2021 Best 40-Under-40 Professors: Aaron Yoon, Northwestern Kellogg

Aaron Yoon of Northwestern Kellogg is a 2021 Best 40 Under 40 Business School Professor. Courtesy photo

Aaron Yoon

Assistant Professor

Kellogg School of Management

Aaron Yoon is an assistant professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management where he teaches the first-year accounting core class to MBA students. Yoon is an award-winning professor who has received Kellogg’s Chair Core Teaching Award in 2019-2020. A strong researcher, Yoon has more than 600 Google Scholar citations and his work has been featured in major media outlets like Bloomberg, Financial Times, Forbes, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.

“A big part of my research agenda is to account for and quantify a firm’s Environment Social Governance (ESG) efforts and integrate that information into equity portfolios to generate excess return,” Yoon says. “I spent the past five years proposing and documenting links between ESG and shareholder value.”

Those nominating Yoon raved about his ability to make accounting interesting and accessible.

Current age: 34

At current institution since what year? 2018

Education: DBA, Harvard Business School. MA/BA, Northwestern University.

List of MBA courses you currently teach: Accounting 430 (Kellogg MBA 1st Year Core)


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I worked as a sales trader, not too long after the Lehman crisis. During my short time on the trading floor, many of my colleagues got let go. It was a time when everyone worried about losing their job. Naturally, I thought a lot about why I am (t)here and how I can best utilize what I have to add value to the society.

There are so many talented young people in the finance industry. I realized that business and capitalism could play a big role in making this World a better place and that young people would be crucial in that process. It was then I decided to be a teacher in business, mentoring students who aspire to be future leaders.

So, every day as the instructor of my students is a dream come true for me.

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

A big part of my research agenda is to account for and quantify a firm’s Environment Social Governance (ESG) efforts and integrate that information into equity portfolios to generate excess return. I spent the past five years proposing and documenting links between ESG and shareholder value.

If I weren’t a business school professor… I would go back to the trading floor and manage assets.

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

I truly love and enjoy interacting with my students. I not only want to be a good instructor but want to get to know my students and understand where they are coming from and where they will be in the future.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Fun.

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: That we can not only make a difference as teachers but also as researchers. I really enjoy generating new ideas and working on executing research projects.

Professor I most admire and why: My father who is also a professor. He has been a true role model for me in many ways and is a someone that I want to be like as an academic. Since a very young age, I have seen his dedication not only to research and service but also to teaching. I am grateful that I can walk on the path that my father walked on for decades.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

I love the different perspectives that each and every one of my students bring to class. I learn so much from interacting with my students hearing about their experience and perspectives. It is incredibly humbling to interact with the future business leaders.

What is most challenging?

Thankfully, I did not encounter that many notable challenges so far.

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Proactive. 

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


What are your hobbies? I used to have different hobbies (e.g., roaming around the city with my wife and trying out different cuisines, golfing, traveling, and etc.), before having kids. But now, I just love spending time with my two boys.

How will you spend your summer? I will be in Korea with my parents and enjoy family time.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Paris, Prague, Budapest.

Favorite book(s): Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

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

Life is beautiful starring Roberto Benigni. I also enjoy watching comedy.

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

I love listening to all sorts of music.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… Giving more opportunities and open pathways for the underprivileged to succeed.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… Growing junior talent and sincerely caring about their development and success.

I’m grateful for… All the things that are granted to me including the chance to teach students at Kellogg and be a part of their lives and endeavors. I would not be here without the support of my family and my mentors (Ron Dye, Paul Healy, Bob Korajczyk, Krishna Palepu, Hsiu-ling Robertson, Bill Rogerson, George Serafeim, Mark Sheldon, Rodrigo Verdi, and Mark Witte) who truly cared about my development and success. I would love to do the same for my students.

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

Professor Yoon is one of the most engaging, thoughtful and genuine professors I’ve had the pleasure of having in my academic career. He is an outstanding professor and was far and away the best part of this course.”

“I appreciated Prof. Yoon’s focus on not only teaching us accounting but pushing us to critically think about how accounting is used in practice and what we should be thinking about in our future careers as we evaluate financial statements.”

Prof Yoon took a real interest in ensuring that students had every opportunity to learn the material. He was completely approachable, very understanding, and empathetic, and had a great dedication to student success. I also appreciated the fact that Prof Yoon understood the role accounting would play in our future careers and sought to give us big picture applications rather focus on small minutiae.”

“Professor Yoon showed his empathy for the students of the class. A professor can be a leader in his/her respect field, but without that empathy students will be less likely to engage. Professor Yoon had both characteristics and it made for a great class. Empathy may be considered a small thing, though it is of the utmost importance in terms of student engagement. Students want to know that the professor is on their side. Professor Yoon should be used as an example of how this could be more applied to other professors.”

“I cannot imagine a better professor for this class than Professor Yoon. I could really tell he cares about the well–being and education of his students”

“The best aspect of this course was the Professor. Professor Yoon kept the topics relevant and used real world examples to provide context. He taught the course more conceptually than technically, which helped us see the relevance of each topic in the business world. He also did an excellent job creating a safe space for everyone to feel comfortable learning / asking questions and keep levels of anxiety down.”

“I really enjoyed the real–life perspective that Prof Yoon brought to the class. It led to great class conversation and helped me understand the actual application of what we were learning. It was also very apparent that he was interested in how our class, specifically, learned the best, and how he could help us get the most out of the class.”

“I really enjoyed Prof. Yoon’s class as he kept me engaged with the class content by providing many real–world examples that he himself experienced as a professional. It made a subject like accounting, which is not always the most interesting, very intriguing. I looked forward to coming to Prof. Yoon’s class on a weekly basis.”

“Professor Yoon was incredibly knowledgeable, accommodating and engaging. His personal anecdotes and perspectives were not only enjoyable to hear, but they also heightened my overall level of engagement with and commitment to the material covered. The concepts went above and beyond what I thought I would get out of a basic accounting course and the tie–ins to actual financial statements brought a sense of realness and weight to the material. I will definitely be seeking this professor out for future classes.”

“Prof. Yoon is the embodiment of a top professor. He taught us more than debits and credits. He taught us how to be better employees, children, and parents. I look back on the time I spent with him in that class and see a man who truly cared about his students and wanted to know each of our stories. He taught me the power of caring with the pre-class lunches he would eat with us. He would organize after class meet ups with the entire class and mingle amongst us. Of the people in my cohort that took accounting in our first quarter, that was our favorite class. I did not mistype: accounting was our favorite class. The respect he gave us as his students is unmatched. The culture in the classroom was collaborative. I learned so much from my time with Prof. Yoon that I am now leading my company’s due diligence on an acquisition as an engineer. I could never thank him enough for all that he’s done for me inside and outside the classroom. P&Q would be remiss to leave Prof. Yoon off their 40 under 40 list.”

“I spent 12 years as a professional athlete, and I knew business school was something I wanted to explore. I was nervous that I would get lost in the crowd and be pushed aside for asking “dumb questions” entering among such distinguished classmates. From the first day of class, Professor Yoon provided an incredible learning-rich environment that was not only academically professional and rigorous but inclusive, and in a COVID/hybrid experience, nonetheless. He focused on finding the best way to relate to students individually, emphasizing individual growth within a communal environment. I could go on and find ways to include my new b-school acumen, but I think it better to keep things short: Professor Yoon is the cheese, he was an integral part of me developing confidence that I belonged, and I’d have a beer (or coffee) with him any time. Preferably a beer.”


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