Most Popular Profs at Top Business Schools

Posted by: Louis Lavelle on August 12, 2011

The most popular business school professors are good teachers, plain and simple. They’re not rock stars, CEOs or celebrity researchers. Their names may not look familiar. But they’ve earned a place in the hearts and minds of their students by bringing to life accounting, finance and management, learning their names and helping them find jobs. Their students come first and it shows.

To determine which professors at the Top 30 U.S. full-time MBA programs were most popular, Bloomberg Businessweekused surveys sent to 2010 graduates asking them to identify their two favorites. Professors were ranked in order of absolute popularity. In all, the responses of 3,732 students were used to calculate this ranking; only schools that had more than 60 student responses were counted. At least one in every five survey respondents from each of the schools listed wrote down these names chosen for our top ten list as their favorite professor—pretty amazing considering they had hundreds of faculty members to choose from. Read on after the jump for the list.

1. Aswath Damodaran
Finance professor at New York University Stern School of Business

A seven-time recipient of Stern's "Professor of the Year" award, Damodaran practices open-source teaching, posting almost all his class materials on his blog. He's also one of the few business school professors to have inspired a tribute video on Youtube; the video spoofs pop star Justin Bieber's Never Say Never movie trailer. In the 89-second clip, the handiwork of a student, Damodaran proclaims "I want to be the Lady Gaga of finance." He has more than 4,000 followers on Twitter.

2. Gautam Ahuja
Strategy professor at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business

Ahuja ran a stoneware distribution business and designed educational board games while an undergraduate in his native India before enrolling at Ross in 1991 for his Ph.D., his MA and his MBA. He never left. The corporate strategy professor stresses the importance of integrity and generosity in his lectures - values he says were handed down from his mother and grandmother. Ahuja also oversees the school's chapter of Net Impact, a national organization dedicated to using the power of business to improve society and the environment.

3. Jim Nolen
Distinguished senior lecturer in corporate finance and entrepreneurship at the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business

Nolen has been on the faculty at his alma mater since 1980. In that time he has built up legions of fans. Former students describe him as a world-class storyteller (complete with a Texas accent) who brings his own experience as a small-business consultant to bear in lectures. Nolen's skills extend beyond the classroom: He "places more students than career services," says one former student, Q Beck.

4. Shane Dikolli
Associate professor of accounting at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business

Accounting: It's the spinach on the MBA menu of courses -- fortifying but not tasty. Dikolli, an Australian who briefly worked for KPMG before devoting himself full-time to academia, has apparently found a way to make it palatable. One way he endears himself to students is by memorizing their names and faces before class begins. Dikolli makes a point of attending many of the events and socials students invite him to with his family and children in tow, said a former student, Charles Scrase; most faculty members show up less than 10 percent of the time. "Shane could teach you the history of the cotton ball and you'd leave enthused about its potential," said former student Barr Blanton, a 2011 graduate. "He's inspiring. Anything I ever do in my life, I want to do it with the same vigor and commitment that Shane does his job."

5. Terry Taylor
Associate professor of operations and information technology management at the University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business

Taylor has only been teaching for ten years. But at Berkeley, he's already made his mark. Students rate his core operations management class as one of the most useful in the MBA program, according to Haas; before his arrival, it was rated the least relevant. His colleagues say he comes to class well-prepared. For a case study on a confectioner, he brought - what else? - cookies. When a colleague took baby leave, Taylor volunteered to teach his weekend courses in addition to his own work.

6. Raymond Hill
Associate finance professor at Emory University's Goizueta Business School

Raymond Hill brings years of work experience to his finance and economics classes, including 11 years as an investment banker at Lehman Brothers and 10 years with Southern Company, including 18 months as a CEO at an Asian power subsidiary. The former Fulbright scholar engages his class with current events and can educate even the most learned student in economics, while making sure not to leave econ-newcomers in his intellectual dust, according to a former student, Reed Moore.

7. Sharon Oster
Dean and management professor at the Yale School of Management

Oster is the only woman on our list. Her textbook "Modern Competitive Analysis" has five stars on and was called "A blockbuster of a book" in the reviews. A former student, Alan Carniol, says her Rolodex includes the name of every Yale SOM student who has attended while she's taught, and that "literally, as we were approaching graduation, she made sure every person walked out of there with a job." When their daughter Emily was a toddler, Oster and her husband, fellow Yale economist Ray Fair, recorded her talking before she would go to sleep. The analysis of those tapes was turned into a book, "Conversations from the Crib." Emily Oster is now an economist at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

8. Neil Morgan
Associate marketing professor at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business

On the first day of his marketing strategy class, 2010 graduate Greg Batch recalls, Morgan stood up and told his students "There are too many of you. I'm going to get rid of a quarter of the people here and weed out those who don't want to be here." With a smile. Despite Morgan's seemingly surly attitude, he is the professor Kelley students wish they could have over and over again and voted him their favorite. He's Welsh, not British, though Batch said he and his classmates were never sure what that meant. Students describe him as mischievous and interested in uprooting the status quo in marketing. His advice to students: "Go work for someone better than you."

9. Eric Sussman
Accounting and real estate lecturer at the University of California, Los Angeles Anderson School of Management

Sussman teaches advanced accounting and fundamentals of real estate and has been known to start singing '80s songs in the middle of class, according to a former student. In 1995, Sussman returned to the school where he received his BBA (graduating summa cum laude in 1987) to teach. One former student, Kate Stephenson, says Sussman wins Anderson's "Professor of the Year" award every year he's eligible; he'd win it every time if the winner wasn't required to sit out for a year. Sussman is also the president of a real estate company. In 2007, a landlord-tenant dispute resulted in a protest outside one of his classes. He used the experience as a teaching lesson.

10. Prashant Kale
Associate professor of strategic management at Rice University's Jones Graduate School of Business

A former student described Kale as a leader in class, showing students the art and science of strategy. Kale is an effective communicator who digs deep into students' answers, exposing when someone didn't do the classwork or made an off-the-cuff remark. Kale has been teaching at Jones since 2007; before that, he taught at Ross from 1999 until 2007. Kale's 2000 paper "Learning and protection of proprietary assets in strategic alliances" has been cited 1,282 times, according to Google Scholar. Although that doesn't sound a lot, comparatively, he's a scholarly rock star.

--Kiah Lau Haslett

Corrects spelling of 2010 Kelley graduate Greg Batch.

Reader Comments

Kushal Barmate

August 17, 2011 3:01 AM

Good job.I am proud to see Mr. Gautam Ahuja's name in the elite list.We shared the same bench during our PGP programme at IIM Ahmedabad.


August 17, 2011 3:16 AM

Please provide methodology, i.e.,

which schools participated (which is different from what schools you sent your surveys to)

how the most popular profs were determined

With all due respect to all the winners!

Geoff Gloeckler

August 17, 2011 8:56 AM


The 'survey' that we refer to is the 2010 MBA graduate survey that was conducted last summer to go along with the full-time MBA rankings. It was sent to each graduating MBA at each of the schools that participate in our ranking. In total, it was about 100 schools. The respondents were asked to name their two favorite professors, among many other things. To come up with the above list, the responses from the top 30 schools were combined and counted to determine which professors received the highest percentage of 'votes' at their respective schools. The 'top ten' are included above.

Geoff Gloeckler


August 17, 2011 11:09 PM


So, basically what you're saying is that, say, Stern sent back 600 responses, UCLA 61 responses and Booth 59 responses - that's how you were calculating the winners, by using absolute numbers you got from each school?

So why again is the story called Most Popular Profs at Top Business Schools exactly? :))


August 18, 2011 1:18 AM

Prof Kale is on the list!!!! It totally makes sense. He taught me Competitive Strategy last term at ISB, Hyderabad. He is a rock star!!!!


August 29, 2011 11:09 AM

Prof. Neil Morgan is just awesome. He is very straight to the point and every conclusion he makes is based on data and research. Congrats Prof. Morgan

Prashant Ivaturi

September 5, 2011 9:37 PM

I am so happy to see Prof.Prashant Kale's name on the list. He is seriously one of the best! Glad to have learnt Strategy from him at ISB.

Ragavan Manian

October 27, 2011 12:09 AM

Kale, a stellar professor. We at ISB were lucky indeed.

Post a comment



Read daily reports from BusinessWeek editors and reporters Louis Lavelle, Geoff Gloeckler, Alison Damast and Francesca Di Meglio and boost your chances of getting into your best-fit B-school.

BW Mall - Sponsored Links

Buy a link now!