2023 Best Undergraduate Professors: Joseph Baird, Indiana University Kelley School of Business

Joseph Baird
Indiana University
Kelley School of Business

“Being in Joseph Baird’s classroom is akin to experiencing an epic whirlwind of challenging puzzles, treasure hunts and simulations. Through his use of challenging models, creative games, and supportive personal mentorship, Baird teaches students to think critically and diagnostically as they solve complex problems and structure their own lives. Students flock to his courses not because they are easy, but because they are engaging and among the most challenging courses of their college careers. They leave not just with the ability to solve seemingly intractable problems, but also earn an expansive toolkit of resources and technical skills that impress recruiters in the job search and colleagues from Day One in the field.”Sreeni Kamma, associate dean for academics

Joseph Baird, 42, is Senior Lecturer at Indiana University Kelley School of Business.

Prior to teaching at the Kelley School, Baird ran a successful mobile game studio. His games, with downloads over a million, have topped the App Store’s educational charts, won design awards, and been featured in a 60 Minutes special on autism. He has partnered as a consultative developer with such organizations as Gallup, NASA, IDEO, BYU, Agilix, Center for Knowledge Diffusion, and the Global Literacy Project. 

He participates in rapid-development-style “game jams” every year, including a special invitation-only jam at the White House in 2014. 

Notable teaching awards and accolades include the 2023 AKP Teachers’ Excellence Award – Herman B Wells Award (nominee) , 2022 and 2018 Trustees Teaching Awards,   2022 AKP Teachers’ Excellence Award – Beyond the Grade, 2021 Mumford Excellence in Teaching Award (K303 Team), and the 2020 AKP Teachers’ Excellence Award – Most Engaging.


At current institution since what year? 2017 

Education: BA, Russian, Indiana University. MBA, Marketing, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University 

List of Undergraduate courses you teach:  Technology & Business Analysis, Modeling Business Data, Business Data Programming  


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when … I wasn’t always sure teaching at a business school would be a good fit for me. I showed up the first semester and did my best, and over the course of the semester I started getting feedback from students that they found the games useful, the stories entertaining and inspiring. I realized I could be creative and impactful at the same time, and since then I have loved it. 

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I don’t do formal academic research, but the pedagogical territory I’m currently most excited about is using games as tools to engage, instruct, and assess, notably through Specifications Grading. 

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

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? The fact that I present students with strange, unexpected challenges while talking about business as little as possible in the classroom. 

One word that describes my first time teaching: Sleep-deprived 

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: Students need more help with abstraction than we might think. For a student to learn how to apply abstract models and methods to solve difficult problems, they must start by gaining mastery of concrete techniques. Only then can they derive more generalized patterns to apply to new problems they’ve never seen. 

Professor I most admire and why: Jamie Pratt, my MBA Core Accounting professor at IU. I have tried to mirror his intensity, his directness, and his unflinchingly high expectations of students. 


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? Their strong motivation 

What is most challenging? Their fear of failure 

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

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student:  I don’t think I have a least favorite type of student. Some may seem frustrating or difficult at first, but I have come to trust that each person is worthy of the very best I can give.

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


What are your hobbies? I like to get lost. I wander around in the forest and the desert a lot. I like getting obsessed with something for a few months – Disc golf, chess, origami, fountain pens, forestry, baklava. A few times a year, I code a game and publish it to the App Store or use it to teach my students something new. 

How will you spend your summer? Every summer I take my kids to an old, abandoned mining district out in the Utah desert. It’s desolate, inhospitable, and beautiful. Nobody cares about it but geologists. We collect rocks – a few hundred pounds each year – and then bring them home and polish them to give to my students at the end of each semester. 

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Cisco, Utah; Population 4. Uninhabited desert in every direction. 

Favorite book(s): Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. 

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? “The West Wing.” It teaches, entertains, and inspires all at the same time. 

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? Rush. They prioritized craft over commerce – the consummate nerd band. 


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this … Open-ended projects that require both technical mastery and high-level critical thinking. 

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at … protecting consumers and investors from themselves.  

I’m grateful for … I am grateful for the experience of failure. Each failure is frustrating in the moment, but without exception, I end up looking back at those same failures as fundamental building blocks to the person I am now.


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