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2020 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Vishal Agrawal, Georgetown University McDonough School of Business

Vishal Agrawal of Georgetown University is a Poets&Quants Best 40 Under 40 MBA Professor

Years ago caring for the planet and environment were not likely to be a focus in a business school. But climate change, a fragile atmosphere, and a new generation of business students more concerned about triple bottom lines and care for the planet have changed that. At Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, Vishal Agrawal has been on the forefront of that change. The 36-year-old, who is the Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor and the Lapeyre Family Associate Professor is also the Academic Director of Georgetown McDonough’s new Sustainable Business Certificate.

“Professor Agrawal is a passionate and dedicated educator and researcher. His expertise is in environmentally sustainable business models. He is the driving force behind the new Sustainable Business Certificate offered through Georgetown’s MBA program,” one nominator told us. “The elective he teaches fills up immediately due to his reputation as an excellent case discussion leader and his ability to make an effective business case for sustainability. The class takes a qualitative and quantitative approach to the subject. His work is important and his ability to spread his passion for sustainability to hundreds of MBA students will positively affect change in the coming years.”

An award-winning researcher, Agrawal’s work might be some of the most important coming out of a business school these days.

“He curates classes to be engaging, interesting, and applicable to each of us. He selects thought-provoking case studies and challenges us by integrating our business school studies to complete complex assignments, like calculating the carbon footprint of shipping one ton of FIJI water to Georgetown,” another nominator said. “When not in the classroom, he’s enhancing the student extracurricular experience. This year he led the innovative development of the Certificate in Sustainable Business. He also moderated an engaging panel on sustainable retail with leaders from Eileen Fisher, Warby Parker, and West Elm, hosted by Georgetown’s Business for Impact and Retail & Luxury Association.”

When not in the classroom, Agrawal says he enjoys opera and theater, but he’s also “been on a fitness kick lately,” as well.

Vishal Agrawal          

Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor and Lapeyre Family Associate Professor, Academic Director, MBA Certificate on Sustainable Business

McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University

Current age: 36

At current institution since what year? 2010

Education: Ph.D., Georgia Institute of Technology

List of MBA courses you currently teach: Environmentally Sustainable Operations and Business Models (Elective)

TELL US ABOUT YOUR LIFE AS A PROFESSOR

I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I took my first MBA class as a graduate student in Industrial Engineering at Georgia Tech.

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

My research focuses on sustainable operations, focusing on managerial challenges at the interface of business and the environment. I study the environmental and economic performance of innovative business models, supply chain strategies and product development. Some of my recent research studies interesting managerial problems related to circular economy, renewable energy, and consumer behavior.

If I weren’t a business school professor… Probably a professor or teacher in some math or science-related field.

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

My passion for the topic of sustainable business

One word that describes my first time teaching: Excited

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: There are always new things to learn and skills to master, which make this quite a lot of fun.

Professor I most admire and why: Beril Toktay from Georgia Tech, who was also my adviser, for her ability to excel at every aspect of an academic career, and balancing it all well!

STUDENTS

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

How motivated and interested students at McDonough are regarding sustainability

What is most challenging?

Balancing time constraints in a course with the amount of interesting discussion students bring to the class

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

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Indifferent

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

LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM

What are your hobbies?

Attending opera and theater performances. I have been on a fitness kick recently.

How will you spend your summer?

I am looking forward to making significant progress on some new and interesting research projects.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: London, Italy, any place with great opera and theater performances

Favorite book(s): Always changes, currently, I am reading books on early-modern history.

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

Great British Bake Off and Doctor Who, and other British television shows

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? Opera. Maria Callas is my favorite singer of all time!

THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS

If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… More synergies between research, curriculum and learning for students, and impact to practice. I am excited to be developing a project at McDonough related to sustainable business that aims to do exactly this.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… incorporating and managing sustainability considerations in today’s volatile and changing environment

I’m grateful for… having a job that I love

Faculty, students, alumni, and/or administrators say:

“Professor Vishal Agrawal has a deep passion for the subject of sustainability, obvious by his research awards such as Management Science Best Paper in Operations Management Award (2015), Paul Kleindorfer Award in Sustainability (2016), and the INFORMS ENRE Young Researcher Award (runner up 2014). But he has an even deeper passion for teaching. He curates classes to be engaging, interesting, and applicable to each of us. He selects thought-provoking case studies and challenges us by integrating our business school studies to complete complex assignments, like calculating the carbon footprint of shipping one ton of FIJI water to Georgetown! When not in the classroom, he’s enhancing the student extracurricular experience. This year he led the innovative development of the Certificate in Sustainable Business. He also moderated an engaging panel on sustainable retail with leaders from Eileen Fisher, Warby Parker and West Elm, hosted by Georgetown’s Business for Impact and Retail & Luxury Association.”

“Young, dynamic, engaging. Specializes in Sustainability, and leads the new Sustainable Business Certificate. He’s a star and going to be a big force in the Sustainability world.”

“Professor Agrawal is a passionate and dedicated educator and researcher. His expertise is in environmentally sustainable business models. He is the driving force behind the new Sustainable Business Certificate offered through Georgetown’s MBA program. The elective he teaches fills up immediately due to his reputation as an excellent case discussion leader and his ability to make an effective business case for sustainability. The class takes a qualitative and quantitative approach to the subject. His work is important and his ability to spread his passion for sustainability to hundreds of MBA students will positively affect change in the coming years.”

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE 2020 LIST OF THE WORLD’S BEST 40-UNDER-40 BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSORS