2021 Best 40-Under-40 Professors: Cynthia Cryder, Washington University in St. Louis (Olin)

Cynthia Cryder is a 2021 Best 40 Under 40 Business School professor. Courtesy photo

Cynthia Cryder

Associate Professor of Marketing

Olin Business School, Washington University in St. Louis

Cynthia Cryder is another one of the prolific researchers to make this year’s list, already notching more than 3,000 Google Scholar citations. The Associate Professor of Marketing at Washington University’s Olin Business School has recently earned national media coverage from places like NPR and The New York Times from her work looking at incentives. A barrier breaker, Cryder was the first Olin professor to move fully online when the pandemic hit and she’s the first woman to ever teach Olin’s marketing core to MBAs.

“I study consumer behavior in the nonprofit domain,” Cryder says of her research. “A recent finding includes that consumers judge nonprofits more negatively for taking risks than they judge for-profits for taking the same risks. This negative reaction to nonprofit risk-taking can limit nonprofit innovation, which is a big problem.”

Because of her research prowess and barrier-breaking career, we found it easy to place Cryder on this year’s list of Best 40 Under 40 B-school professors.

Current age: 38

At current institution since what year? 2009

Education: B.S. in Psychology from Ohio State in 2004; Ph.D. in Behavioral Decision Research from Carnegie Mellon in 2009

List of MBA courses you currently teach: Marketing Management


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I saw the cool research about judgment and decision-making coming out of business schools, and I realized I could research the topics that I care about while having enough resources to do so.

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

I study consumer behavior in the nonprofit domain. A recent finding includes that consumers judge nonprofits more negatively for taking risks than they judge for-profits for taking the same risks. This negative reaction to nonprofit risk-taking can limit nonprofit innovation, which is a big problem.

If I weren’t a business school professor… I would be a financial advisor. Or a farmer.

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

The research and evidence-focused perspective that I bring to marketing, a discipline that is often assumed to be “squishy”.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Scary!

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: Cases make course packets expensive quickly.

Professor I most admire and why: Tava Olsen. Tava is an Operations professor, and she and I overlapped at Wash U. for one year before she moved to the University of Auckland.  Tava not only has a sterling research reputation, but she is a phenomenal colleague, mentor, and leader. Tava, if you are reading this, I miss you!


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

Their genuine curiosity to learn about how the world works.

What is most challenging?

The breadth of topics that is important when teaching a foundational business course.

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

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Unwilling-to-accept-feedback 😉

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… This depends on what grade they received.


What are your hobbies?

Gardening, running, and reading, as well as soothing, nurturing, and chasing my kids.

How will you spend your summer?

Research, but also trying to catch up on some family trips that were missed due to the pandemic.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: National Parks, with Joshua Tree National Park as a recent favorite.

Favorite book(s): Ooh, so many. The World According to Garp, The Association of Small Bombs, Homegoing,  Lincoln in the Bardo, Shrill, The Undoing Project, The Tale of Despereaux, The Wild Robot, and Leonardo the Terrible Monster.

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

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. It’s an incredible tv show for toddlers (it’s also an extension of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood), and it teaches kids and their parents how not to lose their minds.

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

I don’t have a great answer here, but I did think it was a really beautiful thing when Yo-yo Ma brought his cello and played for other people getting the covid-19 vaccine while he was waiting out his own post-vaccine observation period. What I would have given to be there.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this: Guidance for students interested in social entrepreneurship.

In my opinion, companies, and organizations today need to do a better job at… Weighing low-quality evidence differently from high-quality evidence.

I’m grateful for… My family, my job, our health, and vaccines.

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

“Professor Cryder is a shining example of how one professor can embody both research excellence and teaching excellence. Her modal score on her teaching evaluations is a 10 out of 10, and she recently received the Emerson Excellence in Teaching Award. This fall, she broke several barriers by being the first to teach Olin’s MBA marketing core fully online (because of COVID restrictions) and the first woman ever to teach in Olin’s marketing core (online or offline). Her research on prosocial behavior and financial decision-making also helps to make the world a better place as she explores what motivates people to donate to charitable causes. Recently, her work on incentives has been featured in multiple media outlets—from NPR to the New York Times—for its implications for whether and how we should incentivize people to get vaccinated for COVID.”

“Prof. Cryder is able to take cutting-edge psychological research and translate it into actions that are relevant to the marketing managers of today and tomorrow. For the leaders of tomorrow, she currently teaches the core marketing class at the Olin Business School’s MBA program, infusing this curriculum with the learnings from her research interests. For the leaders of today, Prof Cryder’s research has been disseminated widely, including many radio interviews about how to motivate reluctant workers to get vaccinated from COVID, and articles in publications such as Psychology Today about how to get people to donate to good causes. All along with this, Prof. Cryder continues to produce outstanding research that is published in the best academic journals.”


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