2021 Best Undergraduate Professors: Matt Statler, New York University Stern School of Business

Matt Statler

New York University Stern School of Business

“Matt is a visionary economist, professor, and leader. My experience as his student shaped my life and my mindset such that I became a conscious and socially driven business leader. He understands and preaches the role of business in society and he does so empathetically.” – Sabira Lakhani, student

Matt Statler, 50, is the Richman Family Director of Business Ethics and Social Impact Programming, and Clinical Professor of Business and Society at the Stern School of Business at New York University. He’s been with Stern since 2009. He has a PhD in Philosophy from Vanderbilt University, and BAs in Spanish and Philosophy from the University of Missouri. 

Professor Statler leads and coordinates the four-course Social Impact Core Curriculum. He currently teaches Business and Society; Business and Society:  Intensive

Professional Responsibility and Leadership; Social Impact Consulting; Economic Inequality:  Perspectives, Policies and Practices; and Professional Responsibility. 

A former Fulbright Scholar, his research has appeared in academic journals including the Oxford Handbook of Organizational Decision Making. His latest book is entitled, “Everyday Strategic Preparedness: The Role of Practical Wisdom in Organizations,” and he is co-editor of “Leadership and Wisdom: Narrating the Future Responsibly.”  He is a former Director of Research of the Imagination Lab.

He is known for his creativity in the classroom, according to his nominations, engaging students with everything from walking exercises to Legos. 

“Professor Statler challenges students to better understand themselves. On the first day of his business ethics course, he asked students to talk one on one with another student about what they would do if they had all the money in the world,” writes student Jason Hu. “When one student talked, the other had to stay silent and listen. Through this exercise, I was intrigued about how much I was able to learn about someone by listening to their passions and about how much I actually knew about myself. Teaching is not about recitation of facts but rather inspiring new ways of thinking, and that is exactly what Professor Statler does with his material.”


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…I read the job description for the position that I am lucky to hold.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I am a philosopher who has worked as a management consultant, a dot-com entrepreneur, a strategy process facilitator, and a catastrophe preparedness researcher, so my research interests are interdisciplinary.  These various experiences lead me to think a) that humanity is currently dealing with a series of unprecedented global challenges, b) that in order to respond effectively to those challenges we need more people with practical wisdom, and c) that the best way to educate those people is through playful and aesthetically-rich learning processes.

If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be… A folk musician.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I approach my job as an occasion to learn along with students.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Enlightening.

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: Business involves so much more than making money.

Professor I most admire and why: Dr. Alexander von Schönborn told me to ‘follow my nose’ and let my curiosity lead me.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? I enjoy engaging with them in reflective dialogue about how to live a meaningful life.

What is most challenging? All too often, my students are stuck in the meritocracy trap, judging the value of their experiences based on extrinsic rewards or incentives.

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Resilient.

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

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Somebody who tries to meet them wherever they are and help them improve from there.


What are your hobbies? I like hanging around in the kitchen, cooking, eating, laughing and making music with friends and family.

How will you spend your summer? I’m hoping to travel with my wife and kids.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: St. George Island, Florida and Bergkvara, Sweden.

Favorite book(s): Currently, Living as a Bird by Vinciane Despret.

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? I’m only a couple hours into Get Back, but I find the intensity of the musical collaboration completely fascinating both because it’s the Beatles, and as a case study in group processes.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? I listen to many different kinds of music all the time, but lately I’m in a Charlie Parker phase because he is able to take so many different elements of melody and composition and transform them into something totally new.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… The arts, humanities, and experiential learning.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… Recognizing the strategic advantages associated with sustainability.

I’m grateful for… Every moment of awareness, and the love of family and friends.



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