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2019 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Yann Cornil, University of British Columbia (Sauder)

Yann Cornil

Assistant Professor of Marketing and Behavioral Science

University of British Columbia, Sauder School of Business

Sometimes being a top professor also means being an expert in a specific and unique field. That’s the case for 35-year-old Yann Cornil, an assistant professor of marketing and behavioral science at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia. Cornil’s research examines eating behavior and food choices and how eating for pleasure can also coincide with smaller and healthier portions. Not the typical B-school lecture, huh?

“Dr. Cornil is the full package in a professor,” one student told us. “He is a leading expert in food research. Dr. Cornil studies the cognitive drivers of food satiation in an effort to improve the health and well being of consumers. He is also a superstar instructor. His students love him.”

French-born, Cornil is one of a few professors on our list that have come over to North America to teach at some of the world’s most elite business schools. When Cornil isn’t producing new and unique research or teaching undergraduates, MBAs, and Ph.D. students, you can find him exploring the plethora of outdoor activities available in British Columbia.

Current Age: 35

At current institution since what year? 2015

Education:

B.A. in Political Science from Sciences Po Lille, 2005

M.Sc. in Management from HEC Paris, 2007

Ph.D. in Marketing from INSEAD, 2015

List of current MBA courses you currently teach: Consumer Behavior

TELL US ABOUT YOUR LIFE AS A PROFESSOR:

I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I understood that business in general and marketing, in particular, had a lot to do with understanding human psychology. People behave irrationally and make impulsive decisions that can have negative consequences on their own well-being or on the environment, so teaching how to influence or nudge people comes with great responsibility.

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

‘Most of my research focuses on understanding eating behavior and food choices. I’m particularly interested in the role of eating pleasure. Pleasure doesn’t have to be the enemy of healthy eating. In a recent paper, I show how and why focusing on eating enjoyment can lead people to choose smaller portion sizes (it’s mostly because sensory pleasure declines with every additional food bite).

If I weren’t a business school professor… Apparently, it’s hard to make a living from travel & food blogging, so I’d probably be a consultant.

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

Probably my French accent and my silly jokes. I also try to illustrate any concept with a story, a video, or a class experiment, which hopefully makes my teaching memorable and engaging.

One word that describes my first-time teaching: Sweaty

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: I spent a lot of time soliciting advice, auditing classes, and watching videos of top-ranked business professors, in an attempt to imitate their behavior in the classroom. Eventually, authenticity works best, and enthusiasm is contagious (I’m lucky enough to be passionate about what I teach).

Professor you most admire and why: My Ph.D. advisor, Pierre Chandon. He’s an amazing researcher, he wrote some of the best marketing teaching cases, and he teaches them with passion, wit, and humor.

STUDENTS:

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

When taking a Consumer Behavior class, students generally come with their baggage of opinions about how to market a product or communicate with consumers, so I like to challenge their ideas (and I like it even more when they challenge mine!). Business students can also be critical and skeptic; these are qualities that I appreciate and strongly encourage.

What is most challenging?

Although we have a “no laptop policy” in class, this rule needs to be often reminded. It’s challenging to compete with laptops and smartphones for attention!

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

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

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Thorough and understanding, I hope. Hard work pays off.

LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM:

What are your hobbies?

Traveling, eating, hiking, snowboarding, and singing karaoke.

How will you spend your summer?

Writing research papers, and exploring British Columbia.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Lately, the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.

Favorite book(s): The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq, and Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke.

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

I would say Parks and Rec (because it’s hilarious and kind-hearted), and Black Mirror (because it’s dystopian and bleak).

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: It’s a tie between the Cure, the Smiths, and Pet Shop Boys.

THOUGHTS OF REFLECTIONS:

If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… Business Schools prepare the future leaders, so they need to be exemplary when it comes to inclusion and diversity. From a more practical perspective, it is also important to teach and develop soft skills, such as social and emotional intelligence, understanding and overcoming decision biases, sensitivity to cross-cultural differences, in addition to creativity or public speaking.

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

Companies often rely on untested assumptions about how to market products and services, or how to manage people. Yet there is a huge amount of untapped knowledge about consumption or employee motivation that virtually any organization can acquire by doing their own research and by experimenting. Research (and experimentation) is easier and cheaper than managers think. It can generate great insights about what people really want beyond surface observations or abstract models, and establish competitive advantages.

Faculty, administrators, students, and alumni say:

“Dr. Cornil is the full package in a professor. He is a leading expert in food research. Dr. Cornil studies the cognitive drivers of food satiation in an effort to improve the health and well being of consumers. He is also a superstar instructor. Dr. Cornil teaches consumer behavior at the undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. levels. His students love him. He was the first to teach consumer behavior in our International MBA in Shanghai – he received rave reviews. What I think is the most remarkable about his success is that it has never gone to his head. He is a kind and humble individual, which is incredibly rare in the field of academia. Moreover, Dr. Cornil is just a lot of fun. As I said, Dr. Cornil is the full package and highly deserving of this honor.”

“Yann is a highly effective teacher. Every class is well thought out and organized so that the students can absorb the maximum amount of knowledge. He brings real-world examples, including his own research into the class, to really open our eyes. He is highly professional. One habit of his is that he always shows up 15 mins before class started to test all of his teaching material to make sure that the class does not get disturbed.”

DON’T MISS: MEET ALL OF POETS&QUANTS’ BEST 40 UNDER 40 PROFESSORS OF 2019