2023 Best Undergraduate Professors: Jingjing Li, University of Virginia McIntire School of Commerce


Jingjing Li
University of Virginia
McIntire School of Commerce


“Jingjing Li is a rare amalgamation of stellar research and outstanding pedagogical skills that significantly elevate the undergraduate business educational experience. Her innovative and applicable research, exemplified notably by the development of the TheoryOn search engine, offers a practical, real-world lens to her teaching, ensuring students can seamlessly translate academic learning to professional contexts. Li’s unwavering dedication to holistic student development, ensuring a nurturing environment that prioritizes both academic and personal growth, is notably impactful.” – Ryan Wright,  Senior Associate Dean for Faculty and Research


Jingjing Li, 37, is Andersen Alumni Associate Professor of Commerce at University of Virginia McIntire School of Commerce. She is also Associate Director for the Center for Business Analytics.

Her research interests relate to artificial intelligence and big data analytics, with applications in search engine, healthcare, marketing, platform, and public policy. Her research has been published in MIS Quarterly, Information Systems Research, Journal of Marketing, Strategic Management Journal, Review of Economics and Statistics, Journal of Management Information Systems, and ACM Transactions on Information Systems

She is a winner of the INFORMS Design Science Award, INFORMS CIST Best Paper Award, INFORMS Data Science Workshop Best Paper Award, WITS Best Paper Award, and WITS Best Prototype Award. Her research is also nominated as the finalist for Shelby D. Hunt/Harold H. Maynard Award. 

Professor Li is currently teaching big data and business analytics courses at the undergraduate, graduate, and executive master levels. She received a teaching award for her Business Intelligence course at Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Before joining the McIntire School, she was a Scientist at Microsoft, where she proposed and implemented several large-scale machine learning solutions for numerous Microsoft products.


At current institution since what year? 2014

Education: Ph.D., Management Information Systems, University of Colorado at Boulder

List of Undergraduate courses you teach: Business Analytics with Low-Code Technologies or Python, Big Data, Database and Business Intelligence


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when … My passion for becoming a business school professor began during my undergraduate studies and was reinforced when I worked in industry. I was fascinated by the transformative power of IT during my college years, particularly as e-commerce was beginning to emerge. This interest led me to pursue a Ph.D. program in the United States, aiming to expand my understanding of this field. After earning my Ph.D. at the University of Colorado Boulder, I had the opportunity to work at Microsoft, where I focused on developing machine learning products and services. Although I thoroughly enjoyed this role, I found myself missing the teaching experiences I had during my Ph.D years. Teaching felt like a crucial aspect of my life and career that I couldn’t overlook. Motivated by this realization, I returned to academia and was thrilled to secure a position at the McIntire School at the University of Virginia.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? My recent research is centered on the transformative potential of Generative AI (GenAI) tools like ChatGPT in education and the workplace. These tools are available around the clock and offer personalized and accessible learning opportunities, enabling learners to advance at their own pace. However, a significant challenge in this field is the inherent biases in GenAI. Our study investigates the cyclical nature of these biases: biases in training data and user prompts to GenAI influence the AI models and, in turn, are reinforced by the GenAI’s responses.

If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be …  immersed in the dynamic field of technology as a data scientist or researcher. My focus would be on developing innovative products and services, leveraging the power of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and big data analytics. This role would allow me to apply my research skills and passion for technology to create cutting-edge solutions that drive innovations in various industries.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I have a unique teaching philosophy defined by three key elements: Empathy, Active Learning, and Relevance (EAR). I prioritize understanding and accommodating my students’ diverse learning styles, breaking down complex topics into manageable parts. My approach emphasizes active learning, encouraging students to engage deeply through hands-on activities and practical applications. 

Additionally, I ensure the course content remains relevant and up-to-date, often drawing on my own industry experience. This combination of empathy, active engagement, real-world relevance, and my dedication to supporting underrepresented groups distinguishes me as a professor.

One word that describes my first time teaching: nerve-racking

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor:I wish someone had told me about the profound impact and responsibility that comes with being a business school professor. Beyond just curriculum delivery, this role involves shaping future business leaders, influencing their ethical perspectives, and preparing them for real-world challenges. The job demands continuous learning and adaptation, as well as inspiring, mentoring, and connecting with students on a deeper level.

Professor I most admire and why: The professor I deeply admire is Professor Claudia Goldin from Harvard University and the winner of the 2023 Nobel Prize. Her groundbreaking work in advancing our understanding of women’s labor market outcomes and delving into the root causes of the gender pay gap has been both inspiring and influential. 

In her book “Career and Family,” she explores the challenges women face in juggling professional growth with family commitments. Her analysis of how the COVID-19 era has hindered women’s progress in the workforce deeply resonates with my own experience of parenting two young children during the pandemic. Significantly, Professor Goldin identifies the rise of remote and flexible work as a hopeful development from these tough times. This evolution in work culture could lead to a more equitable balance for women in managing their careers and family lives. Her insights provide not just a reflection of current challenges but also a vision for a future where women can more effectively balance career and family.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? What I enjoy most is connecting with students, learning about their lives and stories both in and outside the classroom. For instance, after discussing my research on GenAI governance this semester, a student shared how the topic sparked dinner conversations at home. Her mother, also a professor, had recently written about the topic as well. She showed me her mother’s paper, which I read joyfully and incorporated some ideas into my research. Overall, these interactions have not only helped me discover my passions and values but also strengthened my commitment to teaching. The energy and inspiration I draw from these experiences drive me to be the best educator I can be every day.

What is most challenging? The rapid changes in the business world and the continual evolution of information technology pose a significant challenge for IT professors like me, who are striving to stay abreast of the latest developments. To meet this challenge, I actively pursue self-education, reaching out to former colleagues in leading IT firms and attending pertinent academic and industry conferences. In my lab sessions, I emphasize the use of cutting-edge technologies, fully aware that they might malfunction in real time or even lead to what appears as a ‘failure’ lab session. By exposing my students to both the strengths and vulnerabilities of these technologies, I aim to instill in them a deep appreciation and respect for the complex decisions involved in the adoption of new technological solutions.

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Motivated

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: There is no least favorite type of student in my eyes.

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as … a professor who provides detailed, concrete, and relevant feedback.


What are your hobbies? I’ve always been an avid hiker, a passion that ignited during my Ph.D. days in Boulder, Colorado. I particularly enjoyed conquering the “14ers” – mountains over 14,000 feet. I’ve summited five of these giants so far. One of my most memorable experiences was hiking Longs Peak in the summer. I started around 1 am and reached the summit by 10:30 am, ensuring I descended below the tree line, usually at 11,500 feet, before noon. This timing is to avoid the typical noon thunderstorms – you don’t want to be an unwitting “lightning volunteer” above the tree line! Overall, this trip took me around 16 hours to finish. Since having my two kids, now four and two years old, I’ve paused strenuous hiking. But I’m looking forward to returning to the trails as they grow a bit older.

How will you spend your summer? Summer is typically a time for family and research in my schedule. This coming season, alongside making progress on my research projects, I’m planning to spend quality time with my two young kids. We’re looking forward to activities like summer camps and family trips. 

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Colorado, Iceland, and New Zealand 

Favorite book(s): I usually “read” two types of books on Audible while driving to school or picking up/dropping off my kids: ones related to my profession and those about parenting. My recent favorites include “Superintelligence” by Nick Bostrom and “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? My current favorite is the kids’ TV series “Bluey.” With the demands of my professional and personal life, it’s been quite some time since I’ve watched a movie in a theater. However, from 6 to 9 pm, my time is exclusively for my kids, and we often watch an episode or two of “Bluey.” The show is humorous and energetic and portrays heartwarming family dynamics that can inspire parents with creative play ideas. My absolute favorite moment is when the theme music starts at the beginning and end of each episode. That’s when my daughter and son began to sway their hips and dance, imitating Bluey and Bingo. It’s hilarious and so much fun to watch.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? Classical music, with a particular fondness for Chopin. I played the piano for eight years during my childhood. Back then, I didn’t fully appreciate the beauty of classical music; it felt more like hours of daily practice. I stopped playing before high school, but my interest in classical music was reignited by the movie “The Pianist.” The Chopin pieces featured in this movie blend seamlessly with the storyline, highlighting how music and humanity can work together to transcend barriers, conflicts and wars. This experience led me to start listening to piano music again. I usually start my morning with a 5-minute meditation with piano music and sometimes with piano music in the background while I am doing research. 


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this … If I had my way, the future business school would significantly emphasize ethical leadership within a technologically advanced world. In an era of AI and emerging technologies, it’s essential for students to not only master cutting-edge tools but also understand their societal and business implications. Future business leaders must develop a solid ethical grounding to address the intricate moral challenges facing the rapid development of AI technologies. 

In my opinion, companies and organizations … today need to do a better job at balancing social good with their commercial goals. This doesn’t mean sacrificing practical benefits; rather, it involves creating innovative ways to jointly optimize both humanistic objectives and practical benefits.

I’m grateful for … everyone who has influenced my life – family, friends, mentors, teachers, colleagues, and acquaintances, whether their impact was positive or challenging. Each interaction, every moment of support or adversity, has shaped who I am today.


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