2022 Best 40-Under-40 MBA Professors: Mahka Moeen, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

Mahka Moeen

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

“Coming into business school as a veteran, business strategy was a foreign concept for me and something I wasn’t sure how to think through and apply. Mahka was the professor that showed me how important business strategy is and how impactful it can be towards a lot of significant managerial decision making, such as M&A. As a 1Y student, I appreciated the interesting cases that Mahka handpicked and used to lead class discussions. A lot of the concepts she taught were the basis to how I approached different projects in school, my internship, and most likely beyond business school. Mahka set the foundation that I needed to become a leader in my next role.” – Daisy Nguyen-Le

Mahka Moeen, 39, is Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship and the Sarah Graham Kenan Scholar at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. 

Her research interests include entry strategies within nascent industries. She seeks to understand the entrepreneurial strategies of firms and stakeholders during early industry stages, which not only shape the foundations for industry commercial viability but also create opportunities for entrepreneurs’ success. 

Her research has been published in Strategic Management Journal, Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, Organization Science, and Strategy Science. Her research program has been recognized by a Schulze Family Foundation Distinguished Professorship in Entrepreneurship, a Kauffman Junior Faculty Fellowship, and an Industry Studies Emerging Scholar Award in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Her doctoral dissertation was the recipient of the Kauffman Foundation dissertation fellowship, the Academy of Management’s Technology and Innovation Management division, the Industry Studies Association, and the Strategy Research Foundation dissertation scholarship.

Moeen is a senior editor at Organization Science and serves on the editorial review boards of Strategic Management Journal, Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, and Strategy Science. She also serves on multiple leadership roles including the executive committee of the Strategic Management division at the Academy of Management and the chair of the Entrepreneurship and Strategy interest group at the Strategic Management Society. 


At current institution since what year? 2014

Education: Ph.D. in Management from the University of Maryland

List of MBA courses you currently teach: Strategic Management


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I don’t remember exactly when I knew that I wanted to be a professor. Two years ago, when I was recognized with the Poets & Quants Top 50 Undergraduate professor award, I answered this question by referring to my experience as an elementary school student. When my fourth-grade teacher couldn’t come to class, she had suggested that I could be a substitute teacher and solve the day’s math assignments on the board for the class. I thought that this was my first moment of being a professor. Since then, my mom shared an earlier experience. When I was 4 or 5 years old, I attended all my mom’s law school evening classes, sitting in the back of the class, working seriously on my coloring books. My mom’s classmates tell stories of how I entertained them before class, by playing the professor’s role! 

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I study firms’ entry strategies into nascent industries, in particular yet-to-be industries that have not reached their first product commercialization milestone. My research often refers to them as industries in their incubation stage. Because customers and competitors only notice products once they are available for sales on the market, this critical stage often remains invisible. But my research shows that the knowledge foundations for subsequent product commercialization and industry commercial viability are indeed built during this stage. It’s as if a vibrant root system is taking shape before we can see flowers on the surface. I have studied these questions within the agricultural biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, medical devices and drone industries. 

If I weren’t a business school professor… a lawyer. I haven’t yet ruled out the possibility of engaging in technology policy and law. 

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? This is a question to ask my students, but what I really strive to achieve is to adjust every class to the needs and aspirations of students in the cohort. Although I teach in the same strategic management frameworks to undergraduate, full-time MBA, and executive MBA students, I use different teaching methods across these classes. 

One word that describes my first-time teaching: Textbook 

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: My wish list of warnings changes every teaching semester. In earlier years, I realized the value of incorporating dynamic business challenges in the class discussion. In recent years, I am realizing the value of facilitating critical thinking skills so students can continue to learn on their own after the class ends. 

Professor I most admire and why:  The one and only Rajshree Agarwal was, is, and will always be on my list of admired professors. No word or sentence can do justice in describing Rajshree’s unparalleled cleverness, kindness, dedication, and enthusiasm. I have learned from Rajshree that your scholarship is amplified in your chosen community, so the (incomplete) list of admired professors in my community is a long one. I deeply miss Will Mitchell, as a pillar of patience and strength. Chris Bingham, area chair of strategy and entrepreneurship at UNC Kenan-Flagler, exemplifies compassionate leadership. Alfonso Gambardella is a role model for always taking on the newest most important challenges faced by businesses, and renewing his skill set to address those questions. Connie Helfat’s scholarship and deep thinking have always empowered me to do more. Gautam Ahuja is an inspiration in growth mindset and resilience in the face of hardship. Anita McGahan is fearless in fighting for liberty. I am also in awe of how Olga Hawn, my friend and faculty director of our Ackerman Center for Excellence in Sustainability at UNC Kenan-Flagler,  does it all with grace and perfection. Cheers to our community! 


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? Our students’ passion to make an impact in the world.

What is most challenging? A hybrid class with 30% of students in class and another 70% on the Zoom wall is the worst of both worlds. 

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

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

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… strict in page limits


What are your hobbies? Reading, listening to books. Nail polish. Flower arranging. 

How will you spend your summer? Travel. My family, friends, and business school colleagues have decided to catch up on two years of missed pandemic trips and events in May and June 2022. 

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Mountains, places rich in history, places with good food and coffee.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… dialogue.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… renewal.

I’m grateful for… the health and kindness of my family and friends. 


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