8 leaders to know at Stanford Graduate School of Business if you want to get into and succeed at the best-ranked MBA program in the world

  • There's no better way to learn about an MBA program than learning about its faculty, especially for a highly competitive school like the Stanford Graduate School of Business. 
  • The GSB shared with Business Insider an exclusive list of eight professors who've paved the way in diversity, entrepreneurial finance, and more with extensive research and case studies. 
  • You can leverage this knowledge to strategically approach your application, reach out to important contacts, and boost your chances of admission into the top-ranked program. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

If you're trying to get into the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB), the best-ranked MBA program in the world, a great place to start is by understanding which professors and faculty are the movers and shakers in the highly competitive business school.

The GSB shared an exclusive list with Business Insider of the eight top leaders and influencers to give you an inside track on who you should be following to keep your finger on the pulse of what matters at the school — knowledge that can potentially boost your chances of admission by informing who you reach out to and how you approach your application. 

According to the GSB, these faculty members were selected because they're favorites among students and have a track record of producing exciting and significant research and case studies.

Sarah Soule, professor of organizational behavior and senior associate dean for academic affairs

Sarah A. Soule.Sarah A. Soule

Sarah Soule has been at Stanford since 2008, when she joined as a professor. In 2016, she was named senior associate dean for academic affairs. Before the GSB, she was a professor at Cornell University. 

Soule leads the school's efforts to increase diversity in their community and foster an inclusive culture. Taking insights from her background in organizational theory, social movements, and design theory, Soule spearheaded the GSB's first annual report on diversity, equity, and inclusion. In the wake of the recent racial justice movements in the US, Sarah worked with the Black Alumni Association and the Black Business Student Association, alongside faculty and staff at the GSB, to develop the Stanford GSB Action Plan for Racial Equity. 

Soule's classes include "Diverse by Design," which she described as "bringing design thinking process to solve organizational issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion," "Organizational Design for Creativity and Innovation," "Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Academia: Strategies for Blocking Bias," and "Social Movements and Organizational Theory."

"Here at the GSB, we use a variety of different pedagogical approaches — case study discussions, simulations, traditional lectures, and small group activities," Soule said. "Our new Action Learning Program adds to Stanford GSB's already extensive list of experiential learning offerings, giving students the opportunity to gain on-the-ground experience at organizations with the guidance of faculty." 

You can follow Soule on LinkedIn, read her book "Contention and Corporate Social Responsibility," or review some of her recent work in publications including the American Journal of Sociology and the Strategic Management Journal.

Robert Siegel, lecturer in management

Robert E. Siegel.Robert E. Siegel

As an investor and lecturer in management who has taught at Stanford GSB for over a decade, Robert Siegel teaches product management and product development best practices and methods, as well as entrepreneurial finance over the life cycle of growing companies. His courses include "The Industrialist's Dilemma," "Systems Leadership," and "Entrepreneurial Finance."

Siegel's a general partner at the early-stage investment firm XSeed Capital, as well as a venture partner at the San Francisco-based VC firm Piva. Over the years, Siegel has led primary research and written cases on a slew of companies, including Google, Box, PayPal, SurveyMonkey, Medium, and Autodesk.

You can check out articles he's coauthored for Harvard Business Review, contributed to Fortune, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and Forbes, or written as a Wall Street Journal Startup Guru. You can additionally find Siegel via Twitter @robsiegel, his blog, LinkedIn, and Medium here and here.

Anat Admati, professor of finance and economics

Anat Admati.Stanford Graduate School of Business

Anat Admati has been at Stanford since 1983. 

"It was my first job after getting my PhD, though my interests and mix of activities have evolved over time, especially since 2010," she said.

Named by Time Magazine as one of the "100 most influential people in the world" in 2014 and by Foreign Policy Magazine as one of the "100 leading global thinkers" the same year, the finance professor shared that her favorite students "are engaged, curious, and thoughtful — they understand the nuance and also see the big picture."

As the George G.C. Parker professor of finance and economics at the GSB, a director of the GSB Corporations and Society Initiative, and a senior fellow at Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, Admati is an economist with a broad multidisciplinary interest in business, law, and policy.

Admati launched the Corporations and Society Initiative (CASI) in the summer of 2018 with the hopes of making Stanford GSB a better global citizen, and since 2010 has been active in the policy debate on financial regulations. 

"CASI came out of an effort to break academic silos for the faculty, but it is energized by MBA student leaders, who started this separate blog last spring," she said.

She coauthored the book "The Bankers' New Clothes: What's Wrong with Banking and What to Do About It" and has written extensively on information dissemination in financial markets, portfolio management, financial contracting, corporate governance, and banking. You can follow her on Twitter @anatadmati.

Neil Malhotra, professor of political economy

Neil Malhotra.Neil Malhotra

Neil Malhotra joined Stanford in 2011 and is the Edith M. Cornell professor of political economy in the Stanford GSB, where he serves as the Louise and Claude N. Rosenberg, Jr. director of the Center for Social Innovation. Some of the courses he teaches include "Leading in Turbulent Times," "Ethics in Management," and the Stanford Seed and LEAD programs. 

Malhotra's research expertise includes American politics, public opinion, and the role of business in society. He's published over 75 articles in leading peer-reviewed journals, and is currently working on two forthcoming books: "Leading with Values" and "Frontiers in Social Innovation." 

"Successful students, and effective managers generally, are able approach business problems simultaneously from analytical and humanistic perspectives," Malhotra said. "In essence, successful students embrace both the art and science of management. They devise solutions based on scientific principles, but then can execute them using interpersonal and leadership skills."

You can find him online at Twitter @namalhotra.  

Jennifer Aaker, professor of marketing

Jennifer Aaker.Jennifer Aaker

Jennifer Aaker is the General Atlantic professor and the Coulter family faculty fellow at Stanford GSB. She's been teaching and doing research at Stanford since 1999, and also earned her PhD in marketing at Stanford in 1995. Before joining Stanford's faculty, Aaker was an assistant professor at UCLA's Graduate School of Management and a visiting assistant professor at Columbia Business School.

"As a life-long learner, I often teach subjects I know very little or nothing about because it creates the opportunity to build shared learning, which I think is a critical trait in being successful at Stanford, in business, and in life," Aaker said. "The students who are curious and have a sense of purpose teach me significantly more than what I've taught them."  

A behavioral scientist and author, Aaker is a leading expert on how meaning and purpose shape the choices people make, how money and time can be used in ways that cultivate long-lasting happiness, and how technologies including artificial intelligence (AI) and mixed reality (XR) are redefining human interaction. 

She said in her courses "Designing AI to Cultivate Human Well-Being" and "Humor: Serious Business" that she strives to teach students about the importance of purpose and empathy as much as innovation. 

"For example, in the AI class, students delve into the science of leading a truly meaningful life and the drivers what we usually get it wrong and right along the way," she said. "We then focus on human-centric strategies that lead to optimal, sustainable growth strategies by harnessing technology. We do this while helping students understand the initial conditions that bring about human flourishing and the characteristics of meaningful AI technologies."

Aaker is widely published in leading scientific journals and featured in The Economist, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and Science. She's also the coauthor of several books, including "The Dragonfly Effect," "Power of Story," and "Humor, Seriously." Among her accolades, she was named "MBA Professor of the Year" by Poets & Quants in 2018. 

The marketing professor also serves as a board member and advisor helping leadership teams with digital transformation, global brand building, and embracing new leadership types. Personally, she told Business Insider that she counts winning a dance-off in the early 1980s among her most impressive feats, and she's an early adopter of the family sabbatical.

You can find her online on LinkedIn and Twitter @aaker.

Mohammad Akbarpour, assistant professor of economics

Mohammad Akbarpour.Mohammad Akbarpour

Mohammad Akbarpour is an assistant professor of economics at the Stanford GSB, as well as a researcher with a focus on market design and resource allocation in complex environments. He joined Stanford GSB in 2016, and prior to Stanford was a research fellow at the University of Chicago economics department.

Noteworthy courses he teaches include "Marketplace for Goods and Services" and "Simplicity and Complexity in Economic Theory," which is for PhDs. 

Akbarpour was named a 2020 Sloan research fellow for his explorations in the field of economics. His research bridges computer science and economic theory, and some of his recent projects include constructing and employing mobile-based network data for optimal lockdown policies during the COVID-19 pandemic and designing and improving real-world marketplaces in the tech and medical industries.

"It is easy to confuse success with excellence, especially in Silicon Valley," Akbarpour said. "I have the most admiration for students who come to class in search of excellence. They are imaginative and see that in a decade or so, what remains for them from their Stanford education is not their grades, but whether this education helped them to become better versions of themselves." 

He's on Twitter @akbarpour_.

Adina Sterling, associate professor of organizational behavior

Adina Sterling.Stanford Graduate School of Business

Adina Sterling is an economic sociologist who specializes in studying the way firms and labor and product markets interact. 

Sterling has spent five years at Stanford and teaches "Equity by Design: How to Build Diverse and Inclusive Organizations," a master's of science in management course on "Organization Design," and in Stanford's PhD program. Previously, she spent four years as an assistant professor at Washington University's Olin Business School. Prior to earning her PhD, she worked as a chemical engineer at Procter & Gamble.

Her work has investigated how networks evolve in organizations, how hiring practices affect selection and wage decisions, and how networks and prior employment affect the success of entrepreneurs. 

Sterling currently has projects investigating how traditional methods of hiring compare to trial employment, or when firms get the opportunity to observe individuals firsthand in organizations, such as internships, prior to making hiring decisions. Her work has appeared in journals such as Administrative Science Quarterly, Management Science, Organization Science, and Industrial Labor Relations Review.

"In my MBA and PhD courses alike, the best students are often the most intellectually curious," Sterling said. "They are open and willing to listen to a diversity of ideas from faculty and their peers, and they have a willingness to 'think forward' and imagine the idea in practice. In other words, they have developed the muscle of abstract-to-practical thinking."

Sterling is online at LinkedIn, and you can read some of her research and point-of-view pieces on HBR.org.

Bill Meehan, lecturer in strategic management

Bill Meehan.Stanford Graduate School of Business

Bill Meehan began teaching a pioneering course, "Strategic Leadership of Nonprofit Organizations and Social Ventures," over 20 years ago. Meehan's teaching applies fundamentals of mission, strategy, and impact measurement to areas including poverty alleviation, impact investing, education, philanthropy, social entrepreneurship, and performing arts.

He also created "Frontier Markets Private Equity," a pioneering finance course focused on how institutional investors could contribute to alleviating poverty and improving governance in Africa, South East Asia, and Latin America. 

In 2018, Meeham took over a course called "Managing Difficult Conversations." Co-taught with his long-time friend, Dr. Charles Prober of Stanford Medical School, the course offers MBA, MD, law, and doctoral students the opportunity to role play real-life difficult leadership conversations, including palliative care, firing, gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and addressing medical errors.

Meeham is also a senior partner emeritus at McKinsey & Company, where over a 30-year career he focused on advising new CEOs in technology and private equity in creating their leadership agendas. He's played board and advisory startup roles at Ashoka, GuideStar, and GiveDirectly, advised senior leaders at Stanford University for 30 years, is a life governor of the San Francisco Symphony, and remains an active mentor to students, business, and nonprofit leaders.

He said that the school is looking for future leaders with a "change-maker mindset."

"We look for people with true distinctiveness — the kind who when you meet them, you say to yourself, 'Wow, what a different path they are taking,' or, 'I have met so many people with similar resumes, but what a compelling person. I can't wait to see what they will accomplish as a leader.'"

Meeham is a Forbes biweekly contributor, and his 2018 book, "Engine of Impact: Essentials of Strategic Leadership in the Nonprofit Sector," is a bestseller in its field. You can find him on Twitter @wfmeehan.

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