2020 Best Undergraduate Professors: Adam Eric Greenberg, Bocconi University

Adam Greenberg of Bocconi University is a Poets&Quants Best Undergraduate Business School Professor

Adam Eric Greenberg

Assistant Professor of Marketing

Bocconi University

Adam Eric Greenberg is one of the youngest professors to make this year’s list. At 33, Greenberg has been teaching at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy since 2018. Greenberg decided to focus on marketing while earning his Ph.D. in economics at the University of California-San Diego. “In my research, I wanted to borrow from several fields and combine methods from behavioral economics and consumer psychology, so marketing was a great fit for my interests,” he says. Greenberg’s research focuses on consumer financial decision making.

A lover of travel, trying new foods, museums, and hiking outdoors, Greenberg says he loves to spend his time exploring Italy as well as Baja California and Maine.

Current age: 33

At current institution since what year? 2018

Education: A.B. in Economics, Vassar College; Ph.D. in Economics, University of California, San Diego

List of courses you currently teach: Marketing

TELL US ABOUT LIFE AS A BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSOR

I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I was getting my Ph.D. in economics and found that the kind of research I wanted to do did not fit squarely into my discipline. In my research, I wanted to borrow from several fields and combine methods from behavioral economics and consumer psychology, so marketing was a great fit for my interests.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?

My research focuses primarily on consumer financial decision making. In one recent project, Hal Hershfield, Suzanne Shu, Stephen Spiller, and I looked into the determinants of the age at which people in the United States claim Social Security benefits. We systematically examined the effects of theory-driven interventions and individual differences on hypothetical claiming age intentions and found that several nudges showed promise in promoting delayed claiming. For example, thinking about someone who lived to an old age causes people to have later claiming intentions, which could make people better off financially during retirement. Overall, I am excited about research that can help people make decisions that better serve their long-term financial interests and well-being.

If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be… A judge, or a politician.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?

I expect students to actively engage and think critically. There would surely be fewer awkward silences if I lectured without asking students to participate in a discussion, but treating my large lecture like a conversation keeps it more interesting for all of us.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Frenzied. I spent so much time preparing for the lecture and had vividly imagined how it would turn out. But in the end, very little went as planned, and it somehow simultaneously exceeded and fell short of my expectations.

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor:

Teaching can be as rewarding and enjoyable as researching the topics you love.

Professor I most admire and why:

I feel indebted to several professors. I would definitely not be the researcher I am without the guidance of Hal Hershfield, Cassie Mogilner, and Stephen Spiller. Not only are they great researchers with the highest level of integrity, but they are also fantastic human beings.

TEACHING BUSINESS SCHOOL STUDENTS

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

In general, they are ambitious and are genuinely interested in applying what they learn. Most of the students who take my marketing course will never work in the field of marketing, but the vast majority care about the material and try to bring something with them into their professional lives.

What is most challenging?

While most students are intrinsically motivated, many care far too much about grades.

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Inquisitive

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Entitled

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… I would like to think I’m “generous.”

LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM

What are your hobbies?

I usually love to travel, try new foods, go to museums, and hike outdoors. For obvious reasons, I have done very few of these activities recently.

How will you spend your summer?

I plan to spend most of the summer working on research, but hopefully not entirely at home. Because travel restrictions are being lifted, it would be wonderful if I could make it to Sardinia or perhaps the south of France.

Favorite place(s) to vacation:

I may be slightly biased, but I love traveling around Italy. It has amazing food, history, and natural beauty. Back across the pond, I am most attached to Baja California and Maine.

Favorite book(s):

These days, I devote most of my non-work reading time to short-form nonfiction. In addition to the news, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and New York Magazine are on my regular reading list.

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?

Picking just one is too hard. Watching (and re-watching) The Wire, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been incredibly satisfying.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why?

Mostly indie. But when I need to focus in the office, I listen to jazz.

THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS

If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… The humanities. I realize that literature and the arts are not prerequisites for a career in investment banking or big tech, but our society might do a bit better if we had more well-rounded people going into these fields.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… I would like to see more companies taking active steps toward promoting social justice. It has been encouraging to see many organizations joining the significant social justice movements of today. That said, the better companies and organizations do not wait until after they’re asked or pressured to join.

I’m grateful for… I realize this may sound a bit trite, but these days, I am extremely grateful that people in my life are in good health.

Faculty, students, alumni, and/or administrators say: 

“Prof. Greenberg is a very good teacher in class, he explains everything very clear and is available for follow up questions any time. But beyond the classroom he also helps where he can. As a thesis supervisor, he was always quick to respond and made writing the thesis an interesting project. Overall, Prof. Greenberg not only knows how to teach but also knows how to motivate his students.”

“I would like to nominate Prof. Adam Eric Greenberg because has been a true mentor to me since he helped me develop my research and analytical skills. He taught me how to conduct behavioral research, specifically how to use platforms to collect data online, how to use specific programs in the analysis of data and how to interpret them. He also supported me in the development of my own research ideas which soon turned into research projects. In short, I have particularly appreciated Prof. Greenberg’s great mentorship and advisorship.”

“Adam is an authority on consumer financial decision making, and particularly how people think about debt and financial resources, looking at how debt affects subjective well-being, examining how attitudes and behaviors vary as a function of the specific financial product, thus having established an impactful research niche. He is a charismatic young individual with exceptionally high teaching ratings, e.g. in the introduction to marketing course. Adam sought to arrange the course with the aim of more closely tailoring its contents to the needs, interests and orientation of the students involved. He constantly updates a set of ad-hoc original materials to be used for preparing for the exam.”

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