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CEOs Teach in M.B.A. Classrooms

These leaders are using their corporate experience to mold a new generation of top executives.


Most CEOs spend the latter years of their professional lives giving presentations in high-pressure board rooms for select groups of middle-aged power brokers, not in lecture halls filled with green but eager M.B.A. students. However, a few opt to trade in their corner office for office hours and venture into the world of higher education. CEOs who once sat at the helm of firms ranging from startup tech companies to corporate entertainment juggernauts now lend their expertise and impart wisdom gained through experience to a new generation of prospective business leaders. 

Esteemed business programs, such as Columbia Business School, ranked ninth in U.S. News's rankings of Best Business Schools, are home to instructors hailing from the executive suite. Amy Rosen, CEO of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, for instance, has been teaching an education leadership consulting lab as an adjunct faculty member at Columbia since 2008. Rosen isn't alone—there are nine executives in residence who are former CEOs and several other full-time and adjunct faculty who have been top executives. 

Columbia is only one of many schools that have asked CEOs to teach their students. Below are three more examples of CEOs who, inspired by what they learned through diverse—and, at times, trying—careers, have opted to teach at the M.B.A. level: 

[See more top executives in M.B.A. classrooms.] 

Michael Crooke, distinguished visiting professor of business practice at the Pepperdine University Graziadio School of Business and former CEO of Patagonia: While at the helm of the environmentally friendly apparel maker, Crooke's primary focus was to adhere to Patagonia's sustainability-centric values while still being mindful of the company's bottom line. He's taken that philosophy to Pepperdine, where he leads a certificate program that launched in 2010—dubbed Social, Environmental, and Ethical Responsibility—in which M.B.A. students learn how to create value within a brand by differentiating from competitors via a sustainable model. 

Crooke's decision to turn to academia was spurred by his own experiences with corporate leaders, including Patagonia's founder Yvon Chouinard and real estate executive Dan Emmett, both of whom took the time to teach him. "All these different mentors I had turned me on to teaching. I was able to [learn] fast, but you're only able to do that if you have great mentors," he says. "[Now] it's extremely rewarding to see these future CEOs going out and being so completely turned on to running a business with social and environmental responsibility." 

Crooke's students indicate they value his advice, given his level of experience atop the corporate food chain, much like Crooke himself valued lessons imparted by his mentors. "Dr. Crooke is an amazing, dedicated professor with tons of real world experience and invaluable insight and advice," says Tracy Liu, who will receive her M.B.A. from Pepperdine this year. 

Neil Braun, dean of Pace University's Lubin School of Business and former CEO of Viacom Entertainment: Having worked as the top executive at numerous firms—including entertainment giant Viacom—during his 33-year career, and no longer satisfied with the rewards of his day job, Braun yearned to impart the knowledge he'd gleaned to a younger generation. After searching for vacant administrative positions at business schools in the New York metropolitan area, he landed at Pace in 2010, where, in addition to serving as dean, he routinely meets with student leaders and gave guest lectures in eight classes during the past year on topics ranging from leadership to competitive strategy. 

[See where the Fortune 500 CEOs went to college.] 

Beyond the detailed advice he offers in those lectures, he advises all business students to learn to write well, to hone one very difficult analytical skill, and to familiarize themselves with areas of business outside of their specialty. Data analysts, for instance, should be able to freely converse with marketers about their duties, and vice versa, he says.