2021 Best Undergraduate Professors: David C. Brown, Eller School of Management, University of Arizona

David C. Brown

Eller School of Management, University of Arizona

“David is exceptionally strong in the classroom. His overall evaluation SCE score in the last three years ranges from 4.48 to 4.82. Moreover, David is extremely innovative. For example, he’s developed self-grading spreadsheets that allow students to test their ability and get immediate feedback.” – Sarah Diaz

David C. Brown, 39, is Associate Professor of Finance and the Brian and Clara Franke Chair in Finance at University of Arizona’s Eller School of Management. He’s been with the school since 2014. 

He has a PhD in Finance from University of Colorado Boulder, and a Bachelor of Science in Business in Finance and Accounting from the University of Kansas. He currently teaches Financial Modeling, Critical Thinking in International Finance, and Quantitative Financial Management Techniques (in Excel).

His research focuses on institutional investors, asset management, early-stage financing and IPOs, and other topics. His work has been published in such journals as Review of Finance, Journal of Financial Studies, and Review of Financial Studies. He has won several research honors including the TIAA Paul A. Samuelson Award for Outstanding Scholarly Writing on Lifelong Financial Security and the McGraw-Hill/Irwin Distinguished Paper Award, Southwestern Finance Association.

In the classroom, he’s won the Dean’s Award for Undergraduate Teaching Excellence, the Eller College Student’s Choice Award for Outstanding Faculty, and several other teaching honors. 

He previously worked in high-frequency algorithmic trading and private student lending. 


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… the 2008 financial crisis hit, and I had to do some soul searching.  A former professor asked me why I wasn’t a finance professor.  Once he described the job to me, I took my GMAT right away and started grad school the next fall.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? Target Date Funds (TDFs). My co-author and I have shown that TDFs, which most people invest their retirement savings in, are on average over 1% too expensive.  We are working now to make it easier for investors to know the true costs of their TDFs and to provide them with feasible alternatives. 

If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be… starting businesses.  I have also been very entrepreneurial, and I love to build up new ideas and create value.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? My passion for the subject and for teaching my students as much as I can.  I teach a combination of finance and Excel, and I am passionate about both. I am also always looking for ways to help the students retain the information better and be prepared for their careers. 

One word that describes my first-time teaching: Sweaty.

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: I don’t regret having worked for a few years before grad school, but I had no idea that business faculty are well paid.  If I had known, I probably would have gone to grad school sooner.

Professor I most admire and why: Alex Edmans. He has a seemingly inexhaustible passion for finance and teaching. He is a great researcher, a great speaker (check out his TED talks), a phenomenal teacher, and also manages one of the top finance journals. 


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? Their varieties of interests. While they are in business school, the students have so many different career paths they want to go down. I get to help guide them but also learn about what they are interested in. 

What is most challenging? Setting high standards (which I know they can meet), when so many classes before don’t expect as much from them. 

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

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

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Fair and accommodating, but wow does he give us a lot of work.


What are your hobbies? Rock climbing, camping, hiking, cooking, and eating and drinking well.

How will you spend your summer? Taking a few much-needed vacations with my family, getting caught up on research, and planning the inaugural Financial Modeling University Championship to be held in Tucson in November.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Mountains, Hawaii

Favorite book(s): I wish I had time to read for pleasure. My next book to read is a travel-cookbook on my shelf about Friuli, Italy. 

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? The Great. It’s a nice escape and always funny.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? Right now, I am really into 90’s and 2000’s rock rides on Peloton with Emma Lovewell.  Otherwise, anything on KXCI, our local radio station in Tucson. I particularly enjoy the weekly bluegrass show.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… Excel. It is a fundamental tool for analyzing business problems and modeling potential solutions. It provides a rigor to business discussions and forces students to think through their assumptions and how they will make decisions.  It is also a great gateway into programming, database management, analytics, and all the hot buzzwords in business today.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… balancing work with everything else. I am guilty of this and need to find a bit better balance – particularly during my teaching semesters.

I’m grateful for… the many advantages I have been given in life that led to my being a tenured finance professor. I hope I can use my position to spread those advantages to my students and add value to the world.

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