2023 Best Undergraduate Professors: Anjelina Belakovskaia, Arizona State University, Thunderbird School of Global Management

Anjelina Belakovskaia
Arizona State University
Thunderbird School of Global Management

Theory is great, but being able to substantiate it with practice and real-world results is what separates ‘great’ professors from ‘the best’ professors. Professor Belekovskaia became a professor through her own unique path, which included first demonstrating her prowess, competence, and excellence not only in her field of finance, but also in the world of chess, in academia, and as a charitable member of her community. For an undergraduate business student, it does not get much better than having a finance professor who has been recognized as the Best Female Employee by Williams Companies, Inc., a Fortune 500 company for her contribution to the company’s profitability and success.– Humberto Camacho

Anjelina Belakovskaia, 54, is Associate Teaching Professor in Global Finance at Arizona State University, Thunderbird School of Global Management.

Her expertise lies in the area of risk management and financial derivatives. Over the last 30 years, Belakovskaia has been involved in trading of foreign exchange, equities, weather and exotic derivatives and cryptocurrencies. As a weather derivatives trader and head of the weather desk at Williams Energy, she was one of the pioneers who introduced new dual-trigger weather-gas and weather-power options, developing important cutting-edge risk management solutions for utilities and other end users. In 2002, she was recognized as one of the Best Female Employees”for her contributions to the company. 

Belakovskaia serves as a faculty advisor to numerous student teams participating in the Global Challenge Lab – Thunderbird international consulting projects. In 2016, she was a recipient of Undergraduate Course Innovation Grant and in 2017, she received an APAC Professional Development Reimbursement Award that supported her participation at the AMS Washington Forum.

For many years, she was a professional chess player and a member of the US Olympic Women’s Chess Team (1991-2000). She is a three-time U.S. Women’s Chess Champion and achieved the highest chess title, Woman International Grandmaster in 1993. Since 2010, she has run the Belakovskaia Chess Academy for children in K-12. This year, Belakovskaia won the Inaugural U.S. Chess Championship for Women 50 and above.


At current institution since what year? 2016

Education: M.S. in Mathematics in Finance, New York University

List of Undergraduate courses you teach: Principles of Finance for Global Organizations


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when … I unexpectedly taught my first course as an Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Arizona and realized that the “family trade” came full circle – my father Mikhail Belakovskiy was a Full Professor and my grandfather Yakov Belakovskiy was an Associate Professor, and now it was my turn.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I endeavor to understand peoples’ behavior and decision-making processes, both in finance and in life. I’m often shocked to discover the extent to which emotional attachments blind people from seeing the obvious and accepting the truth, regardless of how much it is supported by evidence and facts. 

If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be … a Photographer, Explorer, Scientist, Chess Player, or Race Car Driver.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I’d like to answer this question with my student’s feedback: “Hello Professor, I just wanted to thank you for the class. I’ve learned so much from this class but even more from you! You really inspired me with your commitment, your passion and your encouragement to always try new things. Thank you for your genuine care and your support for all of us! I will most definitely miss you!”.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Puzzling.

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: There is an enormous amount of resources and you should explore them from day one.

Professor I most admire and why: There are two – Thunderbird’s Current Dean and Director General Dr. Sanjeev Khagram and Deputy Dean Dr. Lena Booth. Both are truly exceptional human beings and professionals, amazingly dedicated, hardworking, high achievers with Global vision, yet personal and humble.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? The “eye-opening moments” when students make connections, recognize value, get excited about the material, and discover the depth of financial knowledge and possibilities.

What is most challenging? Grading incorrect submissions.

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

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

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as … Tough, but fair.


What are your hobbies? Chess, International travel, photography, reading, observing nature, and listening to classical music.

How will you spend your summer? In the summer of 2023, our family had a marvelous trip to Ireland and Scotland. I was a “designated driver” and drove 1,600 km in Ireland and 420 miles in Scotland (on the left side) and we saw many wonderful castles, abbeys, museums, National parks, beaches and so much more (though, we didn’t see Nessie, while cruising Loch Ness!) I hope to organize a similar trip to another part of the world, which we have not visited just yet. Japan and Australia are the top two candidates, but there are many fascinating places!

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Any, but preferably new! I love Alaska, Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe. I’d love to explore Asia. 

Favorite book(s): “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl and “The Happiest Man on Earth” by Eddie Jaku, as well as poetry by Alexander Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov and Sergei Yesenin.

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? I used to love comedies with Julia Roberts. Then, I was amazed by the quality of “Titanic” and “The Great Gatsby”. I stopped watching Hollywood movies now. The movies that I feel connected with are “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”, “The Pianist”, “The Book Thief”… As a Jewish person, I realize how fragile human life is and how ephemeral the peace and serenity are.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? I love classical music –Mozart, Vivaldi, Haydn, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven,. I truly enjoyed Andrea Bocelli’s performance in Phoenix in 2022. I have a special affection for songs by Joe Dassin and Salvatore “Toto” Cutugno, Alla Pugacheva and Vakhtang Kikabidze. I feel that this music genre and songs are not for the ears, but for the soul. I also love to go to museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Arts in New York City and The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. There are many paintings by amazingly talented artists and I can spend days wandering among the exhibits.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this … libraries, parks, lakes and human collaboration spaces in natural settings. I think it is extremely important for all of us to remember that we are human beings and that we should be kind and supportive of each other and work in teams to succeed together.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at … promoting and supporting traditional values, integrity, dignity, civility in interactions, respect, decency, kindness, spirituality, etc.  

I’m grateful for … having a wonderful family, a loving husband, amazing children, supportive friends, brilliant colleagues, inquisitive students, spiritual Jewish community led by an outstanding Rabbi, Torah, God, and Shabbat’s lights.


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