2021 Best Undergraduate Professors: Steve DeLoach, Elon University (Martha and Spencer Love School)

Steve DeLoach

Martha and Spencer Love School of Business, Elon University

“Dr. DeLoach has supported me through every step of the research process–crafting my research question, finding data, writing code, interpreting results, communicating my findings, and preparing for presentations and publication. He encouraged me to create a thesis that I am proud to submit to journals for publication.” – Michaela Fogarty, student

Steve DeLoach, 56, is the Martha and Spencer Love Professor of Economics and chair of the Department of Economics at Elon University, where he’s worked since 1996. He currently teaches Principles of Economics, Econometrics, and Economics of Microfinance .

He has a master’s and PhD from Michigan State University and a BSBA from the University of Nebraska. 

Dr. DeLoach is known for being a dedicated teacher-scholar-mentor, says Nicole Filippo of Elon University. He is the recipient of the Love School of Business Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and Elon University’s Distinguished Scholar Award. He was named Professor of the Year by Elon’s chapter of Beta Gamma Sigma. He organizes the undergraduate sessions at the Eastern Economic Association annual conference, advises teams in the Elon Microfinance Challenge (a competition he co-founded), and is the faculty co-advisor for the Issues in Political Economy undergraduate research journal. 


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I figured out I loved learning and decided I never wanted to leave academics.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I currently have two streams of research. 

The first looks at the impact of microfinance. Specifically, I am evaluating the impact of a village savings and loan program for South Sudanese refugees living in northern Uganda. My team of undergraduate economics students and I have been consulting for a small NGO for over 5 years. We have found that savings-led programs have significant power to improve the lives of some of the world’s poorest people. Among other things, program participants significantly increase their consumption of protein and they are able to use credit to increase the number of livestock they own. Our work to date has helped the NGO secure a $1 million grant to expand its services into other refugee communities.

The second line of research, which is a collaborative effort with a colleague and a former student of mine, looks at the role personality plays in young adult workers’ decisions to switch occupations. Specifically, we have found that workers in occupations that do not match well with their personalities are likely to change occupations within the first year of starting a job. This research suggests that workers perceive personality match to be at least as important as skill match. We argue that workers perceive “fit” as an amenity, much the same way they would a convenient commute, etc.

If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be… retired.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I consider myself to be more a mentor than a teacher. I teach well, but it’s building developmental relationships with undergraduates that gives me the most satisfaction. I think that is why I love mentoring undergraduate research. It gives me the chance to work one-on-one with students, learn about them as individuals, and help them develop as young professionals.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Mismatched. I taught at a large state university and was not particularly good at it. 

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: How much fun it would be to teach. Most faculty at research universities and in graduate school think research is fun and teaching is necessary. I have found both research and teaching are stimulating and bring me joy and meaning.

Professor I most admire and why: Jeff Wooldridge at Michigan State. He is one of the leading econometricians of the last 30 years and has literally written the books that have taught generations of undergraduates and graduate students. I admire that he loves teaching and mentoring. He is the kind of professor who will graciously answer questions on Twitter from perfect strangers. I think he just really wants people to do better research. He is quite generous with his time. He is also brilliant, but has a way of never making others feel unworthy.  


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? As I said above, it is getting to know students as individuals and helping them to learn to develop their skills and achieve their personal goals.

What is most challenging? I think the most challenging part about teaching college students, and this is especially true in recent years, is to try to always remember that students are real, live human beings with complicated lives and varied interests. If they are not engaged or are underperforming, it is not necessarily because they are lazy, etc. Everyone has challenges. We all have stuff going on in our private lives that they are dealing with, and often, it’s something that is far more important than my class (even if it hurts me to say that!). 

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: My favorite student is the one who works hard and takes advantage of the unique learning opportunities Elon provides. I did not get a relationship-rich experience when I was an undergraduate because of the size of the university. I don’t care if students are cognitively gifted, as long as they are curious and engaged. That is all that matters. 

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: My least favorite type of student, naturally, are the disengaged ones. But as I said, even when students are not engaged or do not appear to work hard, I try to remember that I don’t know what their challenges are. They may be disengaged for an array of reasons. So I don’t dislike them for it, that is far too strong. But it makes me sad that sometimes, I don’t have the chance to reach them.

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as…transparent and fair. Students say they know that if they put in the work and come to class and to office hours, they will know exactly what my learning goals are and they should be successful. 


What are your hobbies? I enjoy hiking and travel, ideally at the same time.

How will you spend your summer? I always work on research during the summer, usually co-authoring a project with one of my students. But I also take multiple vacations. In addition to our extended families, my family spends a week at Topsail Island, NC, every summer, and we try to go to one place we have never been before. 

Favorite place(s) to vacation: My favorite vacation was a few years ago when I got a chance to teach a course in June at RWTH University in Aachen, Germany. We lived there for 3 weeks with weekend trips to Paris, Bruges, and the Rhine Valley. 

Favorite book(s): A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, Everything is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer.

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? My favorite movie of all time is Monty’s Python’s “The Life of Brian.” I love it because it is such a clever parody of organized religion and group-think. 

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? I still like the music of my youth, which was the post-punk era. So, bands like the Smiths, the Cure, REM and later the Pixies and Radiohead are the music I still tend to listen to almost daily.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… I think business schools are already moving in this direction, but the most interesting and positive trend I have seen over my career has been the increased attention in business to social responsibility. The evolution from the corporate “greed is good” era of the 1980s when I was a student to the increased attention to diversity and inclusion, the environment, social entrepreneurship and corporate social responsibility has been extremely gratifying to see. It makes me proud to work in a business school. 

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at…following through with their corporate responsibilities. At this point, I still think today’s business schools and students are far-ahead of most in the corporate world. I think many organizations are at the point of understanding the problems and being genuinely motivated to do their part, but I feel like many efforts are still simplistic and ineffective. I think it is just going to take time. 

I’m grateful for… Finding a career that I am passionate about, and a place where I fit in – an institution that values the same things I value. I know that most people don’t feel that way about their jobs, so I feel very fortunate in that regard.  


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