2018 Top 50 Undergraduate Professors: Juanjuan Zhang, MIT (Sloan)

Juanjuan Zhang

Epoch Foundation Professor of International Management and Professor of Marketing

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management

Thanks to her academic research investigations into all things related to social interactions and marketing strategies, MIT Sloan School of Management’s Juanjuan Zhang has been deemed a young scholar by many in her field. Professor Zhang is a four-time finalist for the John D. C. Little Award for the best marketing paper and, in 2011, she was named a Marketing Science Institute Young Scholar, a title awarded to “potential leaders of the next generation of marketing academics.”

As a leader in her field, Zhang currently fulfills editorial roles for leading marketing journals including the Journal of Marketing Research and Quantitative Marketing and Economics. At the Sloan School where she teaches courses on marketing management, Professor Zhang has been a recipient of both the MIT d’Arbeloff Fund for Excellence in Education and the Jamieson Prize – the most prestigious of MIT Sloan’s teaching awards.

Age: 39

Education: PhD in Business Administration, University of California Berkeley; Economics, Tsinghua University

At current institution since: 2006

List of courses you currently teach: Marketing Innovation

Twitter handle: See my bucket list

What professional achievement are you most proud of? Making tenure at MIT at 34

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…” I took my first case class in college. It was amazing to see how the professor was able to teach lessons everyone found insightful when there were no absolutely right or wrong answers.

“One word that describes my first time teaching…” Overdressed

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? How humans behave as subjects in experiments compared with, say, mice. Humans behave differently, but not always better.

What is your most memorable moment as a professor? Project presentations at the end of my first semester of teaching

Since you first started teaching, how has business education changed? The demand and supply of analytics training has grown rapidly

“If I weren’t a business school professor, I would be…” An architect

“Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a professor”: There is so much to do (often in a good way) and never enough time

Name of the professor you most admire and why: My PhD advisors, Professor J. Miguel Villas-Boas and Professor Teck Ho, for teaching me to be a thinker and a doer

What do you enjoy most about teaching undergraduate business students? Being constantly inspired by their audacious young minds

What’s the biggest challenge? Students’ relatively short industry experience, which means not all of them can easily relate to business cases

What is the most impressive thing one of your undergraduate students has done? Started, in their junior year, one of the earliest companies that uses virtual reality technologies to aid patient rehabilitation

What is the least favorite thing one has done? Freeride on team work

Since you’ve been teaching, how have students changed over the years? Knowledge has become more accessible from the internet, and students are more interested in learning the unique insight of the professor

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class? Demonstrate that he/she has learned something useful

“When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as …” Fair, I hope

If your teaching style/classroom experience had a theme song, what would it be? First reaction is something by ABBA

Using just one word, describe your favorite type of student: passionate  

Using just one word, describe your least favorite type of student: dishonest  

“If my students can remember and still apply something from my course 10 years down the road, then I’ve done my job as their professor.”

Fun fact about yourself: I see numbers in colors

What are your hobbies? Photography and more recently, gardening

How did you spend your summer? In constant jetlag  

Favorite place to vacation: The Azores

Favorite book: Records of the Three Kingdoms, a classic for game theory fans

Favorite movie and/or television show: Have been following Westworld these days

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: Tom Waits

Bucket list item #1: wingsuit/find time to post on social media

What’s the biggest challenge facing business education at the moment? The need to teach skills to better communicate with other disciplines such as computer science

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…” Lifelong mentoring of students

“And much less of this…” Stress from job placement

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would be like for you: That my work turns around 10 companies and 10,000 lives