Maher Said is an award-winning researcher and teacher at New York University’s Stern School of Business. A 38-year-old assistant professor of economics, Said won the NYU Stern Distinguished Teaching Award in 2019.
“Professor Said demonstrates an uncanny ability to make a dry, theory-heavy course accessible, fun, and intellectually stimulating,” one nominator said. “He has an absolutely contagious love for economics and game theory that I could not help but to catch through taking his course. He is funny, witty, clever, and always teaches with a smile on his face. He does an amazing job of building up concepts theoretically then immediately connecting them to real-world examples to which we all can relate to drive points home. All in all, he has been a transformative part of my MBA experience and I will always remember fondly and positively my experience taking his course on Firms & Markets.”
Said caught the eyes of our editorial staff by his more than 400 Google Scholar citations and a number of thoughtful nominations from students who greatly admire him to the point that some want to continue their studies beyond an MBA when they have him in class. “Professor Said created an environment where microeconomics could, not only be learned but be applied directly in our daily lives,” another commenter said. “I questioned whether I wanted to continue with my MBA or switch to a Ph.D. in Economics. He made the latter seem more relevant and impactful.”
Said’s research looks at a common phenomenon. “In many settings, someone claiming expertise may offer misleading information or biased advice out of a desire to appear more skilled or competent. My current research studies how incentive schemes can be used to account for, and possibly eliminate, such bias,” Said says of his research.
Outside of the classroom, Said says he is most happy sharing new experiences with his wife and daughter. He also enjoys running, reading, and managing — especially winning — his fantasy football league.
Assistant Professor of Economics
Current age: 38
At current institution since what year? 2014
Education: Ph.D. in Economics, Yale University; BA in Economics and Mathematics, New York University
List of MBA courses you currently teach: Firms and Markets (core course in microeconomics)
TELL US ABOUT YOUR LIFE AS A PROFESSOR
I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I took an elective course on experimental economics with Andy Schotter as an undergrad at NYU and then later worked for him as a research assistant. Learning how economics leveraged mathematical tools to understand—and sometimes to shape or guide—strategic behavior, and then engaging with the research process first-hand—was exhilarating.
What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?
In many settings, someone claiming expertise may offer misleading information or biased advice out of a desire to appear more skilled or competent. My current research studies how incentive schemes can be used to account for, and possibly eliminate, such bias. For example, I have shown (with my coauthors Rahul Deb and Mallesh Pai) that, when evaluating forecasters who care primarily about their reputations, there is a tradeoff between obtaining high-quality predictions and determining the skill of a putative expert. Our most recent work studies how fund managers should elicit timely and useful advice from financial analysts, and how the multiple audiences for sell-side research can lead to noisy public recommendations.
If I weren’t a business school professor… Realistically, I’d probably be working in finance or consulting. That said, I am fascinated by the history of science and mathematics and could see myself trying to pair intellectual history and science journalism.
What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?
I try to bring a lot of energy into the classroom while remaining authentic. I really love what I teach, and I try to use my geeky enthusiasm for the material to help bring it alive for my students.
One word that describes my first time teaching: Jittery. I still feel that same mix of excitement and apprehension at the beginning of each new term.
Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: So much of what you do is part of a larger collaborative effort: coauthors challenge you to refine your thinking and advance your research; colleagues and mentors help you improve your teaching and navigate the profession; and administrators maintain the institutional infrastructure that makes everything else feasible. And as with any team effort, having good teammates—and being a good teammate—is critical to success.
Professor I most admire and why: Dirk Bergemann and Ben Polak, who advised and mentored me through my PhD at Yale. I learned a great deal from them about research and teaching.
What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?
I really appreciate how much our students care about the practical implications of the material we teach and how to effectively employ the skills they develop.
What is most challenging?
Our students are spread very thin, with coursework, recruiting, and other on-campus events all competing for their time and energy. There are no captive audiences, so you always have to bring your A-game!
In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Inquisitive.
In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Aloof.
When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Ambivalent. I appreciate that grades can be important for evaluation, incentive provision, and signaling, but they are also noisy, anxiety-inducing, and overemphasized.
LIFE OUTSIDE OF THE CLASSROOM
What are your hobbies?
I am most happy when I am sharing new experiences with my wife and daughter. I also enjoy running, reading, and managing (and winning!) my fantasy football league.
How will you spend your summer?
Typically, much of the summer is spent working on research and with travel to academic conferences and to work with coauthors. The rest is devoted to time off with my family.
Favorite place(s) to vacation: Nantucket.
Favorite book(s): The New Yorker. I have a stack of back issues that I’m slowly working my way through.
What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?
Sesame Street. Few things make me as happy as giggling along with my daughter to the Muppets’ antics. The show’s longevity and continued relevance is a testament to the skill, creativity, and dedication of its creators.
What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why?
Classic rock. I also really enjoy listening to classical music and jazz despite being mostly ignorant about both.
If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… Economics. Although economics is sometimes undervalued in business schools since it is less immediately linked to a specific job function or career path, the critical thinking foundation that economics provides is an essential component of the cohesive interdisciplinary framework that a business education should provide.
In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… Building resilience and preparing for unanticipated shocks.
I’m grateful for… The hard work and creativity of my coauthors; my faculty colleagues’ dedication to excellence in teaching and research; and, most of all, the unceasing support and encouragement of my wife.
Faculty, students, alumni, and/or administrators say:
“Professor Said does an excellent job of balancing the rigor of his class by making the material approachable and relevant to the students. He infuses real-life examples and his sense of humor into his lectures and is always willing to offer extra help to students who need it. It is clear that he puts a lot of thought into his lessons and into the course content. It was a pleasure to be in his class!”
“Professor Said created an environment where microeconomics could, not only be learned but be applied directly in our daily lives. I questioned whether I wanted to continue with my MBA or switch to a Ph.D. in Economics. He made the latter seem more relevant and impactful.”
“One of the first required courses Stern MBAs take is “Firms and Markets” with Professor Maher Said. Some are initially hesitant because of unfamiliarity with microeconomics but are put at ease by Said’s interactive approach, humor, and passion, which help students form a critical thinking foundation that supports the rest of their MBA experience. For example, Said demonstrates the “winner’s curse” by auctioning a jar of coins. Inevitably, the student who “wins” bids more than the coins’ value, just as companies can be overly optimistic about acquisitions. In 2019, Stern faculty honored Said with the Distinguished Teaching Award. Students, who cite his course as a “favorite,” awarded him an honorable mention as MBA Professor of the Year. Said’s research on the intersection of game theory and industrial organization is published in top economics journals, and he is frequently invited to present his findings at universities and conferences around the world.”
“Professor Said demonstrates an uncanny ability to make a dry, theory-heavy course accessible, fun, and intellectually stimulating. He has an absolutely contagious love for economics and game theory that I could not help but catch through taking his course. He is funny, witty, clever, and always teaches with a smile on his face. He does an amazing job of building up concepts theoretically then immediately connecting them to real-world examples to which we all can relate to driving points home. All in all, he has been a transformative part of my MBA experience and I will always remember fondly and positively my experience taking his course on Firms & Markets.”
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