2023 Best 40-Under-40 MBA Professors: Kristopher Keller, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School 

Congrats to Kristopher Keller of the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School for being named a 2023 Best 40-Under-40 MBA Professor.

Kristopher Keller

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

“I could not have landed multiple marketing offers without the teachings of Professor Keller. I was able to use his frameworks in the marketing case interviews. The way he structured the course was incredibly practical and easy to understand. I don’t think our school has a better teacher than Professor Keller.”Satwikk Trehan

Kristopher Keller, 34, is an assistant professor of marketing at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. 

Keller studies topics in marketing, specifically responsible retailing, and private label marketing and his work has been published in the Journal of Marketing, the Journal of Retailing, and the Journal of Marketing Research.

His teaching interests include general marketing courses, specifically marketing channel management, retailing, and marketing models. He is the winner of the 2021 Weatherspoon Award for Teaching Excellence in the Full-Time MBA Program and has been named an “All-Star” teacher.

Research awards include the 2021 Emerging Scholar Award from the American Marketing Association’s Retail and Pricing Special Interest Group, the IMU Research for Practice Dissertation Award, the AMA-Sheth Foundation Doctoral Consortium Fellowship, the GfK Market Research Award, and Research Talent Grant from the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research.


At current institution since what year?  2017


  • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Economics (2011, Goethe University, Germany)
  • Master of Science in Marketing Research (2013, Tilburg University, the Netherlands)
  • Research Master of Science in Marketing (2013, Tilburg University, the Netherlands)
  • Ph.D. in Marketing (cum laude, 2017, Tilburg University, the Netherlands)

List of MBA courses you currently teach: Principles of Marketing in the Full-Time MBA Program, a core course


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… The moment when I realized my calling as a business school professor was an intriguing one. Teaching had always held a special place in my heart, especially if done well. However, it was during my first undergraduate course in marketing – as a student – that I experienced a profound fascination for research. The excitement of exploring uncharted territories and unearthing new knowledge was like a magnetic force pulling me toward the realm of academia.

At that time, the idea of becoming a professor sounded absurd to me. I didn’t think I’d be “good enough”. But as I delved deeper into the subject matter, I found myself irresistibly drawn to the prospect of contributing to the field through research and sharing my insights with future generations. Consequently, I began applying for programs that would provide me with the necessary tools and opportunities to embark on this academic journey.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I’m currently working on a number of projects, all of which I find exciting because they have the potential to impact society! In one project, we’re looking at the introduction of soda taxes in the U.S. While we already know that these taxes reduce consumption of soda and lead to some consumers shopping in adjacent markets, we document that retailers actively scale back promotional support for sodas, which exacerbates the effect of soda taxes. Put differently, soda taxes don’t work as well as we thought because retailers’ (unintentional) actions led to even lower soda sales than what the soda tax alone would have caused.

If I weren’t a business school professor… An accountant. Or a horribly unsuccessful golf professional. Definitely a lot less happy.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? Empathy, dedication, caring about students and having experienced several different academic systems. I place great emphasis on empathy and understanding. I genuinely care about the well-being and success of my students, and I strive to create a learning environment that makes this possible. 

Second, I just really like teaching. I invest time and effort in preparing engaging sessions, designing thought-provoking assignments, and providing timely feedback to foster students’ development. This results in long-lasting relationships and collaborations with students, often many years after they graduated.

Lastly, my experience within academic systems across three different countries has granted me a unique perspective. This exposure has made me acutely aware of the subtle nuances and differences within educational systems that one might not typically consider. Such awareness enables me to cater to the diverse needs and backgrounds of my students, enriching their learning experience.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Catastrophe.

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: When it comes to the realities of being a business school professor, there is one crucial aspect that I wish someone had emphasized to me early on: Teaching goes beyond the mere transmission of knowledge or providing step-by-step problem-solving techniques. The true essence lies in inspiring a genuine passion for the subject matter, fueling a desire within students to explore and expand their understanding.

It is not enough to simply impart information; rather, our role is to ignite a fire of curiosity and motivation, making students eager to seek further knowledge on their own accord. Without this intrinsic drive, the journey becomes an arduous uphill battle, with limited engagement and limited impact.

Professor I most admire and why: I won’t name names here, but it was a former professor who used an overhead projector and taught classes without breaks for three hours about a subject that was not very timely. And yet, I was excited for every session and wanted to learn more after each session.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? Being able to build on their expertise and experiences – every session goes in a slightly different direction and I never know what we’ll discuss – that’s exciting.

What is most challenging? Remaining on track amid these many opportunities to discuss issues left and right of the session’s topic. 

In a word, describe your favorite type of student: Curious.

In a word, describe your least favorite type of student: Arrogant.

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Invested and fair but harsh (I’m still German after all.)


What are your hobbies? Cycling, traveling, and collecting (and drinking) Scotch whisky.

How will you spend your summer? Mostly working on my research projects and attending a few conferences (my wife says too many!) all around the world. Aside from that, I’ll try to sleep more, eat less and healthier, work out more, and fail horribly at all of that.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: The mountains. But my wife and our kids prefer the beach, so guess where we’re going…

Favorite book(s): “The Martian” by Andy Weir. One of the most influential books for me certainly was “An Inconvenient Truth” which I read back in 2007.

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? Clearly, the best TV series of all time is “Boston Legal,” but they discontinued it in 2008. More than a decade ago, they tackled today’s societal problems and dilemmas in an incredibly funny manner. They successfully blended drama and comedy: They managed to make you laugh in one second and in the next you’re dead serious because of the severity of what is happening…

I also like “House of Cards” and “Babylon Berlin.” It’s been a while since I’ve watched a great movie.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? House music from 10 to 15 years ago. I’m getting old.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… A long-term perspective. I don’t know how to fix it, but often the most important goal is “to find a job” and hence business schools often aim to optimize for that. Students certainly do that a lot. But as a business school, we should strive to build managers who are not only doing well today but also in 30 years. We can do that by instilling abstract problem-solving skills, resilience, and a superior work ethic – so they can tackle whatever challenges the future holds. The problem is, we cannot do that if our students start interviewing within a few weeks of starting their journey and being pushed to prepare for yet another specific case…

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… Identifying, growing and retaining talent. I think a big issue is that we (or organizations more generally) do not spend enough time understanding what it is that we’re looking for in employees and selecting the ones that fit that description, how we can make them better (at the MBA level, this is certainly not a one-size-fits-all approach) so they can help the organization but also grow on their end, and retain those that do well. 

I’m grateful for… So many things. Foremost, my wife (a UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA ’20 graduate) and kids, who truly support me in this role. But also for the opportunity to engage with bright people in the research and business school communities. 



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