Image of Business Instructional Facility

Feb 16, 2024 Accountancy Alumni Business Administration Faculty Finance Research in Education Student

Graebner named Robert C. Evans Endowed Professor of Business

To acknowledge her contributions and leadership in the fields of strategy and entrepreneurship, Dr. Melissa Graebner has been named the Robert C. Evans Endowed Professor of Business at Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The College held an investiture ceremony on Friday, February 2, 2024, to celebrate her accomplishments.

Melissa Graebner joined Gies Business in 2019 as part of the inaugural class of the President’s Distinguished Faculty Recruitment Program, an initiative launched by the University of Illinois System to add more world-class faculty and build its global standing as a leader in education and innovation. Graebner’s research interests include mergers and acquisitions, strategy in entrepreneurial firms, and qualitative research methods. She is the director of the Initiative for Qualitative Research in Innovation and Entrepreneurship (INQUIRE), which supports qualitative research exploring the complex social processes underlying the creation of novel ideas, development of innovative business models, and growth of new organizations. 

The Robert C. Evans Endowed Professorship was created in 1993 thanks to a generous gift from Gies alumnus Robert Evans. Evans graduated in 1935 with a degree in banking and finance. After graduation, he served in the Horse Cavalry and then joined the Army Air Corps, serving in Naples, Italy, where he helped establish high schools and colleges for American military personnel during World War II. After retiring as a lieutenant colonel, Evans became a longtime owner of Evans Ford in Eldon, Missouri. He also owned and served as president of the Bank of Eldon, which he later sold to Mercantile Bank. He retired in 1986 after 30 years as Mercantile’s chief officer and chairman of the board. Evans was a member of the University of Illinois Foundation and the Presidents Council, the University’s highest donor recognition organization. He passed away in May 1997.

“Melissa Graebner’s research contributions and scholarship are among the very best in the nation, and we’re extremely proud to recognize her many achievements with the Robert C. Evans Endowed Professorship,” said Jeffrey R. Brown, Josef and Margot Lakonishok Professor in Business and Dean. “Not only is Melissa an accomplished scholar, but she is also a tremendous colleague who has contributed to our College in a number of ways. I look forward to many more years of the positive impact she will make on academia, business practitioners, and learners of all ages.”

Graebner’s research in strategy and entrepreneurship has received numerous honors, including the Best Paper Award from the Academy of Management Journal. She is a Fellow of the Strategic Management Society, and her name regularly appears on the List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students. She also served as co-editor of Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal and has held elected leadership positions in the Academy of Management and the Strategic Management Society. Her work has been featured in popular outlets both in the US and abroad, including The Economist, New York Times Dealbook,, M&A Journal, Le Monde, the Washington Post, and Business Insider.  

“Since joining Gies in 2019, I’ve seen that the faculty here are an amazing group who are committed to students and excited about new ideas. The integrity, spirit of innovation, and kindness of this place are exceptional,” said Graebner. “As I look back, growing up, I was surrounded by enthusiasm for learning and for business, which planted the seeds for my future as a business professor. Since then, I’ve received so much throughout my career. My goal now is to give back in equal measure for many years to come.”

Graebner earned her MBA and her PhD in Management Science & Engineering from Stanford University. Prior to joining Gies, she was on the faculty of the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin for 16 years. Melissa has held visiting appointments at INSEAD and at the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University. She has also worked for a software startup and as a management consultant for McKinsey & Co., where she focused on technology mergers and acquisitions.