2017 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Hal Hershfield, UCLA (Anderson)

Hal Hershfield

Assistant Professor of Marketing

UCLA Anderson School of Management

Psychologist and marketing professor Hal Hershfield is on a mission to help people shape and maximize their future selves. His research asks, ‘How can we help move people from who they are now to who they’ll be in the future in a way that maximizes well-being?’ The implications of his work are to help people become self-motivated when it comes to looking out for their future selves.

Hershfield has taught at three top business schools: Northwestern University’s Kellogg School, NYU’s Stern School, and now the Anderson School at UCLA. Along the way, he’s accumulated two awards for his teaching impact, a Rising Star award from the Association for Psychological Science, and close to 1,900 citations on Google Scholar

Age: 37

At current institution since: 2014

Education: B.A. in Psychology and English from Tufts University ’01; Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University ’09

List of courses you currently teach: Introduction to Marketing

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? Most of my research focuses on ways to help people make more future-oriented decisions, like saving for retirement or eating healthier. In this work, we look at how people simulate the minds of their future selves, and how feeling a sense of connection (or lack thereof) to those future selves can affect long-term decision-making. Recently, my colleagues (Meghan Meyer, Adam Waytz, Diana Tamir) and I have begun exploring other consequences of mental time travel, and have found that being able to easily simulate other times in one’s mind can not only boost well-being but also creativity. As a result, we’re in the process of using these findings to help people think more creatively.

Professor you most admire: I feel incredibly fortunate to have benefited from the mentorship of Laura Carstensen, Brian Knutson, Adam Galinsky, and Dan Goldstein. Each of them has made a point of rigorously studying important topics with real-world applications, and I hope that I’ve absorbed some of their values.

“I knew I wanted to be a B-school professor when..I was a post-doc at Kellogg, and realized that it was possible to conduct my research in a setting that really valued policy-relevant findings.”

“If I weren’t a B-school professor…I’d want to work with the government to design programs aimed at making decisions easier for people (Or, I’d maybe want to open a café.).”

One word that describes my first time teaching an MBA class: Rushed! (I got a bit too excited about my first class and finished the 1.5 hour lecture in about 50 minutes. Luckily, no one revolted).

Most memorable moment in the classroom, or in general, as a professor: I once had a student tell me that he had to miss class because he was waiting for a keg of beer to be delivered for a party he was throwing. I was impressed with his honesty but disappointed I wasn’t invited.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? A few years ago, I found out that a hospital had used my research in an effort to encourage their employees to save more for retirement. I was honored that a paper I had co-authored was being used to affect people’s lives for (hopefully) the better.

What do you enjoy most about being a business school professor? I love when former students reach out to tell me that they’ve actually been able to use some of the lessons from the classroom in their jobs and in their lives.

What do you enjoy least about being a business school professor? I get vicariously stressed out when students come into my office worried about recruiting. But most of them get jobs, so I also take some vicarious pleasure in that.

What is your favorite company and why? Droga5 is an advertising agency / marketing firm based in New York. I’m struck by how creative they are, and I appreciate that they often take on socially conscious companies and causes.

Fun fact about yourself: I had a radio show in college with three other friends, and we were awarded the coveted 2am-6am time slot.

Bucket list item #1: Living abroad for long enough to become a ‘regular’ at a local restaurant.

Favorite book: I’m in the middle of reading My Struggle by Karl Knausgaard and love it. The author does a better job of capturing what it’s like to be inside someone else’s head than anyone else I’ve read.

Favorite movie: Man on Wire (2008) is something I’ve watched countless times. It’s calming, but also a good reminder of how so many things that we know and love are ephemeral.  

Favorite type of music: Indie and anything by The National

Favorite television show: Too many to name, but Portlandia, Louie, Reno 911!, and Arrested Development are always in heavy rotation

Favorite vacation spot: Paris for the food, culture, and little cafes, and the Jersey Shore, which has none of those things but does win out when it comes to great childhood memories.

What are your hobbies? Learning to use the smoker that my wife bought me, barrel-aging cocktails, and telling people that I can barbeque brisket and barrel-age cocktails even though I’m definitely not an expert at either.

Twitter handle: @hal_eh

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…a required class on how best to balance work and life.”

Hal has been tremendously influential on my own career—indeed, he is one of my favorite collaborators—and on the careers of many others. He’s always willing to help anyone, and to good effect from an output standpoint, as demonstrated by his extensive list of publications with different co-authors at all levels, from undergraduate to full professor (showing versatility and an ability to collaborate very well with others). Moreover, his research is top-notch and high-impact, as evidenced by his presence in virtually all top journals in both marketing and psychology. From a teaching standpoint, I know that his teaching ratings are often the highest of people teaching core marketing class, and this was the case both in his 3 years at NYU Stern and his thus far 2.5 years at Anderson. Finally, Hal has many students who stay in touch with him after they take his classes, for career guidance, marketing advice, and help with start-ups.:


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