2018 Top 50 Undergraduate Professors: Matthew Grennan, University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)

Matthew Grennan

Assistant Professor of Healthcare Management

University of Pennsylvania, The Wharton School

Matthew Grennan’s expertise lies in healthcare management and policy. An assistant professor in Healthcare Management, Grennan has been teaching at Wharton since 2013, where he teaches a health care entrepreneurship course to undergrads. With a Ph.D. in economics and strategy from New York University’s Stern School of Business, Grennan and his colleagues are focusing research on the business of health care. Most recently, Grennan and others have looked at what hospitals are paying for medical technology, and the fact that some hospitals pay a lot more for medical technology than others. Outside of the classroom, Grennan’s passions revolve around good food, cooking, and traveling to experience different good food.

Age: 39

Education: PhD, Economics and Strategy, NYU Stern

At current institution since: 2013

List of courses you currently teach: Health Care Entrepreneurship; Health Care Data & Analytics; Management & Strategy in Medical Devices & Technology

Twitter handle: I abstain.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? Anytime I hear from a student about how I made a difference in some way, even a small way, that’s an enormously satisfying thing.

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…” I am not sure there was a moment, but I love that I can both help create new knowledge (research) and also help others explore new ideas and think about the world from a different perspective (teaching).

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

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? With several colleagues, I have a series of papers looking at the prices hospitals pay for medical technology, and we have been continually surprised by how some hospitals pay a lot more than others for the exact same things. Our studies point to some significant organizational challenges that end up increasing the cost of care using these technologies.   

What is your most memorable moment as a professor? It’s so hard to choose! One thing that comes to mind is the last day of the first entrepreneurship course I ever taught. The response from the students was so positive. That was a special day.

Since you first started teaching, how has business education changed? I think the role of data and analytics, and integrating those with business decisions, increases a bit every year. Which is great because it brings the things I am passionate about in my research closer to the classroom!

“If I weren’t a business school professor, I would be…” Chief data scientist at a health care startup.

“Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a professor”: I’ve been lucky to get a lot of great advice from great mentors, so I am having trouble thinking of something.

Name of the professor you most admire and why: Again, there are so many. It’s difficult to pick just one. One person I admire a lot is Steve Tadelis at UC Berkeley. I think his work with eBay has really demonstrated how academic expertise can help drive business results and at the same time collaboration with business can help answer important academic questions. He is also incredibly kind and generous with advice and mentorship to younger professors.

What do you enjoy most about teaching undergraduate business students? They are incredibly smart, creative, and enthusiastic.

What’s the biggest challenge? They are incredibly smart, creative, and enthusiastic :-).

What is the most impressive thing one of your undergraduate students has done? So many things impress me all the time.

What is the least favorite thing one has done? Nothing coming to mind.

Since you’ve been teaching, how have students changed over the years? Every year it seems like more students are taking the initiative to gain meaningful experiences and skills at younger ages.

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class? Engage with the material, think hard and creatively, and don’t settle for less than the best they can do in the time we have.

“When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as …”  Not the easiest; not the toughest.

If your teaching style/classroom experience had a theme song, what would it be? Huh, so many directions to go with this one. Michael Jackson is on the radio right now, so “Man in the Mirror” comes to mind. I am kind of an idealist, but a lot of my classes tend to come back to the thorny challenges in the business of health care, and that the solutions start with us challenging ourselves to recognize the key issues and lead the development of the solutions.

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

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

“If my students can identify problems, and create solutions, then I’ve done my job as their professor.”

Fun fact about yourself:  I come from the same small town in the middle of the Illinois corn fields as Ronald Reagan.

What are your hobbies? I love good food, and so I also love to cook and travel and try new foods.

How did you spend your summer? Working with our research team, traveling to conferences, and having fun with my wife and two kids in the spare time.

Favorite place to vacation: Miami during the winter.

Favorite book: Recently, “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern.

Favorite movie and/or television show: TV right now: “Westworld” or “This Is Us”. Movie ever: “White Men Can’t Jump”.

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: I like most music, especially live music. Maybe because of that some of my very favorite stuff tends to mix elements of different genres, like the Alabama Shakes.

Bucket list item #1: Buying a home. After renting city apartments for 15 years, I am looking forward to owning something we can make our own.

What’s the biggest challenge facing business education at the moment? I think business, and by extension business education, is going to have to figure out how to reorganize in a way that really integrates data and analytics with the whole process of how business is done.

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…” Projects that unfold and grow over the course of a semester or year instead of 2-4 weeks at the end of a semester.

“And much less of this…” Memorizing formulas and facts without context for the benefits (and limits) of their application.

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would be like for you: A happy and healthy family. Being just as excited by my work as I am today.

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