When done right, being a college professor goes well beyond research and teaching. It can be a way to mentor, guide, and coach young adults into successful life paths. And that’s one reason why we’re happy to feature Marco Clemente on this year’s Best 40 Under 40 Professors list. The 37-year-old associate professor of strategy and corporate social responsibility (CSR) at IÉSEG School of Management garnered over 100 nominations from students, faculty, and staff. Words like “passionate” and “unique” were used quite a bit among the students Clemente has had.
“He is one of the best professors I’ve met in my life,” one former student told us in the nomination for. “A student doesn’t only need course-related knowledge but sometimes also need someone to learn how to strategize his of her life and deal with and overcome the hardships in life. Prof. Marco is one such mentor, he helped me deal with my stress by becoming a source of light for me when I needed it most. Not only his course materials are interesting but also his classes are really interactive and satisfying. He is the best!”
Clemente also gathered waves of support from colleagues who described him as the “highest-caliber” and always “at-the-ready to assist” and “warm and responsive.” “Marco is a great asset to our school,” one nominator said. “His teaching methods and style are well adapted to the needs of our students. One of his greatest strengths is his ability to engage his students in his lectures and different activities, and the capacity to build a strong relationship with them as well. He is passionate about his teaching and this is highly appreciated by his students. Marco is also an excellent researcher, always available to discuss his research and to help other colleagues with theirs. He is proactive and really fun to have around as a colleague.”
When not in the classroom, Clemente’s hobbies revolve around personal development practices like reading books or taking online classes in personal development, listening to podcasts, practicing yoga and meditation, and competing in endurance races like marathons, triathlons, and trail runs.
Associate Professor of Strategy and CSR
IÉSEG School of Management
Current age: 37
At current institution since what year? 2019
Education: Ph.D. in Strategic Management from HEC Paris, MSc in Management from LSE
List of MBA courses you currently teach: Ethical Business Leadership, Strategize Your Life
TELL US ABOUT YOUR LIFE AS A PROFESSOR
I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I used to walk in my neighborhood with my father, who taught in a local school. His previous students used to stop us in the street and told me that my father was one of the best teachers they ever had, tough but inspiring. They still remembered some of the subjects he taught them many years ago. Those moments planted the seeds of my passion for teaching and helping people grow. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my father and teach something that could positively affect the lives of my students, even after many years.
What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?
My main research focuses on misconduct and scandals. I study the public and media discourse around transgressions by organizations. In particular, I find it fascinating to understand why some behaviors are labeled as misconduct or turned into full-blown scandals, while others, similar ones, do not. I also look at what can lead good people to make unethical or, even, illegal actions. How can this be prevented? Recently, I have developed a particular interest in topics related to happiness and self-management, especially in regards to relationships and financial freedom. I am planning to do research on such topics in the near future.
If I weren’t a business school professor… Alongside my research and teaching activities, I have started coaching managers who are successful in their career, but unhappy with their life. If I were thinking of a completely different career path, I would probably become a professional triathlon athlete. I came to this realization a few months ago, when I did the “Good Time Journal” exercise from the book “Designing your life”. I have found out that I am in my “flow” state when I am learning, when I am giving people tools to improve their lives, or while doing endurance sports.
What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?
I want to be the Professor I wish I had when I was a student. In designing the course, I adapt my materials to the specific category of students I am teaching (professional goals, cultural background, etc.). In delivering the course, I rely on rigorous knowledge that I distill in practical tips suitable for the students’ everyday life.
I believe that each student is unique and has great potential; I always make myself available to coach him or her, even if this means staying extra hours in the office. Finally, I really enjoy teaching, and I try to create a fun and enjoyable atmosphere in class.
One word that describes my first time teaching: Wow, this question made me very nostalgic! When I think back in time to that day, three words describe my feelings: excitement, anxiety, and the naïveté of a “first-timer” when someone does not really know what is going to happen. When I look back on my first teaching evaluations… Well, they were tough!
Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: You have a lot of responsibility in shaping the future of students and, indirectly, society. I think I knew this, but experiencing it is different.
Professor I most admire and why:
I have learned so much from so many Professors. The first person that comes to my mind is Randy Pausch. His “last lecture” was one of the videos I was watching almost every day before going to work during my quarter-life crisis. It made me wish I could deliver a similar lecture one day. Indeed, I did it 10 years later, when I was invited to give a TEDx talk in Mantova in 2019.
Other Professors whom I admire the most: Adam Grant, for many reasons, but especially because of his willingness to still answer every single email I send to him; my Ph.D. supervisor Rudy Durand, a great mentor and researcher; and Ronald A. Howard, whose student Sam Harris wrote a book about what he learned in his class “The Ethical Analyst”. I found this story inspiring. Let me also mention great Professors I have asked for advice to improve my teaching effectiveness over time. To name a few: Aleksios Gotsopoulos, Raunaq Pungaliya, Kim Claes, Adam Castor, Taiyoung Kim, Robin Gustafsson, Mikko Rönkkö, Marina Biniari, Frank Goethals, Julie Bayle-Cordier, François Maon, Frank de Bakker, Guillaume Mercier, Maria Castillo, Simone de Colle, Tapiwa Seremani, Maria Rita Micheli, Bryant Hudson, Greg Fisher, Eric Richards, and Neil Bearden.
What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?
I love teaching future managers that it is possible to have no trade-off between ethics and profits. I use to finish my ethics course by saying: “Anyone can become a millionaire, but not everyone can become a millionaire in an ethical way. What’s most interesting? You have one life, so make the right choice.”
What is most challenging?
Some business school students believe that a profit-oriented approach is enough to be successful. They are skeptical when it comes to ethics at the beginning. It is my challenge to make them understand there could be no trade-off between ethics and profits.
In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Growth mindset.
In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Fixed mindset.
When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Fair (I am an ethics Professor…)
LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM
What are your hobbies?
Books and online courses on personal development (e.g. Mindvalley and Gaia), podcasts (e.g. Tim Ferriss), yoga, Vipassana meditation, endurance races (marathons, trail runs and triathlons), salsa and tango.
How will you spend your summer?
My initial summer plan was to work as a digital nomad in Bali or Chang Mai, or to realize one of the items in my bucket list, e.g., doing the Way of St. James. Given the current restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I will probably enjoy working and walking in the charming Paris.
Favorite place(s) to vacation: Bali, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, Templestay in a Korean Buddhist Temple.
I am famous among my friends for my collection of 200+ books on personal development. This question is tough. The books of Paulo Coelho, Tony Robbins, and Robin Sharma were the first ones that made me aware of personal development. Recently, I would mention the books of Tim Ferriss for life-hacking (e.g. “The 4-hour workweek”), David Deida for relationships and spiritual growth (e.g., “The way of the superior man”), and several books on financial freedom (e.g. “I will teach you to be rich” by Ramit Sethi).
What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?
As a series, I would pick “The good place”. Apart from the fact that it is starring an ethics Professor (!!), the last episode of season 1 and 4 made me reflect a lot about the meaning of life, death, and crises. As a movie, I would pick “Limitless.” This is one of the few movies that I have watched more than once. I love the idea of being able to use the full power of your mind to improve yourself (and the world).
What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why?
I describe myself as a radio-type of person, the kind of person who listens to the current pop hits. To relax, though, I like to put on a playlist of Latin music.
THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS
If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… Personal development and soft-skills courses. Also, the business school of the future probably would (and should) have even more focus on ethics. IÉSEG is already quite advanced in this area, and this was one of the reasons I decided to join this school.
In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… Thinking deeply about how to improve the wellbeing of all stakeholders, such as employees and society at large. I hope that “stakeholder theory” will really drive business decisions and not only be used in institutional speeches.
I’m grateful for… Being able to do a job that allows me to grow and help others to grow. My mission in life is to “be better than yesterday and help others do the same”. I am happy my job enables me to fulfill my mission.
Faculty, students, alumni, and/or administrators say:
“Marco is one of the highest-caliber colleagues with whom I’ve worked. He is at ‘at-the-ready’ to assist with expert content knowledge combined with a warm and winning manner. He is responsive to students, providing solid and sensible coaching and supportive and honest with his co-faculty. I’d be pleased to have him recognised for these important attributes.”
“Marco is a great asset to our school. He’s teaching methods and style are well adapted to the needs of our students. One of his greatest strengths is his ability to engage his students in his lectures and different activities, and the capacity to build a strong relationship with them as well. He is passionate about his teaching and this is highly appreciated by his students. Marco is also an excellent researcher, always available to discuss his research and to help other colleagues with theirs. He is proactive and really fun to have around as a colleague.”
“Marco and I graduated with a Ph.D. degree in the same year from HEC Paris. We have stayed in touch and have met subsequently in our respective institutions for sharing research results and attending seminars. Marco is an exceptional professor, researcher, and human being. He has a genuinely international profile and although yet in his prime years as an academic, he has already contributed to communities all over the world with his passion for knowledge. In many occasions, we still discuss the importance of pedagogy and classroom innovation. The way we teach and transfer knowledge to new generations can have long lasting implications on how people apply what they learn in school and with what pathos they communicate their ideas to others. Marco’s thoughts, visualization boards, his set of rules-non-rules are an amazing example of his dedication and passion for his passion for knowledge, teaching, and improving the lives of his students and his peers. Below I will elaborate more in detail the reasons for which I am nominating Marco for the “40 under 40 list”. Marco’s vision is that people should discover their passions and build professional lives connected to such passions. He always says that everyone has at least once in their lives a million-dollar-idea — and that idea is much easier to execute and transform into a successful end economically viable business if, ceteris paribus, there is passion. Passion gives people a raison d’être, deep and profound meaning, and it contributes to health and well-being. In every new course that he designs, Marco sculpts elements of passion, so that the course and lectures become vehicles for everyone to sync their ideas and find their passion. To achieve this, Marco goes beyond the traditional approach of selecting textbooks, writing the syllabus, and preparing the course material. Through comprehensive research, benchmarking, visualization tools, and careful analysis, Marco delivers extraordinary courses and classroom experience. As a teacher, Marco goes above and beyond the teaching duties. He empowers students through coaching, without ever hesitating to provide tailored and necessary support to all his students. I think, in a world swirled by innovation and yet many uncertainties, Marco is a rare and precious resource in academia. He preserves the traditional approach, and builds on it through innovation, dedication, and passion. Marco is as well an exceptional researcher. His work on stigma and scandals has practical implications for organizations and executives beyond the contributions to academia. He shows that in industries more prone to controversies, stigma exposure is not that stigmatizing after all – and that markets react to stigma long before the legal and economic liabilities of stigma materialize. Also for research, Marco selects topics for which he is passionate about, thus enriching the academic contributions with his prior experience as a manager in leading companies. Last but not least, Marco’s breadth of international experiences, intellectual capability, curiosity, and passion, make him an outstanding mentor able to understand the value and weight of cultural diversity and ready to bring unprecedented richness in any audience. I am honored to nominate him and I wholeheartedly recommend Marco to be included in the “40 under 40 list”. It is a well-deserved spotlight for him and a great academic inclusion for your annual list.”
“Marco has been teaching in the MSc programme in business analysis and consulting; I am the academic director of the programme and I can say that Marco is highly involved in the programme. he really goes the extra mile to find new ways to teach the concepts of business ethics. He is always trying to find original approaches.”