2021 Best 40-Under-40 Professors: Naim Bugra Ozel, UT Dallas (Jindal) & The Wharton School

Naim Burgra Ozel is a 2021 Best 40 Under 40 Professor. Courtesy photo

Naim Bugra Ozel

Associate Professor of Accounting

Jindal School, University of Texas at Dallas  & The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania (Visiting)

Naim Bugra Ozel is an associate professor of accounting at the University of Texas at Dallas but visiting at The Wharton School since 2019. Coming from a family of accountants and bankers, Ozel says it was clear to him he’d be a professor of some sort all the way back in the fifth grade when his dad started calling him “the professor.” Ozel is an award-winning professor, earning recognitions like the Dean George W. Robbins Award for Teaching Excellence from UCLA in 2014, The Wharton School’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 2020, and he was a Jindal School Faculty Idol of the Year Finalist in 2019.

His research has been featured in outlets like the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and Harvard Business Review.

“Most of my work focuses on how labor, legal, and tax considerations come into play in corporate disclosure and financing decisions,” Ozel says. “For example, one of my papers shows how firms cut corners in workplace safety when in danger of missing analysts’ earnings expectations. In another one, we find that firms tend to strategically use managerial job titles to avoid paying overtime.”

Current age: 39

At current institution since what year? UTD – 2015, The Wharton School – 2019

Education: B.S. in Industrial Engineering (2005), and B.S. in Management Engineering (2004) from Istanbul Technical University (Double Major, with the highest distinction); M.A. (2007) and Ph.D. (2010) in Accounting from Columbia University.

List of MBA courses you currently teach: Financial and Managerial Accounting


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I was quite young. In fact, my dad calls me “the professor” since the fifth grade. I grew up in a family of accountants and bankers, and I have always been intrigued by little details that make big differences. So it seems only natural that I gravitated towards being a business school professor.

What are you currently researching, and what is the most significant discovery you have made from it? I love exploring the “ingredients” of managerial decisions. Most of my work focuses on how labor, legal, and tax considerations come into play in corporate disclosure and financing decisions. For example, one of my papers shows how firms cut corners in workplace safety when in danger of missing analysts’ earnings expectations. In another one, we find that firms tend to strategically use managerial job titles to avoid paying overtime.

If I weren’t a business school professor… I probably would have kept more of my hair on my head (regardless of what else I would be doing).

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?  I am a great listener, and I try to learn from what is being told without judging the person who says it. I believe that improves transparency in communications. In the classroom, students feel more comfortable contributing to discussions. In research, people give you more details when they see that you are eager to listen to what they have to say. The initial idea for several of my papers came out from listening to others and thinking about what they say and don’t say, rather than talking.

One word that describes my first time teaching:  Oh boy! (say it like Scott Bakula)

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: You will be judged often, on occasion harshly and perhaps unfairly, but you should have your own goals and keep moving through those regardless of what others say.

Professor I most admire and why: I have learned from many wonderful professors at ITU and Columbia, colleagues at UCLA, UTD, and Wharton, and many others whom I feel lucky to call co-authors. My admiration for all those I learned from made me who I am. So I guess I admire the future myself who spent his time with admirable people, learned from everyone, and strived to improve and help others improve.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?  Surprising and intriguing questions they raise. No matter how many years you are in this profession, students come up with new perspectives to old questions every year. It forces me to think, listen, read, and keep myself engaged in learning. Several of them keep in touch with me after graduation, occasionally emailing even more intriguing ones later on!

What is most challenging? Being fair. I do not particularly like assigning grades to anyone, but it is part of the job. I feel the pressure to ensure that all is fair when it comes to grading.

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

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

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


What are your hobbies?  Traveling, stock/bond trading, and occasionally looting others’ towns at the clash of clans

How will you spend your summer? Attending conferences on Zoom, finishing research projects that built up on my desk while I was teaching, and hopefully a road trip to Maine for a week or two to see what the pine tree state has to offer.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Island vacations are the best. I had great memories in Iceland, Seychelles, Aruba, and Hawaii over the past few years, and I look forward to visit others soon.

Favorite book(s): The Republic, The Little Prince, The Count of Monte Cristo, and pretty much anything written by Agatha Christie

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?  Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. I love how the storyline brings so many random people and events together to form a chaotic yet very entertaining movie. In terms of movie/show characters, nothing comes close to Scrooge McDuck, in my view. How can you beat someone who keeps a vault full of gold just to swim in it!

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? I would listen to any tune that makes me feel positive. Sometimes it is a classical music piece; sometimes, Frank Sinatra singing “fly me to the moon”; sometimes it is Turkish pop music.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… “good” coffee. Not sure if anyone tested it but I think smooth and tasty coffee significantly improves research productivity in addition to creating an excuse for interacting with others.

In my opinion, companies, and organizations today need to do a better job at… minimizing their negative impact to the earth. I never believed that generating wealth for a minority at the cost of reducing the quality of life for the majority is a sustainable equilibrium in the long run.

I’m grateful for…  my wife (marrying her was the best decision of my life), my parents and brother, and having the life that I have.

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

“Professor Ozel is the strongest professor I have had, and I wish he could teach all of my classes. Ozel understands that the purpose of teaching is to ensure that the students are learning, and he goes above and beyond to do this. He takes the time to teach concepts. As a result of Ozel’s teaching methods and focus on the students, I have learned more than I ever could have imagined about accounting. A topic that I initially was not excited about suddenly became interesting and definitely a highlight.”

“Professor Ozel is, without a doubt, one of the best professors I have ever had. I did not expect to enjoy or understand accounting, but I have been pleasantly surprised by how much I have loved his course. He does a fantastic job of explaining concepts, assigning concise, clear assignments, and providing useful presentations and notes to help the class study. He creates a very engaging classroom environment. He always asks for questions, and he is always ready with a thorough response that helps the class gain further mastery. He is very committed to ensuring all students understand the material. He is nice and fun and an all-around great professor.”

“I can honestly say (with no exaggeration) that he is the best professor I’ve ever had the pleasure of learning from. He’s incredibly knowledgeable about the topic, has great communication and teaching skills, is funny and cares about his students’ education.”

“Professor Ozel was a terrific professor, making the dry material compelling and going out of his way to make sure we understood the concepts and their applications – carving out time for extra help. Among the best professors I’ve had at Wharton.”


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