Columbia Business School Dean Costis Maglaras has a bold vision for the future of business education—one that’s matched by the grandeur of the Business School’s new home in Manhattanville.
In January 2022, more than 3,000 students, faculty, and staff moved into two state-of-the-art buildings—Henry R. Kravis Hall and David Geffen Hall—located on Columbia University’s new Manhattanville campus, less than a mile north of the School’s former home on Morningside Campus.
The move to Manhattanville marks a transformative moment for the School. The uniquely designed buildings offer increased opportunities for collaboration and innovation, and they are a symbol of Maglaras’ commitment to addressing the rapidly changing needs of businesses in the digital age.
Technology, software, data, and algorithms have changed our lives and the world of business, from retail to finance, from consumer goods to transportation, and from healthcare to media. “We are embracing and leading in the digital future,” Maglaras says.
His priorities include leveraging technology to redefine the future of finance and tackle the global climate crisis. Within this environment, entrepreneurship and innovation are critical to creating the products, services, and businesses that will drive new initiatives forward. Finally, according to Maglaras, the interplay between business and society has a tremendous impact on our lives, shaping how business leaders behave and how business education is taught.
“We need to move ambitiously in these directions, in a way that best prepares our students, alumni, and the world for the present and future of business, and in a way that our thought leadership impacts and shapes that very future,” he says.
Maglaras, the David and Lyn Silfen Professor of Business, believes the future of business—and the world—hinges on the interdisciplinary advancement of five pillars: the digital future; entrepreneurship and innovation; 21st-century finance; the intersection of business and society; and climate and sustainability. The School’s focus on these domains, from research and curriculum to new programs and initiatives, has created a unique habitat where academic and business leaders are addressing today’s biggest problems—and preparing students to face tomorrow’s challenges.
Embracing the Digital Future
Over the past 60 years, technologies ranging from semiconductors and computing to digital communications, software, and more recently, the abundance of data and artificial intelligence have changed every facet of our lives. All companies, from healthcare to communications, are in some ways technology companies. “This has fundamentally changed the world of business and business education,” Maglaras says.
To prepare students for these changes, the dean has calibrated the Business School’s curriculum around technology, underscoring its current value to business and its potential for new applications. And he has launched alumni programming around issues in tech to ensure Business School graduates stay at the forefront of advances.
Maglaras also has amplified the role of technology in research, not only as a vehicle for analytics, but also as a disrupter in the workplace. For example, Amit Khandelwal, the Jerome A. Chazen Professor of Global Business and chair of the Economics Division, uses technology to analyze big data sets to answer critical business and public policy questions. At the same time, assistant professor Bo Cowgill uses technology to understand how artificial intelligence in the workplace impacts employees. Both researchers prioritize impact and application. Khandelwal is known for projects that answer immediate needs, such as his recent work on the resiliency of global supply chains during the pandemic. Khandelwal and his team have developed metrics for measuring supply-chain vulnerability that he hopes will yield insights for both the academic and business communities. “That would be a major win in my book,” he says.
Cowgill’s work blends academic research and business practice to inform workplace policy. He started his research career at Google, where he was the first to demonstrate the efficacy of internal prediction markets. But Cowgill realized he wanted to do more. He left Google and completed his PhD in business and public policy. In 2020, he was named one of the “Best 40-Under-40 Business School Professors” by Poets&Quants.
“I have papers around employee privacy policies, artificial intelligence and hiring decisions, and when AI algorithms outperform humans,” Cowgill says. “To me, these are interesting projects, and they try to answer important issues, to fill a void.”
Cowgill and Miklos Sarvary, the Carson Family Professor of Business, are both in the Business School’s Media and Technology Program, which connects students with researchers, businesses, and media and technology executives in a course of study based on an evolving curriculum and research agenda. One of Sarvary’s recent projects shows that the average consumer’s welfare de- clines under ad blocking because its benefit (reduced advertising intensity) is outweighed by its shortcoming (publishers reduce their investment in content quality). His work and initiatives, like the Media and Technology Program, exemplify the ways the Business School connects research to real-world practice.
Addressing Climate Change and Sustainability
In the same way technology has changed how we live today, the next 50 years, in Maglaras’ view, will be marked by the challenges posed by climate change. “Our collective action in that area will impact the energy market, transportation, manufacturing, our supply chains, what we eat, the water we drink, our habits, the way we fly, or whether we don’t fly,” he says. “Every aspect of our lives will have to be reimagined.”
Three crucial components must coalesce to address climate change, in Maglaras’ view: climate science, to understand what’s happening and how fast, and engineering and technology, to create solutions. “The third crucial piece is business,” he says.
“Business research, in particular, will be pivotal to taking the progress we make in understanding climate change and using that to develop solutions that can be implemented at a global scale,” Maglaras says. “How do we finance them? What business models are we going to use? How do we price climate risk? How does asset pricing get affected by this future? Everything we do here at Columbia Business School and at the University will adapt and change as we grapple with these challenges.”
Already, researchers at Columbia Business School have begun examining climate impact from a business perspective. For ex- ample, Geoffrey Heal, the Donald C. Waite III Professor of Social Enterprise, has studied the economics of transitioning from fossil fuels to resources such as nuclear energy and electric vehicles since the 1980s. Heal says that when he began this work, the transition seemed impossible, but “fortunately today it’s a realistic option,” he says. “The cost of renewable energy has fallen so far—and is still falling. Now it’s realistic to think of a world powered by green energy.”
“Going forward, the areas we are prioritizing—the questions we’re asking, and the problems we’re solving—will have impact well into the future.”
COSTIS MAGLARAS, Dean of Columbia Business School
Other Business School faculty are studying ways to incentivize and finance a world powered by green energy. Shivaram Rajgopal, the Kester and Byrnes Professor of Accounting and Auditing, has been examining the efficacy of using corporate carbon tax levies as incentives for lowering emissions and the credibility of net-zero pledges that companies and asset managers have made. His work lies at the intersection of carbon measurement, reporting, and dis- closures of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) efforts and social impact and the funding strategies that firms use to finance climate and ESG investments. This complex domain encompasses subjects ranging from carbon and asset pricing to incentives and climate risk management. Today companies are compelled to de- crease their footprint, to outline climate transition strategies, and to find solutions to their greenhouse gas emissions problems.
According to Bruce Usher, the corporate sector is suited for the task. “Business leaders often have the best potential to tackle climate issues because they tend to be solutions-focused,” says Usher, co-director of the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise, the Elizabeth B. Strickler ’86 and Mark T. Gallogly ’86 Faculty Director, faculty member of the Earth Institute, and professor of professional practice.
Solutions-driven himself, Usher epitomizes the concentrated, multidimensional effort required for combating climate change. The Tamer Center sponsored a Climate Business & Investment Conference in April, where academics and practitioners discussed the latest net-zero business strategies and the implications for climate change. Usher’s new book, Investing in the Era of Climate Change, set for release by Columbia Business School Publishing in October, argues that a climate catastrophe can be avoided with rapid and sustained investment in companies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and that these companies will create great wealth.
Maglaras says analytics are also critical. “Companies and house- holds will have to become adept at climate analytics for two reasons. One, to manage the financial impacts of climate. But more so, to adapt efficiently to reduced greenhouse gas emissions,” he says. “Our future depends on recognizing that business research and education must address climate change. The Business School is a big part of the effort to meet these challenges.”
Understanding 21st-Century Finance
Columbia Business School’s cutting-edge work on technology and climate builds on a history of research innovations, pedagogical advances, and thought leadership dating back to the debut of value investing in the 1920s.
Still one of the most influential concepts in the world of finance, value investing was developed at the Business School by adjunct finance professor Benjamin Graham and finance professor David Dodd, MS 1921. Graham and Dodd’s seminal work, Security Analysis (1934), is in its sixth printing and has been famously embraced by investing icon Warren Buffett, MS ’51.
“Finance is part of our DNA,” says Maglaras, who has been working with Ciamac Moallemi, the William von Mueffling Professor of Business, on high-speed trading programs. Their paper “Risk-Sensitive Optimal Execution via a Conditional Value-at-Risk Objective” examines liquidation strategies for risk-averse traders. The researchers were able to quantify the benefit of adaptive policies over optimized static policies, demonstrating the value of programs that accelerate trade when price movements are favorable and slow trading when price movements are unfavorable.
While Maglaras and Moallemi are at the forefront of high-speed trading innovation, Neng Wang, the Chong Khoon Lin Professor of Real Estate and Finance, leads on thinking around digital currency. Like countries with individual currencies, digital platforms have their own means of payment that support specific economic transactions on their sites, known as tokens. In his recent paper “Tokenomics: Dynamic Adoption and Valuation,” Wang and his colleagues have developed a model for optimal token-management strategy, which also applies to tokens used on centralized platforms, such as those being developed by platform businesses.
In this way, Wang is defining best practice in the crypto space while helping lay the foundation of the financial future.
Another breaking field in finance, fintech captures the convergence of finance and digital technology. In the Advanced Projects and Applied Research in Fintech (APAR) initiative, researchers unite in multidisciplinary, international teams to collaborate at the intersection of business and engineering. The mission of APAR is to foster research in financial services empowered by deep tech and data analytics, and to develop and help implement novel technological solutions to challenges in the industry.
Michaela Pagel, the Roderick H. Cushman Associate Professor of Business, and researchers from the US and Denmark collabo- rated with APAR’s executive director, adjunct associate professor of business R.A. Farrokhnia, in 2020 to understand household spending in the pandemic. One of their studies, “Income, Liquidity, and the Consumption Response to the 2020 Economic Stimulus Payments,” used a fintech nonprofit’s high-frequency transaction data to understand individual financial behavior at a granular level. The massive data set led to results, first published in May 2020 and revised in September that year, showing real-time economic insights into the effectiveness of stimulus payments.
The researchers found that households with lower incomes, greater income drops, and lower levels of liquidity spent quickly, whereas households with large checking account balances showed no significant spending response after the payments. Without targeting, the differences among households dilute the impact of direct payments on stimulating overall consumption. Rather, targeted stimuli to individuals and credit provision to businesses would generate spending capacity where needed without the misdirection of funds to those without an immediate need for revenue, the researchers found.
Maglaras says research such as this in the Business School primes the pump of innovation, both in research and in practice. “We try to understand phenomena and then explain how they manifest themselves in our financial markets, or in an economy, or in our behavior as managers and leaders. Then we build frameworks to improve how businesses function and behave.”
Advancing Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Understanding the frameworks for innovation and its capacity to drive the future of business is another priority for the School. Researchers are leading efforts to understand the entrepreneurial landscape, prepare entrepreneurs, and incubate the most promising new businesses.
For example, assistant professor of business Jorge Guzman is an expert in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. His research focuses on entrepreneurship policy, regional entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurial strategy. Recently he’s been working on “The Startup Cartography Project: Measuring and Mapping Entrepreneurial Ecosystems,” which uses analytics to outline a new approach for estimating entrepreneurial quality based on location. By linking the probability of growth to the location of a startup at its beginning, Guzman can predict entrepreneurial quality before knowing a startup’s ultimate growth outcomes, which he calls “placecasting.” These insights are key to creating new hubs of innovation.
Matt Stephenson, a doctoral candidate in the Management Division studying behavioral economics, is also creating new hubs of innovation. An early investor in bitcoin, he creates non-fungible tokens (NFTs)—unique commodities that exist only as cryptographic (or secured) assets on a blockchain—as a resource for incentivizing innovation. He calls it “alt-IP,” or a new way to share intellectual property in an age when protecting ideas from theft has quashed incentives to share.
“There’s an understandable fear that intellectual property will be stolen if it’s shared,” he says. “But what’s the point of innovation if it’s not shared? An idea not shared is usually worth nothing.”
In an effort to improve incentives around open innovation, exploration, and the scientific production of knowledge, Stephenson launched Planck, a company that sells non-fungible incentives for innovation. “Incentives for innovation and knowledge sharing are abysmal,” he says. “I’m trying to find ways to get people to share intellectual property when rates of theft are astronomically high. NFTs can be a connection to the future.”
Disruptive innovation also comes out of the School’s Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center. An incubator for startups and new ventures, the Lang Center offers students a curriculum steeped in launching a company, investing in ventures, and working with startups and innovators. For alumni, the center offers programming that includes CAVA, the Columbia Alumni Virtual Accelerator. Over the years, startups associated with the School have raised $23 billion in institutional funding, and alumni startups have raised $217 billion in venture capital or private equity funds. So far, 706 venture-backed companies have been launched by founders from the School, including at least 20 unicorns—companies valued at $1 billion or more.
Maglaras sees this momentum as a starting point, with the School playing an even broader leadership role in entrepreneurship across Columbia University. “We can be the hub for entrepreneurial activity across Columbia,” he says. “The human capital in the Business School is incredible, and it hinges on the smart, entrepreneurial, and impact-driven students and alumni of our School.”
Defining the Intersection of Business and Society
Ask Valerie Purdie-Greenaway what it takes to build a successful business model and she says, “Psychology.” The affiliated faculty associate professor of psychology directs the Laboratory of Intergroup Relations and the Social Mind (LIRSM) at Columbia, which focuses on research that has the potential to lead to mutual understanding between groups. One of the courses she teaches at Columbia is Managerial Negotiations.
“At the end of the day, you have to understand and motivate people,” Purdie-Greenaway says. “Psychology informs everything from creating global teams to designing field experiments. Some call psychology a soft science. I call it the science.”
Purdie-Greenaway works empirically, using randomized, con- trolled experiments in partnership with companies, which is one reason she joined the Business School. “Companies have real problems they want to solve. They need to understand what the science says. Many companies are good at it, but many are not. My colleagues here have built bridges between organizations and science to solve real problems. I am thrilled to be part of that work,” Purdie-Greenaway says. “When I think about the future of leadership, the research that’s on the forefront is asking questions that bridge these kinds of gaps.”
One of her newest projects, which addresses a common request she receives from companies, is to understand how to demonstrate diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) credibility in the office space. “One of my goals,” says Purdie-Greenaway, “is to bring the kind of scrutiny we have around climate science to DEI. We have models for climate science, but we don’t have models for how companies think about diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
Toward that end, this autumn Purdie-Greenaway will teach the first course in DEI and organizations at the Business School. “DEI has been taught at the School, but in many different classes under many different names,” she says. “Now, all of it will be under one umbrella. We are telling the MBAs that they need to pay attention to this topic because this is leadership now and going forward.”
A 1993 graduate of Columbia College, Purdie-Greenaway returned to the University to join the Department of Psychology in 2009. “I have seen many parts of Columbia, but I am the most excited about the Business School,” she says. “There’s global diversity, ethnic diversity, sexual-identity diversity. How awesome is it that as our demographics change, our program is stronger than ever? We’re training future business leaders, and the face of that leadership is changing. Dean Maglaras understands this. Just as much as the Business School is amplifying technology and climate, psychology in the context of business is right up there.”
John Paul Farmer ’04 is an innovation advocate who has seen the psychological and social aspects of business up close. After playing shortstop in minor league baseball, earning an MBA in finance and economics at the Business School, and launching the sports and entertainment group at Lehman Brothers, Farmer was tapped to join the Obama administration and got hooked on the power of technology to bring good to the world.
While working for the federal government, Farmer says, “I really quickly realized that technology and innovation were necessary.” He began building collaborative teams of federal workers and outside tech experts. His work creating the Presidential Innovation Fellows and laying the groundwork for the US Digital Service delivered sustained impact as the programs continue to enlist subject-area specialists for short-term “tours of service” in support of government priorities. Farmer also helped launch the Blue Button initiative for veterans, seniors, and millions more nationwide, giving them access to lifesaving health information and transforming healthcare data ownership. He has gone on to run technology and civic engagement at Microsoft and to serve as chief technology officer for New York City under Mayor Bill de Blasio.
But, he says, powerful technology is dependent on the people developing and using it. “My career has made me feel more and more confident that, wherever you are, it’s about people. An organization is us. The technological progress we make is us, and ultimately the future is decided by us.”
Creating the Hub of the Future
On the 11th floor of Henry R. Kravis Hall, a new think tank called the Hub will bring thought leaders together with business leaders and policymakers to delve into the challenges facing today’s society. Each year, a new theme will be addressed, starting with “Business and Society.”
The specific initiatives within each theme will be led by subject- matter experts. The first iteration will include projects from Glenn Hubbard, dean emeritus and the Russell L. Carson Professor of Finance and Economics, on the future of capitalism; Adam Galinsky, the Paul Calello Professor of Leadership and Ethics, focusing on inequality; and Bruce Kogut, the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Professor of Leadership and Ethics, studying the intersection of business, AI, and democracy. Sheena Iyengar, the S.T. Lee Professor of Business, will introduce to the Hub her Think Bigger program, which unites scholars and practitioners to solve major problems in New York City and the wider world.
Like the Manhattanville buildings themselves, the Hub represents the Business School’s capacity to coalesce research, curriculum, alumni, and the business community into an ecosystem of business education, progress, and impact. Functioning together, these components exponentially advance each other.
According to Maglaras, the Hub is critical to creating the incubator for change-makers he envisions. Only through partnerships that break disciplinary, institutional, and political boundaries can teams of students, academic researchers, business leaders, and policymakers collectively address the ever-evolving complexities of the modern business world.
“Going forward, the areas we are prioritizing—the questions we’re asking, and the problems we’re solving—will have impact well into the future,” Maglaras says. “It’s truly an amazing new beginning for the School that will take us into the next 100 years and beyond.”
Shaping the Future
Through their research, Columbia Business School faculty play a leading role in shaping digital advertising, public health, government policies, financial markets, and more.
Here is a sample of recent work and the impact it is having on the future of business.
The Digital Future
Improving Online Advertising through Better Algorithms and Auction Design:Ad-tech companies such as Google and Meta are adopting new online advertising methods based on data-driven algorithms and auction design research by Santiago R. Balseiro, the Daniel W. Stanton Associate Professor of Business.
Saving Lives During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Carri Chan, professor of business and faculty director of the Healthcare and Pharmaceutical Management Program, uses data analytics and mathematical models to help hospitals better manage healthcare delivery in resource-constrained environments.
Reveling How Remote Work Impacts Innovation: Assistant professor of business Melanie Brucks shows that in-person meetings produce more ideas—and more innovative ones—than meetings held on video-conferencing platforms.
Climate and Sustainability
Pricing Climate Change: Kent Daniel, the Jean-Marie Eveillard/First Eagle Investment Management Professor of Business, considers climate change a standard asset pricing problem. He shows that the less certain we are about the climate risks facing us in future states of the world, the higher the optimal price for carbon will be.
Hedging Climate Risk: Research by Patrick Bolton, the Barbara and David Zalaznick Professor of Business, shows that investment in portfolios that remove the composite stocks of companies with the highest greenhouse gas emissions or greatest fossil fuel reserves (decarbonized indexes) has matched or even outperformed some benchmark holdings.
Risk Perception and Behavior: Rachel McDonald, adjunct assistant professor of business, finds that climate risk perception and willingness to engage in mitigation behaviors are not always related. Her research shows that socio-cultural influences (free-market ideology, prescriptive norms, and biospheric values) play a relatively larger role than risk perception in willingness to act.
Creating a Stock Market for the Long Haul: For entrepreneurs, retaining control of their companies while accessing public financial markets is a delicate balance. Research on shareholder tenure voting by Wei Jiang, the Arthur F. Burns Professor of Free and Competitive Enterprise, shows one way that balance might be struck, informing the creation of a new long-term stock exchange.
Exposing the Limits of Shadow Banking: Work by Tomasz Piskorski, the Edward S. Gordon Professor of Real Estate, on fintech and shadow-bank lending in the mortgage market has generated interest from regulators and industry leaders.
Model-Free Mispricing Factors: Paul Tetlock, the A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Economics, uncovers new evidence that suggests mispricing in global stock markets is large and driven by investor overreaction to macroeconomic news.
Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Revealing the Impact of VC Collaboration: Associate professor of business Dan Wang’s research shows the history of collaborations among venture capital firms affects the success of the startups that they fund.
Reducing Gender Discrepancies Among Entrepreneurs: Mabel Abraham, the Barbara and Meyer Feldberg Associate Professor of Business, shows that simply having access to the same networks as men is not sufficient for women entrepreneurs to extract the same benefits as men from those contacts.
Uncovering How Financial Distress Spurs Entrepreneurship: Assistant professor of business Tania Babina’s research shows that when companies undergo financial stress, employee departures to found startups accelerate. These departing entrepreneurs are typically high-wage workers who start better companies, as measured by jobs, pay, and survival.
The Intersection of Business and Society
Addressing Disruptions that Accompany Change: Dean Emeritus Glenn Hubbard, the Russell L. Carson Professor of Finance and Economics, shows how supporting people to adjust in turbulent times helps sustain a dynamic and flourish.
Revealing Misperceptions of Racial Disparities in Economic Mobility: Assistant professor of business Shai Davidai’s research finds that Americans consistently overestimate the likelihood of poor Black Americans moving up the economic ladder.
Nudges Can Reduce Socioeconomic Disparities: In his research, Eric Johnson, the Norman Eig Professor of Business, reveals that consumers with low socioeconomic status benefit more from choice-architecture tools, or nudges, that facilitate the selection of a good option than consumers with high socioeconomic status.