2023 Best 40-Under-40 MBA Professors: Yao Cui, Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University

Congrats to Yao Cui of the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University for being named a 2023 Best 40-Under-40 MBA Professor.

Yao Cui

Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University

“He is an exceptional teacher who has made a remarkable impact on me as his student. Prof. Cui employs innovative and engaging teaching techniques that balance hard skills with business insights, helping me to comprehend operations concepts thoroughly and apply them to real-world scenarios. Additionally, his use of simulations goes beyond conventional teaching methods, providing an immersive learning experience that I, along with my peers, highly value.” Aditya Ravi

Yao Cui, 36, is an assistant professor of Operations, Technology, and Information Management at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University.

His research interests center around operational innovation, specifically examining how new technologies can be leveraged to develop novel operations and pricing strategies in supply chains, the gig economy, and the hospitality industry. Using both analytical and empirical methodologies, Cui’s research aims to uncover innovative solutions to practical problems facing these industries. 

His work has been published in leading journals such as Management Science, Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, and Production and Operations Management. He is the winner of the INFORMS Service Science Section Best Student Paper Award, the INFORMS TIMES Best Working Paper Award, the Digital Supply Chain and Supplier Diversity Conference Best Paper Award, and the INFORMS Public Sector OR Best Paper Award. 

At Johnson, Cui is the recipient of the 2020 Half Century Faculty Research Fellowship and the 2017 Clifford H. Whitcomb Faculty Fellowship. 


At current institution since what year? 2015

Education: University of Michigan (Ph.D. in Business Administration), Tsinghua University (Bachelor of Engineering). 

List of MBA courses you currently teach: Operations Management (for EMBA students), Managing Operations (for MBA students). 


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I taught my first course during my Ph.D. at the University of Michigan. Even after 11 years, I am still in contact with students from that class. It was an incredible experience to witness how much impact I could make on someone through teaching a course, and I knew this is the career I want to pursue. 

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? My current research focuses on operational innovation with new technologies. For example, my research on blockchain provides new insights to firms about how they can develop new forms of supply chain contracts when they use blockchain to improve supply chain transparency and product traceability. 

If I weren’t a business school professor… probably I will be in consulting, or doing research in astrophysics. 

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? Passion, caring, and craftsmanship. 

One word that describes my first time teaching: Fulfilling. 

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: It is important to develop your own teaching style, instead of imitating other famous professors. Students can appreciate a variety of teaching styles and you need to find what you feel most comfortable with. When you feel comfortable, your students feel comfortable. 

Professor I most admire and why: My colleague at Cornell, Professor Vishal Gaur. His dedication to work and caring for others have inspired me in many positive ways. 


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? The feeling of making a tangible impact on the real world. Furthermore, the interactive nature of an MBA classroom makes learning two-way. Each student brings their expertise from their respective industries and they have lots of valuable experiences and insights to share. The dynamic exchange of knowledge is what makes MBA teaching unique, which I have truly benefited from over the years. 

What is most challenging? Teaching MBAs during the recruiting season. My students are awesome and they try their best to balance coursework and job interviews. But it is still heartbreaking when students share with me that they really want to learn the course materials well and wish they have more time, but having three interviews in a week makes it difficult. 

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

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

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… hands-on, as I do all the grading myself. 


What are your hobbies? Hiking, piano, podcast. 

How will you spend your summer? Teaching the new cohort of EMBA students, and submitting my tenure package. 

Favorite place(s) to vacation: NYC. 

Favorite book(s): 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? Don’t have a favorite one currently, but my all-time favorite show is Friends. Even after watching it many times, it can still make me laugh. 

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? Classical piano (my favorite composer is Frédéric Chopin, and his Ballade No.4 is my all-time favorite piece, which I had the privilege of performing on stage during college), light music, pop, and hip-hop. Anything that gives me chills. 


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… more ways to bridge research and teaching. 

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

I’m grateful for… my Ph.D. advisors, Professor Izak Duenyas and Professor Ozge Sahin, for teaching me to be a scholar; my colleagues at Cornell – the OTIM family, for all the support they have given me over the years; my students, for the joy to see them grow and achieve their goals. 


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