2023 Best 40-Under-40 MBA Professors: Sabrina T. Howell, NYU Stern School of Business

Congrats to Sabrina T. Howell of the NYU Stern School of Business for being named a 2023 Best 40-Under-40 MBA Professor.

Sabrina T. Howell

NYU Stern School of Business 

Howell is a force in the field of finance, where a theme across her work is relevance to policymakers and practitioners. Her research on private equity was cited by President Biden in his State of the Union address, and her work on innovation policy has influenced how the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Air Force award research grants. She serves on the editorial boards of top finance journals, presents her research at dozens of conferences annually, and regularly provides insights to early-stage investors and startup founders. Howell is the youngest professor teaching fintech at Stern and the youngest in recent memory to create a new elective.” NYU Stern School of Business

Sabrina T. Howell,  37, is an asssociate professor of finance at the NYU Stern School of Business and a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, among other affiliations. 

Her research focuses on entrepreneurial finance, private equity, innovation, fintech, and China. A theme across her work is relevance to policymakers and practitioners. Howell received her B.A. from Yale University in 2008 and her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2015. In between, she worked as an energy consultant for Charles River Associates in Houston and on energy security policy for Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) in Washington DC. 

She is the recipient of the Kauffman Foundation Junior Faculty Fellowship and the AQR Asset Management Institute Young Researcher Award, among other awards. She has also raised over $500,000 in grant money for research projects while at Stern, from sources including the Sloan Foundation, the Kauffman Foundation, and the Omidyar Network.

Howell is a member of the Advisory Board to the American Female Finance Committee of the American Finance Association. She founded and co-organized the Women Assistant Professors of Finance Conference at Stern. 


At current institution since what year?  2015

Education: Yale University BA, Harvard University PhD

List of MBA courses you currently teach: Applications in Entrepreneurial Finance: Fintech


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I started hanging out at incubators and new venture competitions in Boston as a graduate student and realized I wanted to study and teach about how innovation and entrepreneurship can change the world for the better.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? My current work spans several agendas: In small business lending, how do fintech innovations such as automation and cash flow-based lending affect who gets funding? Why might algorithms to predict race bias government evaluations of whether small business lenders are complying with fair lending laws? What are the effects of government-guaranteed loans to small businesses following disasters like hurricanes? A second agenda focuses on the effects of private equity ownership on firm stakeholders such as customers and employees. And finally, I study innovation, for example, asking how different sources of university research funding—such as government vs. industry—affect innovation outputs.

These diverse projects have yielded many insights. A high-level point is that institutional incentive structures matter a lot; for example, when it comes to funding university innovation, grant money from the federal government is not the same as grant money from private firms, because the latter has a distinct incentive to appropriate research outcomes. As a second example, private equity’s effects on customers depend on sector features like whether the product’s quality is easy to assess and whether there is a lot of government subsidy.

If I weren’t a business school professor… I would own a horseback riding stable offering trail rides.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I try to combine up-to-the-minute new innovations in finance with timeless conceptual points. For example, we might discuss how new, real-time payment rails could disrupt (or fail to disrupt) entrenched payment systems, and the role of competition, government policy, and inertia in determining the outcome.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Pantsuits.

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: I wish I had been more effective at collaborating on research with colleagues in my first couple of years at Stern. I did not understand the importance of great co-authors.

Professor I most admire and why: Teaching-wise, I most admire Aswath Damodaran. He has revolutionized how generations of students think about valuation and has endless, infectious energy and generosity. Research-wise, I most admire Antoinette Schoar at MIT. She has done groundbreaking work in my field of entrepreneurial finance and is one of a handful of superstar women finance professors who have been role models for me and many others.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? I love the creativity that my students display in their end-of-term fintech startup projects, where they develop their own idea for a fintech startup and how it should best be financed. I also love hearing about how our class topics intersect with their careers and experiences.

What is most challenging? Finding a balance in the material so that it is not too challenging or too simple, as my students generally have a wide range of expertise in the topics we cover.

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

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

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Not too tough.


What are your hobbies? What’s a hobby? 

How will you spend your summer? I’ll be in Maine for part of the summer, and generally taking care of a baby who is due in May 2023 (along with her 4-year-old brother).

Favorite place(s) to vacation: I love to travel and to go to new places!

Favorite book(s): I don’t have a particular favorite book, but I recently enjoyed reading “Chip War,” “Going Public,” and “The Three Body Problem.”

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? “Top Gun” forever. I don’t need a reason.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? My favorite musician is Bruce Springsteen, which I realize makes me seem even older than I actually am. I love the music first and foremost, but also his energy and politics.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… More coherent, sector-specific connections with other parts of the research university both in terms of coursework and extracurricular programs. One example is entrepreneurship initiatives that bring together technical and business students who can form startup founder teams.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… long-term investment in innovation.

I’m grateful for… the support I get from all around me: my family, friends, and the finance department at Stern. 


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