2020 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Qian (Cecilia) Gu, Georgia State University Robinson College of Business

Qian (Cecilia) Gu of Georgia State University is a Poets&Quants Best 40 Under 40 MBA Professor

There is winning an award. And then there is complete domination in winning awards. George State University’s Qian (Cecilia) Gu falls into the latter category. For five straight years, Gu has won the Top Professor Award in the International Business Master Program at Georgia State’s Robison College of Business.

“Her students describe her as an inspiring mentor who genuinely cares about their learning,” one fellow professor at Georgia State said in a nomination. “Cecilia connects well with GSU’s diverse student body and experiments with innovative pedagogical approaches to ensure analytical and critical thinking. Her reputation is worldwide and serves on the editorial boards of such top journals as J. of Business Research, J. of World Business, and Organization Review.”

Said another colleague: “Dr. Gu excels in everything that she does. First she has a great impact on her students. Dr. Gu’s research is well-placed in top tier journals and then reprinted in practitioner-oriented media outlets that convert academic research to be easily read and used by managers.”

But it’s not just her colleagues that have been impressed with the 36-year-old’s work.

“Dr. Gu is my professor of Policy & Strategy in the International Marketplace,” one student nominator said. “She is a very responsible professor whose classes are always been prepared. Her class actively combines with high efficiency, detailed teaching content, and a lively atmosphere. The most impressive memory I have was that one time we were asked to make a presentation. Since English is my second language, I found some difficulties in how to present. Dr. Gu patiently taught me about proper procedures and skills. Under her help, I have built up my confidence and finally brought out a satisfying presentation. Gu always knows what students exactly need and she tries her best to help out. She has professional knowledge in the business field that can solve students’ questions efficiently. She is also very modest and willing to hear feedback from her students. Therefore, Gu can easily get into students’ hearts and maintain a good relationship with her students. I am very honored to have such a good professor.”

Outside of the classroom, Gu says she enjoys badminton, swimming, and cooking.

Qian (Cecilia) Gu

Associate Professor

J. Mack Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University

Current age: 36

At current institution since what year? 2012

Education: Ph.D. from National University of Singapore

List of MBA courses you currently teach: Policy and Strategy in the International Marketplace


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor… after I taught my first class about 12 years ago.

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

My current research examines how emerging market firms strategize to respond to the increasing global opportunities and competitions, with a particular focus on China and the greater China area. A significant discovery from my research is that emerging market firms have developed various unique organizational forms to adapt to the radical institutional and technological challenges effectively

If I weren’t a business school professor… I would probably become an executive or founder of a multinational enterprise.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I always try to put myself in the shoes of my students and think about how I would learn the best if I were a student.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Fulfilling

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

It is such a privilege to be a business school professor. You can pursue lifelong learning with incredible sources of resources. You will be able to enjoy the constant intellectual challenges and the gratifying moments when you solve the puzzles. You are guaranteed outlets to channel what you have learned with the rest of the world, get insightful feedback, and stay relevant.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

I enjoy demonstrating the complexity of firms’ strategic choices and outcomes by formulating a carefully-planned class discussion. It feels terrific seeing students’ faces lit up when we have the “Aha!” moments in class.

What is most challenging?

I strive to be inclusive in my classroom by connecting with students from diverse backgrounds. I have African, Asian, Central American, European, South American students in my class. It is a challenge to create a fruitful learning experience that accommodates different cultural backgrounds, historical perspectives, and/or communication and learning habits.

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Curious

More extended version: I enjoy students who are hungry to learn. They can come to class well prepared, think independently, respect different perspectives, deliver constructive criticisms, and be a good team player.

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: None

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… a professor who continuously challenges them and encourages critical and independent thinking.


What are your hobbies? I enjoyed badminton, swimming, and cooking.

How will you spend your summer?

I originally planned for our grand annual family trip to Europe. I would settle for being a home cook, learning to master the Italian cuisine for this summer. 😊

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Places that I have never been to as yet.

Favorite book(s): Books that I have not read as yet.

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

I like Boyhood a lot. It is a moving 12-year epic that witnesses the magic of time. It is an ode to growing up and parenting, which I find incredibly touching and relatable.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why?

I like Rock and Roll. I never get tired of Beatles’ album “1” and Amy Winehouse’s album “Back to Black.”


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

If I had my way, the business school of the future world would focus much more on gender diversity. Over the past years, we have seen increasing efforts made by leading business schools to increase female enrollment, advance women leaders, and promote gender equity. However, there is still a significant glass ceiling in the business world. The future business schools need to take the initiative in creating platforms for females to redefine their roles and responsibilities, reconstruct work modes that accommodate these role changes, and foster a deeper societal understanding of female leadership.

I’m grateful for… the support and platform provided by Robinson College of Business and Georgia State University. I am thankful for my family who are the backbone of my life. I am incredibly fortunate to have wonderful teachers who inspire, genuinely care, and believe in me.

Students say:

“I wanted to thank you for the way you taught our class this semester. I wholeheartedly think that you are the best professor that I’ve ever had. Although I may not have showed it, I’ve never been as genuinely interested during a class before and that is completely to your credit. I have been on the fence for several months now about what it is I want to do after this program. Before your class I was leaning towards consulting, and after I now think I know for sure that this is what I would like to do. Strategy has been the most stimulating class for me and I would love to do it for a living.”

“Great lectures that were engaging. Best discussions I’ve had during my program because Prof. Gu was great about pushing our thoughts forward and challenging our thinking. I learned so much!”

“I had an amazing time in your class this semester. Your class had a direct impact on how well I did during my case interviews during recruiting for full-time consulting positions. “

“Qian Gu really cares about students and is a phenomenal lecturer. She grades quickly and makes me want to go to class. I am not good at Global Business and I still enjoyed the class because of her. The way she lays out the assignments in the class really makes the student learn not just the definitions but the concepts and ideas of Global Businesses and its success/failures. She gives real-world examples and makes class interesting.”

“One of the BEST professors I’ve had at Robinson yet! She’s incredibly knowledgeable and incredibly fair. She does a great job of leading us to the answer ourselves rather than just telling us the answer.”

“Professor Gu is by far one of my favorite instructors in the course, through her teaching it is clear she loves what she does and is eager to share her knowledge. A very strong point held by Professor Gu is her ability to empower students and encourage them to think further. I am happy with all I’ve learned in this course.”


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