Derek Rucker: Bringing Courses to Life

Derek Rucker (center) of Kellogg is among the 40 best business school profs under 40.

Derek Rucker (center) of Kellogg is among the 40 best business school profs under 40.

Experiential learning is what makes the difference for 33-year-old professor Derek Rucker. He brings advertising to life at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management with hands-on curricula that evoke student participation and enthusiasm.

The professor, who is also director of Kellogg’s Center for Global Marketing Practices, goes the distance for case development, eating a 48-ounce steak as part of Shula’s steak challenge (not once, but twice) just so he could talk about the experience and the advertising and marketing implications surrounding the event with his students. He also co-leads the Kellogg School Super Bowl Advertising Review, one of Kellogg’s most popular events where students critique Super Bowl spots real time and evaluate them based on rigorous academic criteria.

When he’s not chowing down 48-ounce steaks or watching the Super Bowl, Professor Rucker is engaged in academic research to understand the motives that drive consumer consumption, primarily focusing on the study of attitudes, persuasion, and consumer behavior.


My teaching style is modeled after a mix of people. Rather than imitate a single faculty member or instructor, I’ve taken what I like most about my own past professors and adapted their techniques to my own teaching style. There are two fundamental principles that guide my teaching. First, I ask myself how I would want to be treated as a student. Second, I constantly incorporate the students’ feedback into my work. When teaching, every three weeks I ask my students for their thoughts on how well the class is going—or not going—and I integrate their feedback to make the experience more valuable for them. This has proven to be extremely helpful to me as a professor because the constant evaluation doesn’t allow me settle, so the course and the experience is continuously being refreshed.

There’s definitely a strong student selection bias that comes across when you’re teaching at Kellogg. First, Kellogg students are wickedly smart, so there’s a great deal of learning that I acquire from them that makes both the teaching process fun and improves my teaching each and every time. I’m constantly learning new things from the students in my teaching. Second, at Kellogg we are a team-focused school. Kellogg students recognize that it’s rarely “me versus the world” rather it’s us working together to solve the big challenges of the world. Therefore we are keen to hone team-building skills for the betterment of an organization. It’s clear the students get to know one another outside the classroom and so getting them to engage with one another inside the classroom is always easy.

Four adjectives I would use to describe Kellogg are cooperative, intellectual, stimulating, and warm because it feels fantastic to interact with students and faculty here. This is really a tough question to answer because there are so many words I could use to accurately describe the school.

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