilitate review sessions when the TA was not preferred by students. This is one of the best classes I’ve taken at CBS.”

“Firstly, professor Di Maggio created truly great content for the class that covered the most important corporate finance topics that are truly relevant to any business leaders. The course was full of meaningful discussions about totally current topics and events that made the entire course greatly useful for all of us. The cases and assignments were absolutely up to date and interesting. Secondly, the way professor Di Maggio delivered the classes was fantastic. He came to class with lots of energy and passion, paid attention to the students, prompted questions and was willing to do extra work for the students to help their learning experience. He managed to find the right balance between teaching and making the class an interactive discussion about the current events and the assigned cases. Finally, professor Di Maggio is simply a great person. He is always cheerful and passionate to help students achieve their goals in and after Business School.”

“Di Maggio’s teaching style is extremely compelling for a number of reasons. First, he has a fantastic personality that sets the tone for a collaborative classroom. He is upbeat, funny, and engaging, and commands full respect of the class, while being modest and flexible. With a potentially intimidating subject matter like ACF, being approachable and patient was invaluable for many students. He personally held extra review sessions, adjusted well to feedback, and in general made himself accessible. He is truly a role model for an effective, yet kind, professional style. Second, he artfully merges theory and practice. On any given corporate finance topic, he first illustrates why it matters in the real world, assembling data sets to illustrate how the issue actually plays out and why it matters. He then walks through the theory and problem examples. He then highlights real-world applications, based on case studies, the news, and his own experience. Throughout the class, he draws on the collective experience of the class, keeping students engaged no matter their professional background. Finally, Di Maggio’s knowledge about corporate finance topics is both broad and deep. The ACF class covers a wide range of topics, and DiMaggio seems to be able to cover any topic at any level of depth.”

“Professor DiMaggio has an unique approach in bringing together theory and practice in his course. My work before school involved many of the concepts Professor DiMaggio presents and discusses in his course, so I went into the classroom in the first day of classes expecting to hear “more of the same”. However, his approach to such concepts was not only to introduce theory so that students unfamiliar with the topic could understand it, but also to bridge theory and practice in a way that builds on “conventional wisdom” and even challenges mainstream theory. By looking through different lenses at established theory and engaging students with case studies that allow them to apply concepts in real-life situations, Professor DiMaggio makes his course valuable to the most inexperienced and to the proficient students in the topic.”


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