Since accepting her position as Professor in the Practice of Business Law at Emory’s Goizueta School of Business 25 years ago in 1998, Allison Burdette has taught business law to every single BBA student to walk through Goizueta’s halls. Yet students report she’s managed to make roughly 7,000 people feel seen as individuals.
According to one anonymous student reviewer, Allison “gets to know all of her students, every semester. Seriously; within the first week, she knows every student by name; by the second, she knows a detail of each of their lives; and by the end of the semester, she’s developed deep relationships with as many students who care to get to know her.”
In fact, Allison gets to know every student’s life passion and “demonstrates this by referencing these details hilariously on her written exams,” making her students feel unique and seen.
It was this kind of feedback and more that helped Allison secure the Poets and Quants Best Undergraduate Business School Professors Award. The award is granted to only 50 professors across the nation each year. Over 650 professors were nominated for the 2023 awards.
“I cannot think of a professor more deserving of this honor,” says Will Bashur 20BBA, quoted in Poets and Quants. “Professor Burdette was far and away my favorite professor during my time at Emory…she could take the most dense, dry legal concepts and turn them into captivating lessons. I worked as one of her Teaching Assistants during my senior year and for several months after graduation, giving me the opportunity to observe firsthand how much she cares for her students. Burdette is relentlessly determined to see all of her students succeed.”
A Passion for Excellence
It comes as little surprise to her contemporaries that Allison was both nominated for and awarded the Poets and Quants Best Undergraduate Business School Professor Award.
During her long and illustrious tenure, Allison has accumulated several awards and accolades, including the Marc F. Adler Prize for Teaching Excellence; the Emory Williams Distinguished Teaching Award; the Brit Katz Award; and the BBA Distinguished Educator Award, which the student population has awarded her nine times. Bloomberg Businessweek has twice recognized Allison as one of the top 10 undergraduate business professors in the country.
“Allison is a ‘once in a lifetime’ faculty member who uniquely shapes BBA students’ educational experience,” says Associate Professor in the Practice of Organization & Management and Senior Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education Andrea Hershatter. “Her impact goes far beyond the way she engages them with the material and extends into helping them become more nuanced and analytical problem solvers. She pushes each of them to evaluate issues contextually, to ask hard questions rather than seek simple answers, to draw inferences and parallels across disparate situations and to trust logic (and themselves) in arriving at conclusions.
She demands the best from them, and they rise to her expectations. The combination of personality, intellect and commitment she brings to the classroom is incredibly powerful.Andrea Hershatter
Referred to simply as “Burdette” by many of her students and even “B-School Mom,” by others, countless students cite Allison as the favorite professor of their entire academic career. The business law course is known to incorporate some of the most difficult content of the entire BBA program, and students report that Allison encourages and expects only the best from them; yet they also report that “she makes the hardest, most difficult class I’ve taken at Emory also the most enjoyable.”
Inspiring and Innovative Teaching Style
Students cite her exemplary lectures and her unique story telling ability as one of the ways she keeps the class entertained and excited about learning. Of particular note is Allison’s sense of humor. Students reported that she was not above performing unique dances and gestures to help students connect to material.
Coursework is often collaborative and goes beyond the textbook as she helps students connect theory to the real world, sourcing content from podcasts, current events and pop culture. Discussions and debates are encouraged in the classroom, as she coaxes students to challenge her and ask questions.
Allison’s commitment to excellence goes beyond winning awards and setting high standards for her students; she applies fastidious demands to her own teaching, adapting content, offering making up exams and tutoring, and doing whatever is in her power to help them reach success.
As one student recalls, “after getting a 73 on my first midterm, I met with her several times to learn how to approach studying for her tests. Through keeping me engaged in class with active student participation and hilarious stories, I was able to improve on my test scores and end the class with an A.”
Another student summarizes it neatly: “Burdette refuses to give up on people.”
An Unexpected Path
Curiosity is at the heart of Burdette’s life. It is the quality she admires most in her students, and a mind frame she embodies herself. A woman of many interests, Allison enjoys opera, gardening, and taking trips out west to Colorado and New Mexico. In another life, she could picture herself as a basketball or track and field coach.
Like many successful careers, Allison’s was not a straight shot. Environmental law was her first professional love, and it still holds a special place in her heart.
So how did she make her way here? After completing her J.D. at Harvard Law School, she was influenced by a mentor.
“I knew I wanted to become a Business Law professor when I met with Nancy Mansfield at Georgia State University. She said that I would be the perfect fit teaching Business Law, and she sold me.”
Allison still finds ways to incorporate this passion into her teaching, pushing students to factor the environment into their decision making. When asked about what companies and organizations need to be doing better, she’s emphatic: “Now is the moment our innovative efforts should focus on sustainability.”
A Member of the Greater Community
In addition to presenting to student groups, judging case competitions, and even mentoring students in other departments who seek her assistance, colleagues remark on how Allison serves the greater business school beyond her department, joining townhall meetings and suggesting numerous ways Goizueta can improve and integrate more with the university.
Allison maintains strong relationships with alumni and remains connected with former students as both a mentor and friend. She’s a familiar face around campus, where she enjoys attending Emory concerts, theater productions, and sporting events and encourages her students to do the same, often joyfully running into many of her students along the way.
As one student reports from their review, “She taught us how to be good and caring people in the world.”
Goizueta faculty are pushing industries forward, solving today’s toughest business problems, and applying business knowledge to challenges we all face. In research and classrooms, they go beyond because that’s how change is made. Learn more here.