2017 Top 40 Undergraduate Professors: William Maxwell, SMU (Cox)

William Maxwell

Mary Jo Vaughn Rauscher Chair in Financial Investments

Southern Methodist University, Cox School of Business 

Having created one of the more unique specializations that business school students at SMU Cox, (and elsewhere) can choose from, William Maxwell has received several accolades. As the creator of the Alternative Asset Management specialization and overseer of Cox’s Don Jackson Center for Financial Studies and the EnCap Investments & LCM Group Alternative Asset Management Center, he’s been recognized with two of the school’s highest distinguished teaching awards. Students say he tailors the program specialization in a way that creates confident and well-versed students who can hit the ground running in their careers. His effectiveness in the classroom and as overseer of the Alternative Asset Management Center is evidenced by the lengthy list of full-time job placements of students who graduate from the program. Maxwell’s passion for the industry is known to rub off on students and he’s praised for “relentlessly” networking in the industry to help garner students’ placements with top firms.

Age: 51

At current institution since: 2009

Education: PhD, Finance, George Washington University, 1998

List of courses currently teaching:  Valuation

Fun fact about yourself:  I don’t usually tell this in mixed company, but I was a marketing major as an undergrad

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…” I found out that I was not too bad at it and that everyone just chalked up my quirks with, “Oh, he is a Professor”

“If I weren’t a business school professor…” I would be tolling away on Wall Street while aspiring to be a ski bum

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

What do you enjoy most about teaching undergraduate business students? Some of them actual listen to me!

What is the biggest challenge that comes with teaching undergraduate business students? Making them understand the importance of their current choices on their future opportunities.

What is the most impressive thing one of your undergraduate students has done? I think of impressive accomplishments relative to each student’s aspirations, so I never assess outcomes relative to my own preferences.

What is the least favorite thing one has done? Failure is just a great learning experience, but finding out one of my student lacks integrity is hard to stomach.

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class? To get an A in my class, a student has to have drive, determination, and a strong work ethic.

“When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as …” Demanding and objective, but fair.

“But I would describe myself as …” A softie

What are your hobbies? Biking and golf

How did you spend your summer?  Working on my research and my golf game.  The research went better than the golf.

Favorite place to vacation:  Telluride, CO

Favorite book: Atlas Shrugged

Favorite movie and/or television show: Trading Places (Eddie Murphy at his funniest) and National Lampoon’s Vacation (I have some Clark Griswold and Cousin Eddie in me).

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: Currently country, but it changes every five years.

Bucket list item #1:  Playing Augusta

What professional achievement are you most proud of? Getting my 10th article in finance’s top three journals

What is your most memorable moment as a professor?  Whenever I see a student after they graduate and they thank me

Professor you most admire and why: Malcolm Baker. How can a guy be that smart and also that nice?

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?  Corporate bond trading and the impact of regulatory changes on market quality.  Regulations have effects, which is not surprising, but somehow regulators seem to be surprised that regulations could have unanticipated and negative consequences.  

Twitter handle: Twitter?! What is that?

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…” Critical thinking. I can give students facts and information. However, I cannot give them knowledge. I can only help them along the path to knowledge. A student has to put facts and information into context for it to be actual knowledge.

“And much less of this…” Rote memorization and multiple choice questions

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would like for you: Ten years from now, success would be having a happy family, a successful research career, and being able to watch my former students’ successes in life.

Students say…

“Professor Maxwell’s teaching style goes well beyond the textbook to illuminate the world of finance his students will soon be entering. Through this method, he allowed me to discover where my passions lay by stimulating my curiosity. He helped me open doors that I did not know existed, such as the one that is leading to my future career. I am very excited to be going to work for PricewaterhouseCoopers Corporate Finance, a group specializing in M&A.”

“Professor Maxwell has crafted a first-of-its-kind program, unlike any other. His Alternative Asset Management Center puts its students through the wringer as it provides specialized training to prepare undergraduates for top-tier finance positions. He’s in constant contact with high level industry professionals who relay information about what they seek in potential employees. Professor Maxwell tailors the program accordingly, providing real world examples and insight to create confident and well-versed students, who are ready to hit the ground running in a notoriously intense career path. He lives and breathes finance, and expects his students to do the same, which makes for a demanding, time-intensive course of study. His passion for the industry rubs off on us. We know that if we follow his guidance, we will have the tools and confidence to succeed in an extremely competitive environment, which makes the intense workload worth the effort.”

“Professor Maxwell has provided me with the confidence, tools, and sense of purpose to achieve success in the classroom, my job search (I begin work in a month as an Investment Banking Analyst at Moelis & Company in New York City), and a highly competitive workplace. As director of the Alternative Asset Management Program, he sets a high bar for his students, who respond diligently because of his motivational leadership. Extremely generous with his time, he is mindful of his students’ well-being, both academically and career wise. While he is freely available for meetings on course-related topics, his help extends to professional and personal life advice. He networks relentlessly to ensure that students gain top-tier job placements after graduation and can draw upon his resources later on in their careers. Professor Maxwell has had an enormous impact on our intellectual and professional growth, self-esteem, and devotion to our alma mater.”


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.