Poets&Quants Top 50 Undergraduate Professors Of 2021

Sanjay Laxman Ahire, co-founder of the Operations and Supply Chain Management program at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina

So, unofficially, 2021 is the year we celebrate 51 outstanding professors in undergraduate business education. And let’s be honest, it wasn’t an easy year for anyone. It was the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, with classes pivoting from online to in-person and back again. Hundreds of students nominated professors for their compassion, flexibility, and innovation in responding to virtual learning, as you will read in the profiles.

Today, we proudly present our fourth edition of P&Q’s 50 Best Undergraduate Business School Professors. This year, we received more nominations than ever with 1,195 students, alumni, colleagues, and school deans taking the time to put into words what these outstanding professors meant to them. Nominations came from more than 50 of the best undergraduate business programs, including schools in Hong Kong, Singapore and Canada. (To see past winners, check out our 2020 list here.)

Our team individually evaluated each nomination. Each professor was assigned a 1-to-10 score based on their research and teaching accolades. Research was given a 30% weight and teaching a 70% weight, with the average making up the final score. The highest achieved was 8.85. For research, we considered the volume of a professor’s Google Scholar citations, how much major media attention they received along with research and writing awards. For teaching, we considered all nominations, teaching awards, and internet reviews like Rate My Professors.


Olin Business School data science professor Liberty Vittert

This year’s list features 23 women, the same as last year, and hail from 39 different schools including 11 schools that had more than one professor on the list. Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, Indiana University Kelley School of Business, and the Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign all had three professors each.

Schools with two professors on the list include Binghamton University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, New York University’s Stern School of Business, Tulane University’s A.B. Freeman School of Business, University of Miami’s Herbert Business School, Lundquist College of Business at University of Oregon, the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California, and Western University’s Ivey Business School.


2021’s list of stellar professors come from a wide range of expertise, disciplines, and backgrounds. Olin Business School data science professor Liberty Vittert does research in facial shape analysis that has helped improve the lives of children with facial deformities. She also has her own cooking show, “Liberty’s Great American Cookbook,” on Scottish television.

Lizhi Liu of the McDonough School of Business researches the politics of trade, technology and innovation, as well as the political economy of China. What does she believe makes her stand out in the classroom? “Guiding but not indoctrinating,” she says.

“Students will forget most of the specific knowledge learned in college, but what stays is the way of thinking. Specifically, I encourage students to think about the counterfactual – alternative scenarios that could have happened given different conditions, and to engage in both sides of the debate. I believe that, in most situations, if someone cannot intelligently argue for both sides, they don’t understand the issue well enough to argue for either.”

Lizhi Liu of the McDonough School of Business

There’s also Sanjay Laxman Ahire, co-founder of the Operations and Supply Chain Management program at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina. Most of his more than 120 nominations came from working professionals at top companies who previously took his classes.

A finalist for the prestigious Harvey Wagner Prize, he’s currently researching ways that supply chain competencies can help advance the missions of socially-missioned non-profits such as hospitals, food banks, and homeless shelters. If he had his way, business schools of the future would “rebalance the ‘profit’ motive with ‘doing good.’ Also, doing a better job at teaching students how to ‘think’ – not just learn tools,” he says.

We hope you enjoy learning about the accomplished, innovative, and compassionate professors on this list as much as we did. They, along with past winners of our series, represent the best of what an undergraduate business degree can offer.

In the words of David Shrider, memorialized on the Miami University website after his death: ““I love working with (students). I enjoy spending time with them, and most of all, I enjoy watching them learn and watching them grow from when they came to Miami to what they are by the time they leave. Just watching that transformation is pretty amazing. I love to be a small part of that, any way that I can.”

Next page: Full list of 2021’s winners

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.