The 40 Best Business Professors Under 40

Stanford Graduate School of Business accounting professor Rebecca Lester shares a fun moment when two students show up to her midterm dressed as a balance sheet

CAREERS SPARKED BY ‘MID-QUARTER-LIFE CRISIS,’ ELEMENTARY SCHOOL GRADUATION, AND MORE

While professors adore their students, they also love the research aspect of their jobs. The ability to create new knowledge to inform business practices seems to be the unifying factor in these young professors’ love for doing academic research. That, and the abundance of freedom they’re afforded to dive deep into topics they’re passionate about.

Says Imperial College’s Paolo Taticchi, “I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when I realized the freedom you get with this job: you can research topics that genuinely interest you, you can develop entrepreneurial projects, you can work with corporations in consulting capacity, and you can teach and inspire people internationally.”

Oscar Holmes IV of Rutgers Business School (Camden) is a 2018 best professor under 40

Owen School Professor Jessica Kennedy was inspired when a former professor reminded her of the sense of fulfillment she’d felt as an undergraduate researcher. “The nature of my coursework as a Wharton undergrad had really spoken to me, especially during my senior year when I was trying to produce original ideas through independent studies and an honors thesis.”

Yet some professors recall their moment of reckoning a bit more humorously.

Take IESE’s Barasz, who heard her calling to become a professor after returning from a girls’ weekend with close friends. “I’d been mid-quarter-life crisis, ruminating about what I should do with my post-consulting life, when my former college roommate had a clever idea: ‘Remember when I took that Consumer Behavior class at Duke? You always loved hearing about it. Maybe you should look into something like that …’ So I did. That’s how I discovered that you could get a Ph.D. in marketing (who knew?) and make a career out of studying the crazy ways that humans behave. It was the game-changing, offhand comment that cured a ‘crisis’ and kicked off a career.”

Booth’s Anuj Shah’s revelation came much earlier in life: during his elementary school graduation. “We were asked what we wanted to be when we grew up. For me, the answer was obvious: pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles. When everyone in the room laughed, I knew I needed a different career. I always admired my teachers and professors, and having the chance to follow their example has been far better than spending my prime in the bottom of the AL East.”

THE AWARD FOR ‘LEAST FAVORITE THING A STUDENT HAS DONE’ GOES TO …

Ed O’Brien, 31, of the Booth School of Business is one of the youngest on this year’s list of best business profs under 40

Still, with every job comes highs and lows, fun times and not so fun times. For instance, did you know that as a business professor, you don’t get to fly business class for free? That was a big upset for Ming Hu a top 40 professor from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. Booth’s Professor Shah says he eventually learned that he needed to get to the seminar room early if he wanted to snag one of the decent boxed lunch options. While, O’Brien — also at Booth — says he usually rounds out his weeks of teaching having felt like he’s just played a full on football game.

Then of course there are the students. While the majority of professors say curious, ambitious students are their favorites, the most frequently used word to describe their least favorite type is ‘arrogant.’ Other big-time turn-offs are students who are superficial, myopic, “laptopped,” and just plain absent.

The award for “least favorite thing a student has done” is a three-way tie between Stigliani’s “yelling at me in front of their entire cohort,” Tatacchi’s “putting on makeup during a lecture,” and Longhofers, “one recently said I look like Ed Sheeran.” Runner-up is Shah’s facepalm moment he says he’s forced to endure each time a student makes a joke about negotiating their grade. “It’s just so disappointing that they think they’re the first person to make that pun.”

‘FUN FACT: THAT TIME I WALKED ACROSS LONDON IN A BRA’

Finally, as always, we relish the opportunity to bring you the sometimes unknown — but very quirky — personalities of the best business professors under 40. The class of 2018 didn’t disappoint.

A crowd favorite, Shrihari (Hari) Sridhar of Texas A&M Mays Business School, who received two dozen nominations, admits to being a terribly behaved adolescent. “I bet that 80% (maybe even 90%) of my high school classmates will be surprised that I turned out to be a professor!”

Tuck School of Business professor Ing-Haw Cheng confesses to once eating through the Las Vegas 24-hour “Buffet of Buffets,” proclaiming, “I love a good buffet.”

And Ileana Stigliani, the prof who got the most nominations in 40-Under-40 history, once walked all over London in a bra — in the name of charity, of course.

See the next page for our full 2018 list of Best 40-Under-40 professors, each with a link to their own full stories, where you can find out more.