2017 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Ryan C. McDevitt, Duke University (Fuqua)

Ryan C. McDevitt

Assistant Professor of Economics

Duke University, Fuqua School of Business

“He doesn’t just study problems, but offers solutions.”

That’s how Russ Morgan, Senior Associate Dean at Fuqua, describes McDevitt, adding that he is a “model of academic excellence both in teaching and research.” Last year’s runner-up for Professor of the Year at Fuqua, McDevitt is renowned for his thought-provoking classes and availability to students.

McDevitt is an impactful researcher, a jack-of-all-trades who has tackled the healthcare, venture capital, internet and retail industries..to name a few. In addition, he is an associate editor for the Journal of Industrial Economics. What’s more, he has gained accolades at two different schools. Before joining the Fuqua faculty in 2013, he was an assistant professor at the University of Rochester’s Simon School of Business, where he was named Professor of the Year in 2012. If he weren’t teaching MBA students, McDevitt thinks he would have loved to be a writer at The New Yorker, a hint perhaps of his love of extraordinary writing and speaking.

Age: 37

At current institution since: 2013

Education: Ph.D., Economics, Northwestern University, 2010; B.A., Economics, Williams College, 2002

List of courses you currently teach: Managerial Economics

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? My current research focuses on the economics of health care.  In a recent paper, my coauthors and I studied how Medicare’s reimbursement policies affect the treatment of patients at long-term care hospitals.  We found that hospitals strategically time the discharges of patients so that they occur during the most profitable window for payments, and patients have worse outcomes as a result.  Our analysis shows that Medicare could save tens of millions of dollars each year simply by removing hospitals’ incentives to game this reimbursement scheme, which would make patients better off as well.  

Professor you most admire: Mike Mazzeo (Kellogg) taught me everything I know.

“I knew I wanted to be a B-school professor when…I sat through Mike Mazzeo’s strategy class at Kellogg as his grad student TA.  Mike brought an incredible amount of energy into the classroom and kept everyone engaged during case discussions even though he was teaching fairly dry material about microeconomics and industrial organization. He made it all seem so effortless that it came as a huge shock when I became a professor myself and discovered how much effort actually goes into making teaching seem effortless.”

“If I weren’t a B-school professor…If talent weren’t a limiting factor, I’d love to be a staff writer for the New Yorker.”

One word that describes my first time teaching an MBA class: Terrified

Most memorable moment in the classroom, or in general, as a professor: Last fall, the Black and Latino MBA Organization organized a day of solidarity during which everyone at Fuqua was encouraged to dress in black. Virtually my entire class and I participated in the event, and it was a powerful display of unity to have so many people from so many different backgrounds come together to help raise awareness for some very important issues related to social justice.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? Getting voted tenure at Fuqua three years ahead of schedule.

What do you enjoy most about being a business school professor? At the risk of sounding sappy, for me the most enjoyable part of being a professor at Fuqua is getting to work with students who genuinely care about making an impact and helping others. I was initially very skeptical about the notion of Team Fuqua before arriving at Duke because it struck me as little more than a superficial tagline aimed at promoting the school’s brand. But now that I’ve experienced the sense of community here firsthand, I’ve come to appreciate that the culture surrounding Team Fuqua has real substance behind it and helps set the school apart. From sponsoring a refugee family to assisting professors as academic fellows to raising money for the Special Olympics, the students at Fuqua work selflessly to help others in a way I haven’t seen anywhere else.

What do you enjoy least about being a business school professor? 9 a.m. classes

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve run every day for over 19 years and have completed 17 marathons.

Bucket list item #1: Sitting courtside at Cameron Indoor with my wife and kids for the Duke-UNC game.

Favorite book: The World According to Garp

Favorite movie: White Men Can’t Jump

Favorite type of music: A Tribe Called Quest

Favorite television show: Seinfeld, Sopranos, The Wire

Favorite vacation spot: Disney World

What are your hobbies? Running, coaching my kids’ soccer and basketball teams, going to Duke games, eating at Monuts.

Twitter handle: @ryanmcdevitt

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…more economics. With companies like Amazon now placing a greater emphasis on rigorous, data-driven analysis to make decisions, MBA graduates need a thorough understanding of economics to help make sense of the complex set problems that businesses face. Even though economics can at times seem like the kale of the MBA curriculum (it’s good for you but not really that enjoyable), the foundation that economics provides will prove invaluable no matter what type of career a student ultimately pursues.

Students say:

“Ryan is a truly inspirational professor who cares immensely about his students. Ryan pushes his students to go beyond just the theoretical concepts and understand real world application of those concepts. Whether it is a discussion regarding economics or a discussion regarding career prospects, Ryan is always available for his students.”


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