The 2021 Best 40 Under 40 Business School Professors
As a first-generation college student, Sandra Matz had no intention of pursuing a Ph.D., much less becoming a professor. Then she went to college and earned a life-changing scholarship.
“When I got a scholarship to spend a year at Cambridge University during my undergraduate degree, I fell in love with research and the question of how we might be able to better understand people’s daily experiences through the lens of big data,” Matz, 32, says.
Matz eventually returned to school to pursue a Ph.D. in psychology; during her studies, a friend mentioned applying for marketing positions at universities, rather than jobs in their psychology departments. Interest piqued, Matz did the same, applying to Columbia Business School.
She got the job.
THE NINTH EDITION OF POETS&QUANTS’ BEST 40 UNDER 40 BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSORS
“Going through the application process and learning more about the world of B-schools made me realize that they offered exactly what I was looking for: an intellectual home that values not just grand ideas and theoretical contributions but also real impact and a discussion of how to tackle current societal challenges,” Matz says. “And I honestly couldn’t have hoped for a better place than CBS.
“Looking back now, it feels almost unreal how beautifully everything worked out. I found a job that I absolutely love, a city that I adore, and the most wonderful set of colleagues I could imagine.”
Sandra Matz of Columbia Business School is a Poets&Quants Best 40 Under 40 Business School Professor for 2021. Courtesy photo
A DOZEN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS AND 15 WOMEN MAKE THIS YEAR’S LIST
Sandra Matz, who teaches Managerial Negotiations and Lead: People, Teams and Organizations to MBA students at Columbia, is one of 40 business school professors under the age of 40 to be recognized as this year’s Poets&Quants Best 40-Under-40 Business School Professors.
Now in its ninth year, the goal of this annual recognition remains the same: to identify the most talented young professors currently teaching in MBA programs around the world.
This year our professors come from 12 schools outside of the United States and 21 schools based in the U.S. Some six schools — Harvard Business School, MIT Sloan, Northwestern Kellogg, New York Stern, Wharton, and the Yale School of Management — placed two professors each on this year’s list. There are 15 women on this year’s list, up from a dozen last year, but still down from the record 16 two years ago.
This year we received more than 2,200 nominations for nearly 150 professors. That’s right on par with last year’s numbers when just over 2,000 nominations poured in with about 160 professors to evaluate. Once we close the nomination period, our editorial staff evaluates each nomination and professor on teaching, which is given a 70% weight and research, which is given the remaining 30% weight.
For teaching, we consider the nominations received — both quality and quantity. For example, if we receive a hundred or more nominations for a professor but there’s little substance to the nominations, they’re probably not as likely to score as high as the professor that receives a dozen in-depth and thoughtful nominations. We also consider any teaching-related awards the professors have won.
For research, we look at the volume and impact of the professor’s scholarly work. To do this we examine Google Citation numbers as well as major media attention received by the professor and his or her research work. Lastly, akin to teaching, we consider research awards and grants the professors has received. As the list has gotten increasingly competitive over the years, we’ve started also considering the topics of research. For example, if the research goes beyond the traditional and into societal, environmental, or policy issues, those professors usually receive higher scores.
Once the professors are scored, we review the Top 60 and consult each editorial staff member before finalizing our Top 40.
Stella Pachidi of the Cambridge Judge Business School is a 2021 Best 40 Under 40 Professor. Courtesy photo
THE TOP PROFS COME FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD
As can be imagined on a list this global, the professors have very different upbringings and backgrounds. Columbia’s Matz, for example, grew up in Germany and had not lived in the U.S. until taking her job in New York. While it took Matz a little longer to realize academia was her path, Cambridge Judge Business School’s Stella Pachidi knew she wanted to become a professor from a young age.
“I was still a kid,” Pachidi says of when she first wanted to become a professor. “I loved reading stories about academic life and dreamed of becoming an academic myself one day.” As an undergrad, Pachidi says she was inspired most by the professors that went beyond the classroom and had an impact on the personal development of students.
The same goes for Naim Bugra Ozel, who is an associate professor of accounting at the University of Texas at Dallas and is now serving as a visiting professor at The Wharton School. “I grew up in a family of accountants and bankers, and I have always been intrigued by little details that make big differences. So it seems only natural that I gravitated towards being a business school professor,” Ozel says, noting his father started calling him “the professor” in the fifth grade.
Others come from generations of college professors. Brad Greenwood of George Mason University watched his grandfather as a professor from a young age. Likewise, Jasmine Hu, who is an associate professor of management at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business is a third-generation college professor. Even still, when she was younger, she didn’t plan on becoming a professor and went into management consulting after college. But she couldn’t escape the familial pull for too long.
“When I participated in consulting projects, I was always intrigued by the theory behind the practices and the generalizability of companies’ experiences,” Hu says. “When I started my master’s program and got involved in research projects, I found myself fascinated by doing research and disseminating knowledge. Then, I applied to doctoral programs in organizational behavior, received my Ph.D., and started my career as a business school faculty member at the University of Notre Dame in 2012.”
Chia-Jung Tsay of University College London is a 2021 Best 40 Under 40 Professor. Courtesy photo
THE DOCS WITH MUSICAL CHOPS
Many of these exceptionally talented professors excel in areas outside academia. Chia-Jung Tsay, who is an associate professor at the University London College School of Management, is a trained performance pianist. Tsay decided to become a business school professor “after a detour into medicine,” she says. “During my years in medical school, I often skipped class to spend more hours practicing piano.” Tsay found Shoshana Dobrow, who was a professional bassoonist and a business school professor. “Her example and guidance allowed me to understand more concretely what a dual career in academia and music could entail. I love and cite her work to this day,” Tsay says.
Tsay now focuses some of her research on judgments of performance. “I have found that professional musicians are able to reliably select the actual winners of live classical music competitions based on silent video recordings, but they are not able to identify the winners based on sound recordings or recordings with both video and sound,” she says. “This points to powerful vision-biased preferences on selection processes, even at the highest levels of performance. My co-authors and I have elaborated on the meaning of this effect across domains – including for judgments of entrepreneurial pitch competitions and group performance, and in service operations in the food industry.”
David Rand of MIT’s Sloan School of Management is a “punk rocker” turned Best 40 Under 40 Business School Professor. Courtesy photo
David Rand, the Erwin H. Schell Professor of Management Science and Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, is a self-described punk rocker. “I took a very circuitous route to get here, and never imagined that I would wind up as a business school professor,” Rand says. “I started as a punk rocker, then became a computational biologist, then a behavioral economist, and then a cognitive psychologist.”
Rand’s musical evolution is fascinating — and well-documented on his music page. It ranges from his punk/hardcore band in the early 2000s, which Rand describes as “Loud noise that I used to make with my best friends” to ukelele covers of the punk band Rancid while on paternity leave with his twins.
Tinglong Dai of Johns Hopkins University Carey School of Business is a 2021 Best 40 Under 40 Professor. Courtesy photo
PROFESSORS INVESTIGATING IMPACTFUL RESEARCH TOPICS
What put many professors over the edge and onto this year’s list was their research into impactful issues and topics. Tinglong Dai, who is an associate professor of operations management and business analytics at Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business was one of our highest-scored professors on this year’s list. Not surprisingly considering where Dai is a professor, much of his research revolves around healthcare.
“I study healthcare operations, and my most recent research looks at how to roll out COVID-19 vaccines efficiently and equitably,” Dai says. Previously, Dai had researched the role of airline transportation in organ transplantation. Dai and his coauthors found that by creating a new airline route, the number of kidneys shared across regions by 7.3%. Now Dai is also looking at the potential impact of artificial intelligence in the healthcare space.
“These days, I am paying increased attention to human-AI interaction, especially how clinicians interact with AI,” Dai explains. “As AI applications become more powerful, one would expect clinicians to use AI more often. My research shows clinicians may avoid using AI if they worry about liability implications or how they are perceived by their peers. Nevertheless, it’s my conviction that AI won’t replace clinicians, but in the long run, clinicians who use AI will replace those who don’t.”
Likewise, Northwestern Kellogg School of Management’s Amanda Starc is examining potential improvements in healthcare markets. “Currently, I am spending a lot of time thinking about the relationship between competition and quality in healthcare markets,” she says. “When product quality is difficult to observe, consumers and producers make suboptimal choices and investments. I’m looking at this problem for both insurance plans and hospitals. We argue that there are huge differences in mortality rates caused by the insurance plans in which Medicare beneficiaries enroll. Unfortunately, consumers do not know how to find plan that improve their health because there is not unbiased information about plan quality. This means plans do not have incentives to improve health outcomes.
“Quality incentives are important for hospitals as well. For example, hospitals that can attract highly profitable patients may invest more in quality. These hospitals want to make themselves irreplaceable in private insurance networks. We find strong evidence that hospitals located near profitable patients have higher quality.”
Ashley Martin of the Stanford GSB is a Poets&Quants 2021 Best 40 Under 40 Business School Professor. Courtesy photo
TWO 40 UNDER 40 FROM OPPOSITE COASTS TEAMING UP
Meanwhile, Columbia’s Matz and Stanford’s Ashley Martin, who also made this year’s list, are investigating how hiring women into leadership positions can change gender stereotypes.
“The way we approach this topic is to look at the extent to which an organization’s language changes as a result of hiring a female CEO or appointing more women to their board of directors,” Matz says. “We apply novel methods in natural language processing that allow us to capture the semantic meaning of words (e.g. woman, her or she) and see how closely the meaning of these words is related to the meaning of agentic, leadership-relevant traits that are typically associated with men but not women (e.g. decisive, determined, independent).”
Matz says they have found hiring women into leadership positions shifts organizational language such that “women are being associated more strongly with agentic — and therefore leadership-congruent — traits.”
“What’s pretty cool about this is that the intervention doesn’t come with a trade-off or backlash for women who are oftentimes perceived as less likable if they display agentic behaviors,” Matz continues. “In our case, the association between women and agency increases the most for the positive aspects of agency (e.g. active, resilient, persistent), and they are perceived and described just as likable as before. What can we learn from this? When hiring minorities we often talk about the immediate benefits to organizations that come from increased representation. That’s amazing in and by itself. But what we show is that hiring underrepresented minorities can actually do a lot more: It can help organizations battle insidious stereotypes by changing the associations, meaning, and interpretations of what it means to be, for example, a woman, black, or homosexual.”
SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY IN THE BUSINESS WORLD
Saed Alizamir of Yale’s School of Management is a 2021 Best 40 Under 40 Business School professor. Courtesy photo
The Yale School of Management’s Saed Alizamir is using methodologies from operations research to solve managerial problems between public and private interactions while pushing social impact.
“More specifically, I am interested in examining how social responsibility can be promoted in the business world, particularly by incorporating the specific elements of decision-making into the analysis,” Alizamir explains. “My research investigates the role of public agencies (such as governmental institutions and NGOs) in enhancing the operational practices of business firms toward generating social value. Overall, the goal of my research is to inform public policy decisions in sustainability and public health domains.
“Some of my recent work includes the study of subsidy incentives for renewable energies, promoting sustainable practices in agricultural supply chains, demand response programs in residential electricity markets, and managing warning mechanisms against public health crises.”
Rutgers University’s David Dwertmann’s primary research goal is to produce research that impacts employees, organizations, and societies.
“I study diversity and investigate how organizations can shape the social environment in which people work through organizational climate and leadership to successfully employ individuals from marginalized backgrounds,” Dwertmann says. “I mostly focus on groups that are increasingly important but have not received the research attention commensurate with their importance: people with disabilities (PWD) and immigrants. My research contributes to our theoretical understanding of the factors that allow for inclusion and the barriers to achieving it.”
No matter what they study or how well they transfer knowledge to smart, young aspiring professionals, all of the 40-under-40 profs are academic stars in their own right and among the most promising profs of their generation.
See the next page for the list of all 40 under 40 business school professors for 2021.
Sarang Sunder of Texas Christian University is a 2021 Best 40 Under 40 Business School professor. Courtesy photo
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