2021 Best Undergraduate Professors: Joe Raffiee, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California

Joe Raffiee

Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California 

Professor Raffiee is an incredibly passionate individual who devotes an immense amount of effort towards teaching student strategy through an action-oriented approach. Using proprietary business cases which he created himself, Raffiee is able to further demonstrate business concepts to his students through his distinct efforts.” – Daniel Fehder, assistant professor at USC Marshall

Joe Raffiee, 37, is Assistant Professor of Strategy University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, where he’s worked since 2016. He currently teaches Strategic Management. 

He has a PhD in Management and Human Resources from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Dr. Raffie’s research is focused on understanding the causes and consequences of employee mobility and entrepreneurship, and it has been published in the Academy of Management Review, Academy of Management Journal, Strategic Management Journal, Organization Science, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, and the Academy of Management Perspectives. It has also been covered by media outlets such as the Harvard Business Review, Huffington Post, Inc. Magazine, and Wired.

He was nominated for this P&Q award by more than a dozen colleagues as well as current and former students: Professor Raffiee cares deeply about engaging, enlightening, and educating his students. He is a fantastic lecturer, takes time out of class to check in with students who are struggling, and has been an amazing mentor in business strategy, management, and ethical decision-making in the private sector,” former student Truman Fritz writes. “He is one of the best professors I ever had in my four years at USC.”

LIFE AS A BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSOR

I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I was a research assistant while earning my MBA at Wisconsin. Through this experience, I gained an understanding of the social science research process and subsequently started asking questions about everything, especially facts and theories presented in my business school classes. It was at that point I realized my fate was sealed and began looking at Ph.D. programs.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? Broadly speaking, I study labor markets, entrepreneurship, and innovation. Currently, I am pretty excited about a series of large-scale projects which explore partisanship and its relationship with labor market and innovation outcomes. 

If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be… It’s really hard to say! I have pretty diverse interests and my path to earning my Ph.D. and becoming a professor was somewhat atypical, so I really have no idea!

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I am not sure, but I do try my best to establish a personal rapport with my students and really drive home that the purpose of my class is to practice our critical thinking skills. My hope is that this helps foster an environment where everyone feels comfortable joining the conversation.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Stressful

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: Even if you are teaching the same class to multiple sections, each section can have a unique personality and so what works for one section may not work for others.

Professor I most admire and why: I have been fortunate to have been surrounded by so many great professors, both senior and junior colleagues alike, so this is tough to answer!

TEACHING BUSINESS SCHOOL STUDENTS

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? I get to break down complex problems and discuss interesting issues with bright and motivated students. This always makes teaching fun and exciting!  

What is most challenging? The nature of case discussion means the direction of the conversation can be somewhat unpredictable. Making sure we hit the key learning objectives while letting the discussion flow naturally is a skill learned with practice.  

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

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

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… fair, at least that’s what I strive for!

LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM

What are your hobbies? Motorcycles, motorsports, and reining horses

How will you spend your summer? Working on various research projects

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Call me crazy, but I am not a fan of traveling! That said, Colorado and the Rocky Mountains are pretty spectacular. 

Favorite book(s): The Art of War by Sun Tzu 

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? Curb Your Enthusiasm. Larry David is a comedic genius! 

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? I like all types of music, from classic rock to electro to country!

THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS

If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… curriculum designed to help students develop a balance of soft and hard skills.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at…really embracing the idea that it is the people that make the place.

I’m grateful for… My colleagues and students. They make being a professor the best job in the world! Full stop. 

 

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