Executive Ph.D. Profile: Stuart Urban
Stuart Urban’s path leading from a career in industry to one in academia started in 2012 when he began teaching a part-time course, Quantitative Financial Analysis, at Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School. At the time, Urban was a software engineer, research and development principal investigator, and data scientist at Lockheed Martin, working on projects with a broad range of customers that included the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); United States and United Kingdom census programs; U.S. Department of Defense (DOD); Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); and the U.S. Mint.
Five years later, Urban was a full-time lecturer at Carey. But with prior work experience that essentially included no finance other than teaching it, and six heavily quantitative college degrees, he was pretty much limited to quantitative/applied aspects of finance.
“My first seminar course in the Executive Ph.D. program quickly introduced me to the seminal works of academic research in finance and after my first month in the program, I was already a better instructor because I could bring a lot more depth to what I was teaching my students,” said Urban, who joined the Fall 2019 cohort in the finance concentration.
“And it has only gotten better as I am leagues beyond where I was in knowledge about the many different areas of finance,” said Urban. He currently teaches courses in Statistical Analysis, Computational Finance, Empirical Finance, Non-Linear Econometrics, and Quantitative Basics.
Although his teaching position at Carey does not require research, it was the program’s focus on training working professionals to engage in rigorous, high-quality academic research that drew Urban to it. Envisioning his future in an academic world and also considering job security, it was an important missing piece.
But, Urban said, honing in on research that is both interesting and fulfilling has been a difficult process. His current focus in on Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) investing.
Many experts in the world of finance and economics have long believed the primary responsibility of an organization is to generate profits for investors, and in doing so, they also serve society since a business will only be profitable in the long run if it ultimately does right by society, he said.
“However, there is a growing movement toward ‘stakeholder capitalism,’ whose proponents believe that profit should be balanced with responsibilities the firm has to employees, customers, communities in which they operate, the environment, and society at large,” said Urban, “and ESG investing plays a part in this relatively new approach, offering many opportunities for research.”
Urban said he has been extremely impressed by the faculty, the leadership team, and his fellow students in the Executive Ph.D. program. Particularly, Raman Kumar, with his holistic approach to teaching quantitative subjects, has been a consistent mentor. “He helps his students understand things at a conceptual, visual, and mathematical level, all of which are key to deeply understanding Ph.D.-level research methods,” Urban said. “Thanks to Dr. Kumar, I am a better student and a better teacher.”
His advice to anyone considering the program? “Be prepared for work — lots and lots of it. But it is all worth it. The program is an amazing gem among many doctorate programs out there that offer simple high-level credentials but do not prepare students for academic research.
“Once I complete my Ph.D., I hope to play a part in advancing the field of academic finance research. I consider this a ‘bonus’ to my teaching,” Urban said.