2023 Best 40-Under-40 MBA Professors: Marina Cooley, Emory University’s Goizueta Business School

Congrats to Marina Cooley of Emory University’s Goizueta Business School for being named a 2023 Best 40 Under 40 MBA Professor.

Marina Cooley

Emory University’s Goizueta Business School

“Professor Cooley is one of the most impactful and memorable professors I’ve had as a business student and throughout my entire educational career. She does an amazing job of making complex concepts easier to understand through applicable and relevant case studies while making it fun and engaging. I took her course several months ago, but the frameworks still seem fresh. It’s because of Professor Cooley that I can easily implement a segmentation, targeting, and positioning analysis or recall the Ansoff Matrix to quickly identify a growth opportunity. She makes marketing a more tangible practice that I can clearly see how to implement in other industries. She also created a solid foundation for some of my other classes such as entrepreneurship. I’m excited to take what she instilled into my career and entrepreneurial endeavors.”Katie Woods

Marina Cooley, 39, is an assistant professor in the practice of marketing at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.

She spent more than 15 years in strategic marketing roles such as brand management at Coca-Cola, CMO at Lavva, and management consulting at IBM. While at Coca-Cola, she was part of the meteoric growth of two unicorn brands, Gold Peak and Honest Tea.

A storyteller at heart, Cooley is passionate about bringing her love of modern marketing to her newly launched course at Goizueta, Content Marketing. She thrives on teaching through unconventional methods, most recently launching a Tik Tok account and cracking the code to virality.

She is the winner of the 2023 Goizueta Junior Faculty Distinguished Educator Award and a Goizueta BBA Distinguished Educator Award. She is also a 2014-2016 Woodruff Scholar at Goizueta, the highest level of scholarship awarded. 


At current institution since what year? 2021


  • BS from New York University Stern School of Business
  • MBA from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School

List of MBA courses you currently teach: 

  • Marketing Management 
  • Content Marketing 
  • Design Your (Whole) Life 


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I received an email just three years ago. My mentor and favorite professor, Ryan Hamilton, who I had guest lectured for multiple times reached out and asked if I had ever considered teaching.

And, sure I had…I think we all imagine a scenario in which we become adjuncts and share our expertise with the next generation. But, I had never imagined stepping into this role at 36. I had recently left Coca-Cola’s brand management group and was leading marketing at a Series B start-up which was somehow even more stressful than Coke. I had 2 kids under the age of three and when I saw that email, I knew in my gut that it was the right move. 

What I didn’t know was that this role would fit me like a glove. All of the skill sets I had collected from already having had 4 careers (management consultant, entrepreneur, CMO, and brand manager at the most iconic brand in the world) lent themselves to being a strong storyteller and delivering on relevancy in the classroom.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? While I’m not a traditional researcher in the way of a Ph.D. / tenure track, I spend an inordinate amount of time researching compelling content to bring into the classroom and designing new ways of learning that are application based. 

From exploring books, articles, substacks, and podcasts, I try to fine-tune each lecture as if it were a TedTalk. My singular goal is connecting the dots on seemingly disconnected topics (e.g., “How did Liquid Death take Harley Davidson’s outlaw playbook?” “Why did Six Flags and Goldman Sachs make the same marketing mistake?”)

I want my class materials to be application based and that’s why I pursued an unconventional experiment of having my students apply the science of sticky ideas to creating break thru content on TikTok – 27 days, 7M views, 1.7M likes. 

If I weren’t a business school professor… I’ve already been a management consultant, entrepreneur, brand manager, and CMO so I’ll pick the career I’ve always wished I pursued which is business journalism. Becky Quick on Squawk Box has the most interesting job in getting to ask industry titans the tough questions.  

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I sat in exactly the same seats as my students 10 years ago (literally the same seats!) I’m close enough to remember the experience of being an MBA student, one who is eager to learn, upgrade jobs, and make life-long friends. 

Yet, I had 10 years of corporate experience after the MBA to see first-hand the challenges facing a world-class marketing organization (Coca-Cola) and the resilience students need to build in order to prepare themselves for the speed at which re-organization happens. 

The combination of those two facts makes me uniquely qualified to design a course that fits the MBA experience.

My MBA classrooms are ALIVE – there isn’t a dull moment. We are all surprised when class ends because how did it go that fast? My goal is to push the conversation past the surface level and my students, who are experts in their own fields, love the rich discussions. In sum, at the MBA level, I prefer to think of myself as a moderator vs ruler of a classroom.

One word that describes my first time teaching: I need a hyphenated word, which is technically not cheating: imposter syndrome.

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: You’ll love this job so much you’ll want to do it all the time. I left corporate because I wanted to be a present mother, wife, and daughter and to have time for my hobbies and interests. Now that I’m a business school professor I’m so endlessly fascinated by writing original content for my class, designing interactive curricula, and meeting with students and business leaders in the community, that I don’t want to stop. It doesn’t feel like work most of the time (except for grading).

Professor I most admire and why: Ryan Hamilton, a dynamic professor who uses humor effectively, never acts too rushed or busy to assist a student or another faculty member and finds interesting examples that completely deliver on explaining a difficult concept (and he changed my life with the email I referenced above).


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? It’s about learning, not about grades. Many of the students have become experts in a field that they have worked in for 4-6 years, and all of them have seen the imperfect decision-making that happens in organizations. Those factors make the discussions so rich. I always walk away learning something new from a student.

What is most challenging? Business school students are taking a huge risk by stepping out of their current roles for the potential reward of changing the growth trajectory of their careers. They are tasked with networking, interviewing, traveling to conferences, making best friends, and potentially balancing family life, and thus I understand their mindset: what happens in the classroom needs to deliver value. That is intimidating! 

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

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

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as…fair. I only assign application-based work that is meant to mimic real work products. Zero busy work is working for me in getting high-quality deliverables. 


What are your hobbies? Antiquing, home design, tennis, long lunches, slow coffee mornings 

How will you spend your summer? On the work side, I’m working on a new course and writing a book proposal! On the leisure side, enjoying lake life with my family.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: France

Favorite book(s): Shantaram / A Year in Provence

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? Full disclosure. I don’t watch a lot of TV – passive leisure is not my thing. 

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? Dylan is a lyrical genius and thanks to my daughter I’ve started to think Taylor Swift is too.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn” – Ben Franklin. Application-based learning is magical – let’s teach concepts and immediately apply them.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at…supporting working parents. Many knowledge worker positions have become remote roles and so much of domestic life – picking up your kids from a school bus, getting to a doctor’s appointment, taking a 30-minute walk – can now happen invisibly without calling into question your “dedication”. I’d like to continue to normalize that actually we are all whole humans with a responsibility to do a great job at work and at home.

I’m grateful… each and every day that I stumbled into a career that brings me this much joy.


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