Poets&Quants Top 50 Undergraduate Professors Of 2020

Wiljeana Jackson Glover of Babson College


Others, like Babson College’s Wiljeana Jackson Glover, have come from families of professors. Glover’s mother, Dr. Betty Graper, is a mathematics professor at Glover’s undergraduate alma mater, Albany State University (GA). Many also had unique starts to their careers in academia. Krista Hill Cummings, also of Babson College, didn’t realize she wanted to become a business school professor until literally walking herself to the business school at her university.

“I was in graduate school for psychology and realized it played such an important role in business,” Cummings says. “At that point I literally — and I mean literally — walked myself over to the business school and asked to take some MBA courses to compliment my psychology courses. I met a few fantastic business professors who became mentors and the rest is history.”

Curtis Chan of Boston College says his path to becoming a business school professor began as an undergraduate student at Harvard when he joined a student-run breakdancing club. “Really!” Chan insists. “I started college as a pre-med, and I joined the dance crew for fun. But over time I came to deeply immerse myself in the street dance community in Boston, learning about not only the dance moves but also the cultural values, understandings, and practices of the community. Through this, I realized that I was more interested in social science than in natural science — especially in how people do what they do and make meaning out of what they do, in the social contexts they are in.”

Chan eventually earned a master’s in sociology, and then a Ph.D. in organizational behavior on the sociology track and now teaches Organizational Behavior at Boston College.

Mahka Moeen, an assistant professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School realized she might have a future as a teacher when her 4th-grade teacher asked her to do some math problems in front of her class instead of calling for a substitute teacher. “One day, she couldn’t come to class,” Moeen says of her 4th-grade teacher. “Instead of sending a substitute teacher, she had suggested that I solve that day’s math assignments on the board for the class.”

Daniel Ostergaard of the University of South Carolina Darla Moore School of Business is a 2020 Poets&Quants Best Undergraduate Business School Professor


Others have had winding paths to becoming business school professors. Daniel Ostergaard of the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business had a very indirect path to business school. Ostergaard spent two decades working in the public and private sectors and worked in 77 different countries before deciding to become a B-school professor. He started his career as a U.S. Coast Guard Officer and was a Commanding Officer for a cutter in Hawaii for more than two years where he conducted search and rescue and counter-narcotics operations.

Ostergaard moved to Washington D.C. where he earned his first master’s degree in National Security and Strategic Studies. He was finishing that degree, mainly studying terrorism, when Ostergaard says he literally heard the plane hit the Pentagon during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. After re-joining the Coast Guard, and completing a second master’s degree, Ostergaard was appointed as a senior advisor at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, leading the Homeland Security Advisory Council. Ostergaard would co-found a business development firm focusing on South Asia and the Pacific Rim and take a sabbatical, developing an organic cattle ranch in North Carolina before eventually starting a Ph.D. program at the Darla Moore School of Business at the age of 38.

Elizabeth Cosenza, an associate professor at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business, was working at a major New York City law firm when her path took a major shift. “I taught a night section of business law while still practicing law at a major NYC law firm,” Cosenza says. “I realized that I could have a greater impact on the future of American business by teaching and mentoring the next generation of business leaders.”

That was 16 years ago and now Cosenza is one of the most popular professors at Fordham’s Gabelli School.


Elizabeth Swanson of Babson College

Other professors were picked for this year’s list because of their impact on their respective business schools, business education, and society. Elizabeth Swanson of Babson College is a professor of literature and human rights. “In a tough job market, there were two jobs in the country in postcolonial literature my area of expertise; one was at Babson, a college of management and entrepreneurship,” Swanson says of her unlikely arrival at a business school in 2002.

“I have been researching historical literacy about race and racism in the U.S. for some time, tracking the gap between the dominant racial progress narrative that presents our history as one of forward motion from emancipation to civil rights to the supposed ‘post-racial’ age of the Obama era, on the one hand, and the ongoing experience of violence, oppression, and marginalization documented in African American literature, history, and culture, on the other,” Swanson explains. “My findings show a fundamental lack of knowledge about what African American poet Amiri Baraka once called ‘the changing same’ of U.S. history: the circular, traumatic repetition of systems of oppression and violence visited upon African American people in different forms over centuries. This research builds upon new scholarly work that has unearthed evidence of convict leasing, debt bondage, and mass incarceration—evolving systems of oppression and exploitation that replaced earlier systems of enslavement.”

Lehigh University’s Parveen Gupta is studying U.S. policy and U.S.-based company’s impacts on mineral extraction in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Currently, we are studying to understand whether certain social responsibility disclosures (i.e., use of conflict minerals from Africa) mandated by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Law mitigate or exacerbate the information asymmetry in the U.S. equity markets,” Gupta says. “The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) produces the most minerals used in products manufactured by the tech industry. These minerals are mined using women and children forced to work under dangerous and life-threatening conditions. Since the militia controls the mines, the revenue from the sale of these minerals actively funds the conflict and war in this region leading to a serious humanitarian crisis.”

L. Taylor Phillips of New York University’s Stern School of Business is studying privilege.

“I study privilege: white privilege, class privilege, and how these emerge from inequitable systems,” Phillips says. “One of the more significant discoveries is that Twitter is right: when white people hear about privilege, they usually respond claiming “personal hardships” (parents got divorced, poor eyesight) which doesn’t actually reduce the benefits they get from having white skin. So getting through this initial denial – helping people understand that you can have personal hardships and personal hard work and still benefit from skin color – is really key to getting privileged people to understand systemic inequity.”

Some professors on this year’s list have launched major centers and initiatives at their business schools. Rangapriya (Priya) Kannan-Narasimhan of the University of San Diego School of Business launched the school’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Catalyzer. Haya Ajjan of Elon University’s Love School of Business created the Center for Organizational Analytics, which she also still directs and played a major role in developing the curriculum for Love’s M.S. in Management concentration in Organizational Analytics.


Yet, it’s the passion and care for students that we really sought to measure and acknowledge. The University of Illinois Gies College of Business describes Mark Wolters as “the epitome of a student-first professor.” Their proof? Wolters taught his entire Principles of Marketing course straight-through for 15 hours from his home this past spring to raise money for the Gies Student Emergency Fund. The fund was created to support Gies students facing a personal financial crisis so they’re able to continue their education.

And then there’s Washington University’s McLaughlin.

“There are professors who are smarter than me, and there are professors who are better presenters than me,” McLaughlin says. “But no one cares about their students more than I do. When my students were bored, I brought in jugglers and magicians and had a burrito-eating contest. When students asked me to come to their baseball games or singing competitions, I was there. And when they needed internships, I connected them with jobs or hired them myself.  They know I love them and that I will be there for them when they need me.”


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