2023 Best Undergraduate Professors: Anjali S. Bal, Babson College

Anjali S. Bal
Babson College

“​​In 30 years of teaching, she is the best professor I’ve ever seen. She combines creativity with analytics and makes a profound impact on students. It’s a rare teacher at a business school who can teach the hard skills combined with creative skills necessary to succeed in the competitive marketing arena. Outside of class, she spends a tremendous amount of time with marginalized students, such as students of color and LGBTQ+. Students reach out to Anjali frequently and even keep in touch with her post-graduation because she has such a profound impact on them as a teacher and subsequently as a mentor.” – Sandra Bravo, Associate Professor of Practice 

Anjali S. Bal, 45, is Associate Professor of marketing and a Babson Presidential Scholar  at Babson College. She is an award-winning educator and advocate for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) in higher education. She was awarded the Babson Pride Award in 2020, an award in recognition of the “contributions of those who join the College in its commitment to creating a community that values, supports, and celebrates lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) individuals and their allies.” In 2022, she won the Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award. Bal has twice been nominated as faculty of the year, once at Dominican University of California (2014) and once at Babson College (2023). 

Bal’s research centers on arts and entertainment and sports marketing, and she has expanded her focus to include the intersectionality of DEIA in both markets. She has published in numerous journals such as European Journal of Marketing, Journal of Advertising Research, Business Horizons and Journal of Product and Brand Management. She frequently comments on marketing related topics for The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Boston Globe, AdWeek, The Daily Beast, NBC 10 Boston, KCBS San Francisco, and other media outlets.


At current institution since what year?  2014


  • PhD, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC, Canada
  • MBA, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, Netherlands
  • Bachelor of Arts, Theatre, University of California, San Diego

List of Undergraduate courses you teach: Principles of Marketing, Sports Marketing, Brand Management 


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when … In all honesty, I am not sure I ever knew I wanted to be a professor insofar as there was no “ah-ha” moment for me. I am a firm believer that life is about the journey not the destination. I had two careers before I made the decision to get a PhD. And even while doing my PhD, I questioned if this was the right career for me every single day. I still question it to this day. But I have had the great privilege to define much of my career on my own terms. Many of the most important decisions of my life were made with a quest for adventure rather than some grand plan. Academia provides an endless adventure. I sort of chose my career by what drove me and made me content. The reason I ultimately became a professor was that it is a profession where I can make a difference while also investigating things I love. I am inspired daily by my students, many of my colleagues and the greater purpose and power of higher education. As a professor, I learn something new every day. Plus, I meet awesome people and get to travel a lot. 

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I am a culture junkie. I love learning about it, talking about it and impacting it. The current focus of my research is on DEIA in Arts, Entertainment and Sports Marketing. These industries significantly impact the world around us and make up much of what we think of as culture. Of late the three areas I have been focusing on are fan behavior of women in sports, cultural wars, and mental health disclosures for female athletes. My most significant discoveries are: 

  1. Authenticity is key. Companies need to know who they are and stick with it. Those who do will find consumers who believe the same. When brands stick their toes in waters where they don’t belong, they will be punished swiftly. 
  2. Sports, Arts, and Entertainment are on the verge of a catastrophic shift. It is time for business to recognize that we are underperforming potential because of archaic societal bias about what and who can make money. These beliefs seep into every aspect of how we run the business. One example of this is in how we value ventures in traditionally underrepresented communities such as: BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and women. We see this in how we evaluate the financial potential of sports, arts, and entertainment. This year alone we have seen astronomical financial return and record-breaking viewership for entertainment lead by people in these groups specifically: sports (WNBA, Women’s Soccer, NCAA Women’s Basketball and NCAA Women’s Volleyball), music (Beyoncé and Taylor Swift), film (The Barbie Movie), visual art (Bisa Butler), and theater (Six, Kimberly Akimbo). Whenever I hear people say things like: “we don’t invest in women’s sports because they will never be as profitable as men’s sports,” or “women don’t drive the box office like their male counterparts,” I simply say, “you have no idea because we have never tried.” My research indicates that when we open these opportunities, fans show up. 
  3. Consumers love athletes. Athletes don’t need to be superhuman. Mental health issues have been plaguing our world and fans stand by athletes when they disclose that they are having mental health issues. 

Overall, my greatest discovery is that people and the world are shifting. I cannot wait to see what happens next.

If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be … An artist or a sports commentator. 

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I am creative, empathetic, and engaging. 

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

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: Handling the responsibilities outside of the classroom is often the most challenging aspect of this career. 

Professor I most admire and why: Leyland F. Pitt is my mentor, advisor, champion, and dear friend. He is the only reason I am a professor today. Leyland fought for me, believed in me, and gave me a chance. I can never repay the support he has given me, though I try to in the form of drawings from my kids and nice bottles of wine.   


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? I learn so much from my students. I love the enthusiasm and passion with which business students approach their studies. I find myself invigorated by how students seem ready to tackle the immense challenges they will inherit on this planet. 

What is most challenging? Students care a lot about grades. I don’t. I don’t think grades matter. I find it challenging dealing with students who are grade obsessed versus learning focused.  

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

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

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as …Fair. 


What are your hobbies? I love sports, theater, comics, and film. I am an avid art enthusiast both as a patron and as a form of relaxation. Our family loves to travel, bake, try new foods and walk/hike. After a few years living in the Bay Area my husband and I have also become huge wine enthusiasts. 

How will you spend your summer? Traveling and trying new things. Spending time with my family is my favorite summertime pastime. I am hoping to go to Comic-Con in San Diego in 2024. 

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Anywhere new! I love exploring and going to new countries/places and meeting new people. As I said, I am a culture junkie. My most consistent travel is to my forever home, Tucson, AZ.  

Favorite book(s): Caste: The Origins of our Discontents, by Isabel Wilkerson; Harry Potter by, J.K. Rowling (all 7 books)

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? I love Star Wars and Marvel movies and many—though not all—of their offshoots. Black Panther is my favorite Marvel movie. I have just finished the Ms. Marvel series which I absolutely loved. I love watching hero stories with a twist. And I think both Star Wars and superhero movies do that well. 

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? I love music. Everything from rap and hip hop to musical theater and jazz. My favorite band is Maná. My favorite musicals are Hamilton and Sideshow. I don’t think I have a favorite solo artist though I go through phases. I have been on a Beyoncé and Angélique Kidjo kick of late.  


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this … Experiential learning, creativity, innovation, ethics, and application. 

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at …Companies need to better understand how they impact society, people, and the planet. Companies that only focus on the financial bottom line do so at the peril of our communities, people, and planet.  

I’m grateful for … My life. My experiences. My opportunities. And most of all, my kids (A & C), my husband (Conwell III), my parents (Rani and Sunand), my sisters (Gita and Suniti), my in-laws (Millie, Conwell II, and David), and my nephews (T & G). 


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