The 40 Best Business Professors Under 40

We live in a time when a major international company must go as far as shutting down business for a day to hold racial bias training. In an era where the only thing that can derail a Starbucks is the perception by its customer base that the company doesn’t care, it’s evident that “people” and “planet” must henceforth be corollary to “profit” for modern-day businesses. In other words, the public wants companies nowadays to operate with a holistic view that looks beyond the bottom line and includes in its mandate the pursuit of the greater good. Educating the next generation of business leaders is a tough job and one that is constantly evolving, and now it has evolved further. Who are the best instructors in the new “people-first” paradigm? Let’s just say that if pinstripe suits and profit-is-everything mantras are all that come to mind when you think of today’s business school professors, read further: You’re in for a pleasant surprise.

Wesley Longhofer of Goizueta Business School

Poets&Quants‘ 2018 class of the 40 Best Business Professors Under 40 is our sixth look at the most inspiring young profs at the best business schools in the world. Each year the list illustrates that up-and-coming B-school professors are just as passionate about using business as a force for good as many of their students are, leveraging their work as academics to uncover new knowledge about everything from mitigating climate change to using behavioral science as a lens into poverty, crime, violence, and other social problems.

Students — from MBA seekers to specialized master’s students to those in executive and other programs — have different ideas about what a business school should provide, and faculty at top schools are responding. Says top 40 honoree and management professor Wes Longhofer of Emory University’s Goizueta Business School: “As professional schools, business schools have the obligation to ensure business leaders do more good and less harm. And they are producing some of the best research in my field.”

One of the casualties of the new paradigm: formal attire. “We don’t all wear suits when we teach,” Longhofer says when asked about the one thing he wished someone had told him about being a B-school instructor. Adds University of Chicago Booth School of Business’ Ed O’Brien: “Flip-flops are your friend.”

No matter what their fashion choice, this year’s group of young B-school educators are setting trails ablaze as researchers, teachers, and academics, leaving lasting impressions on the hearts and minds of scores of MBA students as they go.


Ileana Stigliani of Imperial College Business School received 135 nominations — the most ever received for P&Q‘s annual 40-Under-40 list

Each year, the Poets&Quants editorial team stands in awe at the number of nominations we have received for the 40-Under-40 list. 2018 was no different. This year’s call for nominations brought in close to 800 submissions, crushing last year’s record of 430. Another first: a new record number of nominations for one given professor. Students, alumni, and colleagues of Imperial College Business School’s Ileana Stigliani declared their appreciation for the 38-year-old 135 times over, a new all-time high that beat last year’s 72 nominations for Ivey Business School’s Ning Su.

In total, 91 individual professors were proposed this year. Making our job even harder, several schools had handfuls of nominated professors who were all strikingly impressive. We felt some of these deserved at least honorable mention, particularly Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management’s Kelly Goldsmith and Ben Munyan, IESE Business School’s Sebastien Brion, and Chicago Booth’s Devin Pope. On the other hand, there were also some noticeable gaps. Not one nomination was received for Harvard Business School, which chose not to participate this year because it didn’t want to single out just one or two of its under-40 faculty members. Students and alumni of HBS, however, also didn’t nominate any of their profs. That was also the case for the Sloan School of Management at MIT.

Of the entries we did receive, our assessment to narrow down the top 40 remained centered on research and teaching with an emphasis on high student impact. The final 40 hail from Miami to Michigan, Carnegie Mellon University to the University of Canterbury, London Business School to Nanyang Business School, and many points in between. They are a diverse group, with a record 17 of the 40 at schools outside the U.S., up from just five in the inaugural 40 under 40 list published by Poets&Quants in 2011. Ten of the 40 profs on the 2018 list are women, roughly the same as the 11 women who made the cut seven years ago.


“Institutions believe that great researchers are the best professors. Students believe that those who engage students class after class are the best professors,” Wharton MBA Angela Chang says. We couldn’t agree more and with that, we commenced our search for the best business professors under 40 years old who score high marks in both the key areas of research contributions to their field and impact on students.

One such nominee was Natalya Vinokurova, a Wharton management professor nominated by Chang and nearly two dozen other students, alumni, and Wharton professors.

Wharton professor Natalya Vinokurova is a two-time “Above and Beyond The Call of Duty” award winner

Vinokurova, 38, has made a name for herself in looking at competitive strategy, organizational behavior, and public policy as they relate to decision-making and innovation management. She’s won awards that aptly define her research as “most novel,” and she’s received several honorable mentions and best paper nominations from the strategic management community. Yet her excellence as a researcher is not to be outdone by her teaching performance, which is where she shines brightest. According to some of the nominations, her allegiance to students makes her especially outstanding, the spark that has earned her two “Above and Beyond the Call of Duty” teaching awards — the professional achievement which Vinokurova says she is most proud of.

Each testimony consistently spoke of Vinokurova’s profound dedication and mentorship that helps students identify and prioritize what’s most important to them. One Wharton alumnus placed Vinokurova’s name next to some of Wharton’s biggest heavyweights: “I had some pretty spectacular professors at Wharton (Adam Grant, Cade Massey, David Wessels, and David Bell to name a few) and even amongst these names Natalya was a standout. It’s my view that she, more than any other professor at Wharton, is the perfect confluence of teacher, researcher, and mentor.”  

Wharton colleague and Poets&Quants 40 Under 40 alum Ethan Mollick even shared his admiration for Professor Vinokurova by way of nomination, saying, “Natalya is a dedicated teacher who invests in getting to know her students and ensuring that the education they receive at Wharton matches their personal and professional goals.”

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