2019 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Emilie Feldman, Wharton

Emilie Feldman

Associate Professor of Management

University of Pennsylvania (Wharton School)

Emilie Feldman’s work has been featured in Harvard Business Review, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and many other publications. Feldman, a 37-year-old associate professor of management, is also the winner of The Wharton School’s 2017 Excellence in Teaching Award in the Undergraduate Division.

Feldman’s research is focused on corporate governance, corporate strategy, diversification and divestitures and on top of teaching at the University of Pennsylvania, she is also Associate Editor of the Strategic Management Journal and is on the editorial board of several other journals. Feldman has over 300 Google citations and her work has been published in a list of prestigious journals including the Strategic Management Journal, Academy of Management Journal, and Strategy Science.

“Emilie is dedicated to Wharton students at all levels. She is a star teacher, who puts a tremendous amount of work into each class, engages students to speak and support their views, and is incredibly encouraging to students of all levels,” one nominator said. “I have observed her classes — not one seat is empty, no one is on his or her phone, students are on the edges of their seats as they participate in discussions that she skillfully leads.

“Emilie is also dedicated to her colleagues as I’ll illustrate: I serve as the resource for Wharton faculty who want to improve their teaching. I met a new faculty member and asked if she wanted to schedule a mock teaching session. Not only had Emilie encouraged this person to meet me, but Emilie had planned to be involved in the session with me, offering her perspectives. In the several years since then, Emilie has helped those on my team, helping us to help others improve as teachers, and spent endless hours coaching other faculty on their teaching and research. Closing with research: Emilie is an academic star. Being granted tenure at only 34 years old speaks volumes for her being a stand-out among her academic peers. Emilie has achieved a tremendous amount in her career to date and will continue to be a luminary among business school professors.”

Current Age: 37

At current institution since what year? 2010

Education: MBA and DBA (Strategy), Harvard Business School

List of current MBA courses you currently teach: (1) Corporate Development: Mergers and Acquisitions; (2) Competitive Advantage in the Leisure Industries: Portugal and Spain


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I realized in college that what I find the most interesting to research is how companies act in the real world and being a business school professor would allow me to do just that. There’s nothing cooler than picking up the Wall Street Journal and seeing an article on exactly the issue you’re studying.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?

I study corporate strategy and governance, particularly the functioning of multi-business firms and the role that divestitures, spinoffs, and mergers and acquisitions play in corporate reconfiguration. One of my biggest findings is that despite the fact that divestitures account for at least a third of all deal-making activity, there is no unified framework for how to successfully implement them. I am working to rectify this.

If I weren’t a business school professor… I’d be an antitrust lawyer. I find antitrust fascinating.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?

My ability to connect my research and my teaching. I’m very fortunate to teach a class that aligns perfectly with my research interests in corporate strategy, so I make it a priority to talk with my students about what I’m studying.

One word that describes my first-time teaching: Confident

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: That it is very multi-faceted. Between research, teaching, and service, no two days are ever the same. That’s what makes this job so engaging.

Professor you most admire and why: Richard Caves. He was one of the seminal thinkers in industrial organization economics, but his boundary-spanning ideas and mentorship led to the development of the field of strategy (Michael Porter was one of his Ph.D. students). I was lucky enough to take Professor Caves’ classes and to write my college thesis under his supervision, and these experiences are why I became interested in strategy research in the first place.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

They are smart, ambitious, and successful, and it is energizing to be around them.

What is most challenging?

Maintaining share of mind in their busy lives.

Using just one word, describe your favorite type of student: Analytical

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

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… having clear policies and standing behind them.


What are your hobbies?

I am a trained sommelier (I earned a Diplôme Œnotropae from the National Wine School in 2016), so I enjoy tasting and learning about wine. My other hobbies include running, swimming, baking, and making mosaics.

How will you spend your summer?

Doing research, going to a few conferences, and relaxing.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: France

Favorite book(s): The Master and Margarita

What is your favorite movie and/or television show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? The Third Man. The lighting, the cinematography, the theme song – it’s so atmospheric.

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: Jazz


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… Integration between research and practice.

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

Codifying the lessons from their past experiences and applying them to subsequent decisions. Companies can learn both to make better corporate strategy decisions and to execute them more effectively, but it takes some concerted effort to do so.

Faculty and administrators say:

“Emilie is a fantastic scholar, teacher and mentor, and I can’t think of a more deserving faculty to receive this honor. As a scholar, she defines the meaning of academic rockstar. In less than 6 years post her doctorate, she became the leading expert on divestitures, shedding light on this important and high value-creating firm strategy, publishing sole-authored papers in multiple A journals, and sweeping all the top awards in our field (and not to mention receiving tenure at Wharton!). As a teacher, she challenges her students to think more deeply about the implications of their actions as future business leaders. Everyone I know who has taken her MBA course on corporate strategy absolutely loves it, claiming that it was one of the best courses they have ever taken at Wharton. They are constantly amazed at her knowledge on the history and evolution of firms, and her ability to memorize their names (in the first session) and everything they say in class. As a mentor and an advisor, she always has the best interests of her students at heart. She is incredibly generous with her time and feedback, always willing to read over our drafts and half-baked ideas (often with detailed handwritten comments), giving us honest advice, and pushing us to be better scholars. She is someone that we can go ask specific questions on how to do a particular command in Stata, as well as general directions on how to turn draft paragraphs into a publishable introduction. She is the role model professor, and I am very grateful that I have the opportunity to work with and learn from her.”

“Professor Feldman was, far and away, the best professor I had in business school. She deftly integrated both strategy, finance, operational, human resources, and other concerns into her teachings of major corporate partnerships, acquisitions, investments, mergers, VC investments, and other structures for corporate development. I took her class the fall of my first year at Wharton and it really provided the basic analytical and strategic frameworks for the rest of my Wharton education which was heavily finance and accounting-oriented. Even the other strategic management classes paled by comparison. She was by far the best teacher of the Case Method at Wharton and was excellent at generating student engagement and commitment to the course work. Also, Professor Feldman took student feedback at the Quarter break and incorporated everything immediately; she is a super responsive Professor who really cares about everyone in the classroom leaving with a more enlightened perspective! She also did a fabulous job bringing in industry experts from Google Corp Dev and McKinsey ‘s Post-Merger Acquisition Practice who really enhanced and developed our perspectives. She was incredibly helpful in providing contacts and scholarly articles to assist in the development of each group’s final projects, which is a level of interest and engagement from the Professor I didn’t experience anywhere else during my Wharton education. Best class and best Professor at Wharton!”

“In addition to being one of the youngest faculty ever tenured by the management department, Emilie is a star teacher who also takes time to coach her colleagues in both teaching and research. Emilie’s energy in the classroom and dedication to her students are reflected in teaching awards for her work with undergraduates, her stellar MBA teaching ratings, and the award-winning papers she co-authors with her doctoral students. Her indomitable enthusiasm and incredible generosity with her time make her an amazing colleague and an invaluable contributor to Wharton and beyond. I cannot think of anyone more deserving of the award.”


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