Poets & Quants has named Lalin Anik of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business as its “MBA Professor of the Year.”
A professor in Darden’s marketing area, Anik joined the school ahead of the 2015-16 academic year and quickly became an integral member of the community. She has been nominated multiple times for the University’s Outstanding Faculty Awards, received the Faculty Diversity Award in 2017 and 2019 and was selected as a faculty marshal for graduation by the Class of 2019.
A skilled facilitator of the case method in the classroom with what Darden Dean Scott Beardsley described as “off the charts” student evaluations, Anik told Poets & Quants she was exceptionally nervous before her first day in the Darden classroom. According to the award announcement and a video from Poets & Quants:
She knew every nuance of the case study that would be taught that day like the back of her hand. She had memorized the names, faces, and backgrounds of each student in the class. And she had gone to bed at 9 p.m. to ensure a solid night’s sleep before waking up at 6 a.m.
After all, the expectations for teaching at the Darden School are extraordinarily high. It is well known for having the best MBA teaching faculty in the world, even better than Harvard or Stanford. So Anik arrived 15 minutes before the start of the class to acclimate herself to the tiered classroom. “I was absolutely scared,” recalls Anik, who remembers visibly shaking. “It was nerve-wracking. I was anxious. I didn’t know if I would be able to teach them well. I didn’t know if I would like them or if they would like me. I had no idea.”
By the session’s end, however, something extraordinary occurred. “I remember incredible kindness and a welcoming embrace,” she says. “There was a lot of energy on their part and they were nervous as well. And I just relaxed and moved through the experience. It was magical.”
In addition to establishing herself as a sought-after professor, Anik, who was also named one of Poets & Quants Best 40 Under 40 Professors, continues to conduct groundbreaking research, exploring a diverse range of topics, from decision-making within the context of romantic relationships to how people derive feelings of fulfillment, and what that may mean for philanthropies.
For many students at Darden, Anik has become more than a professor, serving as an informal confidant, adviser and even teammate on basketball and soccer teams. Again from the award announcement:
What makes Anik unique is her relationships with students. “I think what makes Lalin so special is just her ability to connect with you, not just as a professor to pupil but as a person to person,” says Alexander Gregorio, who is earning both an MBA and law degree at the University of Virginia. “You’re not feeling like you’re talking to someone who’s a subject matter expert, and she is. You’re talking with someone who wants to learn from you as much as you want to learn from her.”
Her philosophy on teaching is inspiring. “I try to teach my students that marketing is about empathy,” she believes. “It’s about empathy with your customer and the same is true of teaching. It’s not only about you. It’s about the other people in the room. How can you contribute to their learning and their experience? How can you make their life better? So it is always shifting your focus from yourself to others.”
The publication also quotes from a number of student evaluations testifying to her impact in and out of the classroom.
“Lalin is one of the most amazing people on this planet,” one student wrote. “She makes it very clear that she cares about every one of us and that has had a huge positive impact on our section, both in her class and outside of it.”
“She does a spectacular job of challenging all students individually, meeting them where they are to ensure they’re comfortable but still pushing them out of their comfort zone,” another said. “She cares about all her students and wants to get to know us on a personal level.”