2019 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Lalin Anik, University of Virginia (Darden)

Lalin Anik

Assistant Professor of Marketing

University of Virginia Darden School of Business

Being a professor can often go beyond classroom teaching and research. That’s exactly what the dozen of nominations for Lalin Anik described — a business professor that goes out of her way to connect with students and cares deeply about their general well-being and growth. “Lalin brings humanity to the teaching of marketing and management,” one nomination said. Another: “Lalin is an incredible professor who goes above and beyond to connect to her students and the greater Darden community.”

Anik got her roots as a professor when Nader Tavassoli — at the time a marketing professor at London Business School — hired her as a 19-year-old to establish the behavioral laboratory at LBS. Since then, Anik says she has been on the B-school prof path and landed at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business in 2015 where she now teaches a core Marketing course and Deviant Marketing, an elective.

“Professor Anik is an innovative, energetic, and highly skilled professor at the Darden Business School,” one student said. “Her classes are transformative and inspiring. She cares deeply about her field, her students, and delivering the best educational experience a business school student could have.”

In her spare time, Anik enjoys playin sports, dancing, and finding the best swimming spots.

Current Age: 34

At current institution since what year? 2015

Education: Doctorate of Business Administration in Marketing from Harvard Business School; BA in Psychology from Brandeis University

List of current MBA courses you currently teach: Deviant Marketing, Core Marketing


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…

Years ago, my now-colleague Nader Tavassoli, who is a marketing professor at London Business School, hired me to set up the behavioral laboratory at LBS. I was 19 years old, quite young to shoulder the startup of a new lab. Yet, his trust and generosity that year took me to London. To be trusted with such a big responsibility made me learn and grow quickly. At that time, I had prior research experience in various fields, from doing marine biology work and tracking the migration patterns of the Atlantic Blue Crabs to working the 2am-2pm shift at a sleep hospital, tracking dreams. I knew I liked research but I was not sure of the field until I worked with Nader. I was inspired by the questions he asked and the intellectual and creative freedom he had. I remember thinking “I want his job.” Well, not literally…

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

 I am interested in the impact of social connection (from friends and family to strangers and co-workers) on consumer behavior and consumer welfare. I specifically explore novel ways to form social connections by shifting consumers’ focus from themselves (“How can I use my resources to benefit myself?”) to others (“How can I use my resources to benefit others?”). My work suggests that when people are generous with their resources (e.g., time, money, social capital), they reap benefits both personally and professionally.

In one project, we ran a series of field studies around the world and explored the impact of providing employees and teammates with prosocial bonuses, a novel type of bonus spent on others rather than on oneself. When we gave employees of an Australian bank the opportunity to donate their bonuses to charity, they were more satisfied with their jobs and overall happier. We then collaborated with sports teams in Canada and pharmaceutical sales teams in Belgium, and encouraged athletes and employees, respectively, to spend their bonuses on their teammates. We found that prosocial bonuses in the form of expenditures on teammates lead to better performance. It is nearly impossible to measure the return on investment in corporate social responsibility. With prosocial bonuses, however, we were able to measure the dollar impact on the bottom line. On sports teams, every $10 spent prosocially led to an 11% increase in winning percentage compared to a two percent decrease in winning for teams where members spent on themselves. On sales teams, for every $10 spent prosocially, the firm gained $52. These results suggest that a minor adjustment to employee bonuses – shifting the focus from the self to others – can produce measurable benefits for individuals, organizations and societies.

If I weren’t a business school professor…

It would be a tough choice between a professional athlete and a shuttle bus driver in Istanbul, both of which I have dreamt of being for a significant part of my life.

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

That is hard to answer but I can share what I aspire to do as a professor.

I approach teaching as my opportunity to instill students with the resilience and hope that no matter how hard the world might push against them, there is something within them that is stronger—something better, pushing right back. I strive to create spaces for them to explore this force within their minds and hearts, to ask big and interesting questions so that they can live happier and healthier lives and make the world a better place for others.

One word that describes my first-time teaching:


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

They say that having a child is like having your heart go walking outside your body. To me, being a professor feels like that. It is a beautiful and wild ride. It is thrilling, vulnerable, sensitive yet at times tough and scary. Overall, every single day is a surprise to unwrap.

Professor you most admire and why:

I admire my grad school advisor Mike Norton the most not only because he is brilliant, interesting, creative and humble but he deeply cares about others. His kindness, and the way he nurtured me as his student still guides my path and shapes the way I approach research and teaching.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

Learning with them. Teaching business students involves constantly learning, growing, and changing with bright minds. The dynamism of collaborating with students keeps the mind young, stretches and softens my edges, makes me a better teacher and researcher. Learning with them does not only happen in an intellectual sense. Since my time at Darden, students have invited me to be a part of their journey and have welcomed me into their lives. When I see their brilliance wrapped in kindness it is deeply touching. 

What is most challenging?

Making them feel comfortable with uncertainty and helping them realize that everything will be alright in the end. If it is not alright, it is not the end.

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


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


When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as…

Fair, I hope…


What are your hobbies?

I feel most happy when I play sports, dance, feel the wind on my face, find swimming spots, go to the theatre, write postcards, and hang out in high places like rooftops. Arts, chocolate, wine, dark coffee, books, random explorations, a deep conversation, sunlight, poetry, the Mediterranean, elegance, a round object, a warm body, and fire… Any of those will get me excited about waking up every morning.

How will you spend your summer?

Between work, visiting family and friends, my partner and I plan to split this summer between Poland, Alaska, Charlottesville and Wisconsin. Every summer, destinations may change but one thing stays constant: my quest for water. I used to swim competitively for almost two decades when my summers were spent in the pool. So, as soon as it gets warmer, I get antsy to find a swimming hole or a spot to fish (so that I can swim after).

Favorite place(s) to vacation:

My parents live in Turkey and my sister, niece and nephew live in Boston. So, I would say visiting them gives me the most joy.

Favorite book(s):

Hard to pick a single book but the words of Brian Andreas, Özdemir Asaf, James Baldwin, Anton Chekhov, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Reşat Nuri Güntekin, Attila İlhan, Gabriel García Márquez, and Nazım Hikmet Ran have all moved me at different points in my life.

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

The past two years, I have been a fan of “University Challenge”, a British academic quiz show that first aired in 1962. Teams of four representing British universities compete against each other to answer questions on a range of subjects. I am blown away by the knowledge that contestants have and reminded of the extent of knowledge left to pursue in the world.

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist:

As favorite artists, the first names that pop up are Sezen Aksu, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, George Handel, Wangechi Mutu, Wang Ramirez and Kehinde Wiley.


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

Diversity and vulnerability.

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

Caring about and contributing to the wellbeing and welfare of humanity and of the Earth.

Faculty and administrators say: 

“Professor Anik stands tall with her kindness, intelligence and dedication to the Darden student body. Her energy lifts up everyone. She asks very deep and interesting questions that get us think and grow not only professionally but also personally. I believe she is among the top faculty in the world with her presence, hard work and resourcefulness.”

“Lalin is a professor who not only encourages students to be successful in the classroom but also pushes us to think more deeply about our lives and what success means to us there. Over the past quarter with her, I have learned a lot about myself and am in the midst of breaking out of a shell that I built around myself. She has reinforced what self-love is, and how being vulnerable can pave the way for true connections. As a professor, she is outstanding. Her teaching style, content, and rapport with students is amazing. I have a lot of respect for her.”

“Lalin is a treasure in and a boon to the Darden community. She is a constant source of energy and enthusiasm both inside the classroom and out. In addition to motivating students, she holds them accountable for thinking deeply–pushing us to go beyond the surface and to respond to questions on the spot/under pressure. Lalin brings her research to the classroom in an exciting way as well, something that in my experience is rare. For example, this spring in her Second-Year elective, she taught a case on a charitable organization with which she’d worked closely since her post-doc years. She shared key research learnings and even brought in a practitioner from the organization to engage in the discussion with us. Her passion for the research ventures she pursues is apparent. Outside of the classroom, she supports many student clubs and committees, and is an ever-present participant in Darden Cup events, on Darden sports teams, etc. Most importantly, though, Lalin has a special ability to connect one-on-one with those around her. In my own experience, I approached her (after hearing a presentation she’d given) at a time when I was struggling to find my footing. She went beyond hearing me–she genuinely listened and went further by providing support. The intentionality that I’ve seen Lalin bring to each of her everyday life encounters is truly remarkable. Her vivacious nature, consistency, and selflessness in seeing and responding to those around her, set her apart. The Darden community is undoubtedly better for having Lalin in it.”


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