Indiana University Kelley School of Business
“Professor Bedi is deserving of this recognition for both the dynamic and transformational educational experiences he creates in his classroom, and the emerging and influential thought leadership he is providing in the public square.” – Josh Perry, Graf Family Professor and Chair of the Department of Business Law and Ethics
Suneal Bedi, 34, is Assistant Professor of Business Law & Ethics at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, where he’s worked since 2019.
He has a PhD in Marketing/Business Ethics from The Wharton School, a JD from Harvard Law School, and a BA from Swarthmore College. He currently teaches Business Ethics and the 21st Century Leader, The Ethics and Law of Fashion, and Corporate Financial Law and Planning.
Dr. Bedi is an expert in intellectual property, marketing ethics, and brand strategy. His research is focused on the intersection of law, marketing, and public policy. He has been published in the forthcoming Vanderbilt Law Review, Harvard Journal of Law & Technology, Alabama Law Review, Indiana Law Journal, The Journal of Business Ethics, Mind Your Marketing, and other top journals. He has written for such prominent media outlets as The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Forbes Magazine, US News and World Report, and The Washington Post.
In the classroom, he’s won two prominent teaching awards from Kelly, selected by students and faculty. He also created a first-of-its-kind course exploring business ethics and legal issues in the fashion industry.
LIFE AS A BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSOR
I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when I realized that I could research and teach about brands as a career. I’ve always had a passion for understanding how we build, consume, and manage brands — Particularly how we do them in the context of ever-changing legal rules and ethical norms.
What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I’m currently researching how we can apply our deep understanding of strategic branding to policing in America. My research shows that the police brand is fragmented and in trouble in the United States. Most citizens have increasingly negative perceptions of the police. While we have appropriately focused on reforming police behavior, we also must focus on reforming the reputation of police. Police behavior surely matters, but so does how civilians view the police. The brand therefore needs to be salvaged. I sketch out and argue for a plan that uses existing corporate branding strategies to reform the police brand.
If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be… A fashion designer. I love thinking about, consuming, understanding, and developing new ideas in fashion. It’s always been a passion of mine and hopefully becomes a book project one day down the road.
What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I think my classroom environment stands out—partly due to the nature of the content of what I teach. Ethics often touches on controversial topics. I try to build an environment in class where all viewpoints whatever they may be are rationally and thoroughly criticized. In doing this, I actively avoid creating any personal judgment of whoever might hold those same viewpoints. This discourages the use of emotion and the “personal” in having difficult discussions. And in turn encourages discussing and analyzing solely the underlying ethical frameworks with which businesses should make decisions.
One word that describes my first time teaching: Thrilling!
Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: Business school students are great barometers for your research. If you can get students to be interested in what you are researching, you are on the right track to a great paper.
Professor I most admire and why: I admire my good friend Dave Reibstein (Professor of Marketing, The Wharton School) because of his ability to constantly infuse humor and promote calmness in contexts that are otherwise high stress. He always finds a way to see the positive in any situation and helps remind me that our jobs are truly great.
TEACHING BUSINESS SCHOOL STUDENTS
What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? What is most challenging? Business school students often come to ethics classes with only one way of thinking about business—that it’s about efficiency and making profit. This is both the thing I enjoy the most and simultaneously what I find the most challenging. I enjoy being able to call into question that assumption about business and give students various frameworks with which to evaluate the role of business in society. Of course, after years and years of focusing on efficiency and profits, getting students to take seriously other ways of thinking about business can be difficult.
In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Thoroughly engaged during class.
In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Doesn’t do the reading.
When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Difficult but fair.
LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM
What are your hobbies? I love tennis and dance. I coach tennis in my free time and used to be a hip hop dance teacher in grad school. I also try to keep up with practicing piano when I have the time.
How will you spend your summer? I will spend my summer playing lots of tennis, traveling, visiting family and friends around the states, and hopefully getting some good research done.
Favorite place(s) to vacation: Tokyo, Japan. It’s the right mix of delish food, great shopping, fascinating culture, kind people, and cutting-edge technology.
Favorite book(s): I studied Russian Literature in college, so I have to go with “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
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 loving Ozark and Love is Blind currently, they are very different shows but provide lots of fun opportunities for conversations with friends and family.
What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? I really enjoy hip hop/R&B and anything else that I can dance to.
THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS
If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… Business schools of the future would have more normative ethics components. I’d like schools to spend more time training students to articulate what they view is the right way to do business, to what should the role of business be in society at large.
In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… Companies today need to do a better job of understanding that their brand is a promise to their consumers and deviating from their brand is a type of ethical wrong. Just because it may be monetarily beneficial to deviate from your brand, this does not negate the wrongness of a broken promise.
I’m grateful for… I’m grateful for the opportunity to teach and research what I love with great students and colleagues.
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