2018 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Ing-Haw Cheng, Tuck School of Business

Ing-Haw Cheng

Assistant Professor of Business Administration

Dartmouth College, Tuck School of Business

At Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business where he teaches challenging courses such as Capital Markets and Futures & Options Markets, Ing-Haw Cheng is known among students for his positivity and ability to artfully explain complex ideas. Even to those without a financial industry background or experience, his patience and pure desire to see students learn stands out among MBAs. Professor Cheng’s research contributions to the finance field are varied, ranging from investors’ use of financial derivatives to hedge their portfolios to causes of the 2008 financial crisis. He was recently recognized as “Best Discussant” by the Financial Research Association and in 2016, Cheng received the Distinguished Referee Award from The Review of Financial Studies in recognition of his excellence in reviewing research papers within his field. His own research has been highlighted in business and financial industry press including The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times.  

Age: 37

At current institution since what year? 2013

Education: 
Ph.D., Economics, Princeton University, 2009
B.S., Mathematics, University of Chicago, 2001

List of courses you currently teach:
Capital Markets (First-Year Core)
Futures and Options Markets (Elective)  

TELL US ABOUT YOUR LIFE AS A PROFESSOR

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…” I realized that it was a unique opportunity to both push the frontiers of knowledge and help students learn how to use the best of this knowledge in practice.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I’m currently researching how investors can use financial derivatives to hedge their portfolios against stock market volatility. My research is quite varied within finance – I’m also researching how consumers who are late on their credit card balances fare when they negotiate with debt collectors. Some of the work I’m most proud of is in researching the causes of the 2008 Great Financial Crisis. There’s growing evidence that over optimistic expectations of home prices by homebuyers were a serious contributor to the boom and subsequent bust.

“If I weren’t a business school professor…”  I’m not even sure!

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? To be honest, I’m not sure. If I had to guess, I think it’s because I genuinely believe that finance has something to offer for everyone. The details can be tricky, but the central concepts in finance are simple and important for people in all walks of life. I try to span this range for my students.

“One word that describes my first time teaching”:

Fun!

If your teaching style/classroom experience had a theme song, what would it be?

“Eye of the Tiger,” for sure. It’s cliché, but it pumps me up every time.

As a b-school professor, what motivates you?

Trying to match the energy of both the Tuck students and the professors. The enthusiasm the students bring each year to campus is palpable and inspiring—it keeps you on your toes. Talking every day with my colleagues helps me identify weaknesses in research ideas and improve them. It’s a reminder that there is always more to learn.

“Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor”:

How exhausted I would be at the end of each day. By the time I hit the hay at night, I am a total zombie.

Professor you most admire and why:
So many professors have served as great mentors for me over the years. It’s hard to pick out one, but I have to say my thesis advisor Wei Xiong at Princeton University. He has an uncanny ability to cut through details and identify the central concept on any topic.

STUDENTS

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?
Business school students have great sensibilities. They have experience in the workplace and can sift through what’s important and what’s not. They remind me of my wonderful former colleagues in management consulting. Hard-working, bright, great at structuring difficult problems and finding creative solutions.

What is most challenging?

Hitting the limits of my own physical and mental energy. The three C’s help: Coffee, Coke, Cookies.

Using just one word, describe your favorite type of student

Engaged

Using just one word, describe your least favorite type of student

Asleep

What is the most impressive thing one of your students has done?
I had a student last year score 100 on my take-home final for my class on financial derivatives. No one had ever scored above 91 before that. The exam is open-notes, open-book, open-anything-short-of-help-from-someone-else; they have a week to complete it. I ask the students to really apply some of the work we’ve done in class projects to new problems and data. It’s hard, but rewarding in its own way.

What is the least favorite thing one has done?
I’d be hard pressed to think of anything specific. The thing is, a lot of things that might fall under this heading happen because, well, life happens. MBA students are under incredible pressure these days, not only to do well in the classroom, but also to participate in recruiting activities and to extend their professional network. They are constrained with their time and energy, and often need to make rational trade-offs. Part of this job is understanding that.

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class?
Demonstrate mastery of the material. A certain fearlessness in asking questions during class when things don’t make sense helps too. I respect that a lot. Maybe the material is tricky and the rest of the class is also confused, or maybe I botched the explanation. I try to detect when either of these things have happened, but it certainly helps when a student is willing to raise their hand and say so.

“When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as …” Fair.

“But I would describe myself as …” Fair. See what I did there?

Fill in the blank:

“If my students can explain the concept of risk and reward, then I’ve done my job as their professor.”

LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM

Fun fact about yourself: I once ate through the Las Vegas 24-hour “Buffet of Buffets.” I love a good buffet.

What are your hobbies? I would say cycling, but I’ve had to put that on the shelf for a while since I have two small children, two and four years old. Now my hobby is to hang out with them and my wonderful wife. I managed to make some time to learn how to ski this past winter so that I can teach my kids later. The Dartmouth Skiway is so convenient and a wonderful place to learn. (In case anyone mistakes me for fit and athletic, note that I am definitely not. Ask my wife.) I enjoy games—board, card, video—and have been thinking about ways to introduce my kids to them later.

How will you spend your summer? My wife and I travel each summer for about a week or so to visit our parents, who love seeing their grandkids. Other than that, we hang out in the Hanover area. We enjoy taking the kids hiking, swimming, and outside a lot. We barbeque on our deck quite a bit.

Favorite place to vacation: I’ve only done it once, but backpacking for a week through Glacier National Park was probably the best vacation I’ve ever taken.

Favorite book: Ender’s Game.

What is your favorite movie and/or television show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?

Star Trek: The Next Generation. It’s a show that explores what it means to be human and several of the moral dilemmas that come with it. In my view, Picard is the GOAT of Star Trek captains.

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist:

REM and Radiohead were formative for me. I have a soft spot for Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and Mariah Carey. Jazz piano, Beethoven symphonies, Bach.

Bucket list item #1: Cycle through the French Alps. Spend some time in Svalbard. Visit the South Pole.

THOUGHTS OF REFLECTION

What professional achievement are you most proud of?

I’m proud of my research. Each project takes years for me (and my co-authors, who are invaluable) to develop and refine through tough, critical feedback. The final product is a project that is intellectually rigorous and helps us understand something important about the real world.

What is your most memorable moment as a professor?

My favorite moments are those when I think I’ve made a breakthrough in getting across a difficult concept. It’s the “aha!” moments that every instructor lives for—they really give you a boost.

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…”

Bringing students, professors, and practitioners together in an environment that encourages risk-taking with creative ideas informed by research and data. I’m glad that Tuck has several initiatives to achieve this.

“And much less of this…”

I think we’re getting close to a point where many factors are leading business school students everywhere to feel overextended. I’d like to think that in the future, students will have more time to reflect and absorb their experiences during the year.

In your opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at doing what? Please explain.

In many ways, the challenges facing today’s business leaders are the timeless challenges that leaders have faced in years past. How do you define a vision that people—employees, customers, investors, other stakeholders—will buy into and deliver on? Many organizational units struggle with answering the simple question: What are we trying to do here? Answering that clearly and rallying people around the resulting vision has always been incredibly difficult. A key difference from the past is that in today’s environment technology has amplified both the benefits of being able to achieve this as well as the costs of messing it up.

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would like for you

If I can continue to influence the world through my research and benefit my students through my teaching, I’ll call that a win.

Students Say…

“Learning Capital Markets was like learning a foreign language for me. Because of Professor Cheng’s enthusiasm and dedication to teaching clearly, I could speak that language in just nine weeks.  For those of us who needed it, he was always willing to write out a long series of bond coupon payments one more time. He seemed to appreciate which concepts would be most difficult, and he made those days’ classes as clear and as engaging as they could be.  More than anything, being in his class was fun– full of laughs, and if we were lucky, a fist pump for the right answer. Professor Cheng helped me to enjoy Capital Markets, not just learn the material.” – Catherine Boysen T’18

“Ing is by far the most memorable and engaging professor I’ve had at Tuck. He brought so much energy and passion to every single class. I was also blown away by Ing’s genuine desire to help his students learn. Especially as a student without prior financial experience, I truly appreciated Ing’s patience and creativity in breaking down new concepts.” – Melanie Wang T’19

“Professor Cheng is an intellectual steam engine. His energy and passion results in sporadic in-place-jumping. He is hyper focused on imparting a deeper level of understanding, rather than just raw numbers and figures. Learning from him is a pure joy. I believe he is in the early stages of what will prove to be a legendary career.” – Galen Carroll T’19

“Professor Ing has a wonderful talent for communication. He can handle any question deftly, and made finance seem intuitive, even though I had no previous experience in the field. An incredibly smart, energetic, and light-hearted individual.” – Thomas Johnson T’18

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