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David Besanko '82, the IBM Professor of Regulation and Competitive Practices at Kellogg, won the 2015 Apsen Faculty Pioneer Award for his coursework on income inequality.

David Besanko '82

David Besanko ’82 wins Aspen Faculty Pioneer Award

Aspen Institute honors professor for coursework that examines the role of business in society

By Glenn Jeffers

10/6/2015 - David Besanko, the IBM Professor of Regulation and Competitive Practices at Kellogg, has been awarded the Aspen Institute Business and Society Program’s 2015 Faculty Pioneer Award.

Besanko, a two-time L.G. Lavengood Professor of the Year who teaches in the strategy department, received the award for developing coursework that studies the relationships between capital markets, firms and the public good.

Besanko’s award continues a recent spate of faculty achievement at Kellogg:

  • Jan Eberly, the James R. and Helen D. Russell Professor of Finance and former chief economist for the U.S. Department of Treasury, was named co-editor of the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, a leading economic journal, in September. 
  • The Journal of Marketing Research awarded Hartmarx Professor of Marketing Eric T. Anderson the Paul E. Green Award for best paper for his work on deceptive product reviews. 

“David has always been a great example of a professor who is intellectually deep and who brings that depth very effectively and with great originality into the classroom,” said Robert McDonald, the Erwin P. Nemmers Professor of Finance and senior associate dean, faculty and research. “The award is great recognition for David and another example of the impressive accomplishments of Kellogg faculty across departments.”

Exploring income inequality

The focus for this year’s Faculty Pioneer Award seemed tailor-made for Besanko, centering on faculty who taught about inequality in MBA classrooms. With Senior Associate Dean: Curriculum and Teaching Therese McGuire, Besanko developed KPPI-470: “Public Economics for Business Leaders: Federal Policy.” The course explores the critical public policy issues, such as energy, transportation, public health, social insurance, and immigration, nearly all of which shape a country’s distribution of income and wealth. Besanko wrote most of the cases for the class.

Besanko’s class, which has been taught in both the full-time and part-time MBA programs, takes a two-pronged approach to income inequality and distribution of wealth. In the first half of the class, students focus on issues such as climate change, traffic congestion or over-fishing, that arise from some sort of market imperfection. While these problems create economic inefficiencies that reduce society’s overall prosperity, the burdens they create may be distributed very unequally among members of society.

Students then look at problems that are explicitly related to the distribution of prosperity in society, such as poverty and income inequality. During this part of the course, the class keys in on particular policies such as Social Security, anti-poverty programs and immigration, all studied both in and outside the United States.

The goal is to get students thinking about these issues as their careers progress and they have the opportunity “to influence outcomes that essentially impact inequality,” said Besanko. “I want them to be influencers who are true to their values, true to the facts and true to good robust economic theory.”