Beyer Family Associate Professor
McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University
We like impactful research. We also like professors that go beyond the classroom to mentor and impact professors. Georgetown University’s Simon Blanchard checks both of those boxes. He’s also the director of the MBA Certificate in Consumer Analytics and Insights at the McDonough School of Business, which we really like. In setting out to compile our annual list of the world’s best 40 business professors under 40 years old, important research and student likability are requirements. But what sets professors over the edge in this increasingly competitive recognition is when they direct or create initiatives, certificates, and other programs at their respective business schools.
Blanchard’s work and insights can regularly be found in national, regional, and local media alike.
“I have recently focused on using quantitative methods to understand the financially vulnerable debt repayment decisions,” Blanchard says of his recent research. “I use data from budgeting apps, fintech companies, and experiments. Succinctly, the research shows that getting consumers motivated may be just as important as getting them to internalize the optimal way to manage their finances.”
Current age: 39
At current institution since what year? 2011
Education: BBA in Management of Information Systems in 2003 from Université de Sherbrooke, M.Sc. in Business Intelligence in 2005 from Université de Montréal (HEC Montréal), and Ph.D. in Marketing with minors in psychology and operations research in 2011 from the Pennsylvania State University’s Smeal College of Business.
List of MBA courses you currently teach: Digital Advertising (intensive learning experience) twice a year. Strategic Marketing Research (starting Fall 2021). I also co-taught Analytical Problem Solving (our core analytics course) for many years. I’m also the director of our MBA Certificate in Customer Analytics and Insights, through which I interact with many MBA students.
TELL US ABOUT LIFE AS A BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSOR
I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I grew up in a French-speaking family in Québec where we read a Tintin story every night. I like to think that the continuous exposure to Hergé’s Professor Calculus (Tournesol), the clumsy and absent-minded professor, was the impetus for my interest in scientific discovery.
What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?
I have recently focused on using quantitative methods to understand the financially vulnerable debt repayment decisions. I use data from budgeting apps, fintech companies, and experiments. Succinctly, the research shows that getting consumers motivated may be just as important as getting them to internalize the optimal way to manage their finances.
If I weren’t a business school professor… As I also have both a technical background and an interest in helping people manage their finances, I would look at consumer-focused fintech startups for positions that lead research or product development. I’d likely look for a position where I would interact both with developers and with executives.
What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I think I do a good job at trading off accuracy and relevance when teaching technical concepts—also, my meme game.
One word that describes my first time teaching: bootstrapping.
Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: Someone recently told a friend of mine who just got tenure: “You will discover once you have tenure, it is sort like a nose—if you don’t have it you certainly wish you did, but once you have it, you hardly notice it.” I thought it was a nice perspective.
Professor I most admire and why: Of course, I have great admiration and love for my doctoral co-advisors Meg Meloy and Wayne DeSarbo to whom I owe my entire career. But you asked for one. As someone who straddles the line between experimental and quantitative methods, I would be remiss if I didn’t name Don Lehmann (Columbia Business School). Don has over 40 years on the faculty at Columbia, and has consistently produced groundbreaking research in both the consumer behavior and quantitative subdisciplines of marketing. That’s amazing, but what makes Don unique is his approachability, combined with his ability to make you feel like the most important person in the room.
TEACHING MBA STUDENTS
What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? I enjoy how students can bring their own very unique experiences to the classroom. A few years ago, I taught a difficult customer lifetime value case on Ooredoo (telecom provider) entering the mobile banking market in Myanmar. Many students visited Myanmar, but two also had relevant work experiences directly related to the case. One had worked in the region as an infrastructure engineer (i.e., building cell towers), and another had worked for a nonprofit in economic development. We all learned a ton from their perspectives as we discussed the case beyond the math.
What is most challenging? The wide variety of experiences also brings its pedagogical challenges. I’ve had practicing data scientists, musicians, artists, nuclear engineers, fashion designers, lobbyists, school teachers, and bankers. What’s interesting to some will not be interesting to others. What’s going to be easy for some will not be easy for others.
In one word, describe your favorite type of student: curious.
In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: entitled.
When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… fair.
LIFE OUTSIDE OF THE CLASSROOM
What are your hobbies? To relax, I have played the NHL video-game series (every year since 1991) and watch the Montréal Canadiens. I also enjoy snowboarding, even if it is difficult to find decent snow in the DC area.
How will you spend your summer? Doing research. We’ll also take our son on road trips to southern VA and North Carolina. He loves being in the water.
Favorite place(s) to vacation: Besides Québec and Taiwan (where my wife is from), I’d say Sri Lanka. When we went, my wife and I loved being able to go from a beach one day, a desert and safari in the other, and closeout our vacation in a Ceylon tea plantation with beautiful water views. People were also very hospitable.
Favorite book(s): Fiction: Volkswagen Blues by Jacques Poulin. A mid-80s French-Canadian classic that explores Québec’s difficult search for identity both culturally and politically. Business: I will go with Brian McCullough’s “Business Experiments with R.” I am excited to be using this book to create a new course at Georgetown.
What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? I watch way too much TV… so this is a hard question. I have to mention Schitt’s Creek, the (Canadian) breath of fresh air we all needed at the start of the pandemic.
What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? I’d say Bon Iver as I’m partial to indie folk. Their music is so scenic.
THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS
If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… I keep on hearing about how asynchronous teaching platforms are going to replace formal education. One thing that is difficult to scale on these platforms is the hands-on mentorship of students on real company projects. As students learn better with practice, I would like to see more company projects integrated into faculty-led experiential courses.
In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… Assessing the incremental lift of their marketing activities. If a consumer clicked a Facebook ad and made a purchase, it doesn’t mean that the ad is responsible for the sale. This consumer might have purchased regardless, and your Facebook advertising dollar would have been wasted. Companies need to focus on assessing the incremental returns of their marketing actions.
I’m grateful for… my son Louis and my wife Yvonne. They are my world.
Faculty, students, alumni, and/or administrators say:
“I have only met Professor Blanchard in person once, the day before shutdown in March 2020. But of all my professors, he has been and will always be the best. -worked tirelessly to turn a very interactive class into one that was extremely valuable through zoom, with only a few days notice -unyielding in his support of students, even if he must work to help change administrative/ program requirements -always asking for and taking feedback from students in order to become a better, more helpful, influential professor. Especially during this past year that required drastic changes to the curriculum and communication with students. I guarantee that he has been one of the most proactive professors in the school to rise to the challenges of this year. He even spent hours, personally reaching out to students (including me) to ask for feedback and ideas to implement in his future classes in order to make the most out of remote learning requirements. I know of no other professor that spent hours individually interviewing students in a tireless effort to better serve them. Last, but certainly not least: he goes above and beyond to support students outside of the classroom. He always makes time to listen, give advice, or catch up with anyone that asks. The most dependable, sincere professor that I’ve had the privilege of learning from. Give him this honor. He deserves it.”
“Professor Blanchard was instrumental in bringing the certificate in consumer analytics and insights to MSB MBAs – that certificate helped me focus my electives and ultimately pivot my career and land a job after graduation.”
“I took two of Professor Blanchard’s classes: Analytical Problem Solving and Digital Advertising. His unique style of weaving real-world examples and situations — coupled with lots of relatable humor and the occasional meme — always made his classes memorable and highly effective at cementing the subject matter. What could have been dour topics (as quantitative subject matter often risks being) were instead made fun and engaging. Professor Blanchard’s classes gave me a tactical, highly practical and tangible framework for tackling real-world professional analytical situations, which I still use daily, and which I credit much of my post-grad professional success to. Besides being a great teacher, Professor Blanchard is also a great person, acting as a great and always available resource, even long after our graduation. He has had a remarkable impact on me and my classmates, and gets my highest recommendation for a nomination.”
“On top of being a stellar marketing data teaching professor and adapting extremely well to the virtual landscape, Professor Blanchard created and helms the Consumer Analytics certificate program in the MBA program. Due to his direct oversight, this program has brought numerous speakers to talk through data analytics in the real world. Furthermore, his creation of this program has allowed students to develop real skills that help them stand out in the workplace – I know I wouldn’t have gotten my job without it.”
“Simon is an incredibly thoughtful, intelligent and mindful professor who genuinely wants his students to grasp new marketing concepts and understand how to apply them in real life scenarios. He went out of his way on multiple occasions to help me and my classmates on extra curricular activities, including taking time to help us develop a marketing strategy for a startup business idea that we were launching at the time. Simon is one of those professors that left a lasting impression on me and I will never forget the impact he had on my MBA experience.”