TEPPER ALUMNI THRILLED TO SEE THEIR FAVORITE PROFS STILL THERE AFTER 20 YEARS
Faculty stability is also a hallmark at Tepper. Generally, the program hires scholars out of doctoral programs over more senior faculty elsewhere. As a result, professors grow with the program, with the best ultimately remaining at the school for a long time. One reason, according to Trick, is that they strongly identify with Tepper’s deeply-entrenched analytical philosophy.
“The approach that underlies our program is a really deep and thorough understanding of analytics and the role that data places in decision-making; the role that modern data issues are having in every field together with some really creative approaches to leadership like how you take what you know from the data to change organizations. The faculty buys into the importance of both halves of this. It gets reflected in the classroom. There is a unity happening. Our faculty is very interdisciplinary. All of us know what other people are doing and have a respect for that and I think that comes through in the classrooms.”
This sense of community isn’t just restricted to the faculty lounge. Trick attributes that to Tepper’s more intimate size. Unlike Booth, one Tepper faculty member teaches all sections of the core. Coupled with relatively small class sizes, faculty members tend to get to know every student. That tends to pay dividends as time passes, Trick points out. “When alumni come back 20 years later, they are seeing many of the same people who are still active and doing great stuff. That leads to a real sense of community that gets lost in places that churn through their faculty more.”
PERSUASIVE COMMUNICATORS AND “BROAD” THINKERS COVETED AT BOTH SCHOOLS
One way that Booth and Tepper maintain teaching excellence is by carefully vetting potential teaching candidates. The traits they seek are remarkably similar. For starters, both schools value a virtue that is sometimes underestimated in MBA programs: salesmanship. “I look for enthusiasm and engagement,” Trick admits. “Are they excited and can they communicate that excitement?”
Kole echoes Trick’s sentiments, noting that Booth places a premium on communication skills in hiring. “If a young academic can’t pitch his or her ideas to the faculty, we know they’re not going to be accepted in the classroom. So we are primarily looking for people who are really exciting researchers who understand how to market ideas. That’s the essence of a great teacher.”
Both schools are also defined by a strong interdisciplinary flavor in their classrooms. Ergo, the programs target more well-rounded academics over specialists to join their ranks. Kole points out, for example, that Booth has adopted a wider definition of what “business relevant” is compared to other schools. That’s one reason why behavioral psychology has flourished at the school. Such a “multi-dimensional approach,” in Kole’s words, only enriches the discussions and deepens the learning.
“It’s critically important for the faculty who come in to have exciting potential,” she shares. “They are thinking about the world in ways that are different or using techniques or approaches that change the way we look at the world. So we look for research potential and we think broadly about what our emerging leaders need in terms of their skill set.”
Ironically, Trick also taps “broad” as the attribute that Tepper covets in choosing faculty members. “I ask, ‘Do they have a broader view of how all of this might fit together and why this is important?’ There are some new faculty members who spend five years going very deeply into a subject, but you do like to feel that they see the broader world, why this research is relevant and how it could change things. If they can see that and they can communicate it to the students, we’re going to have a really successful faculty member.”
TOP TEPPER PROFESSORS SEEMLESSLY MIX THEORY AND PRACTICE
Trick can reel off the names of several faculty members who personify the best of the Tepper experience — and teaching in general. One is Anita Woolley, whom Trick jokes, “teaches organizational behavior in a school known for analytics.” What makes Woolley so successful in the classroom? Trick believes it stems from her ability to tie theory and research to a practice-driven discipline. “She’s not just telling stories. She knows what the research and data says. So she gets across, on a fact base, what we know about how teams work well and how people can be effective in organizations. The combination of bringing in theory and combining it with real experiences makes her extremely effective.”
This combination is also why Marvin Goodfriend is so esteemed at Tepper. A bit of an anomaly, Goodfriend came to Tepper after a quarter century in the public sector. This included serving as research and policy advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Va., for a dozen years along with a stint at the White House as the senior staff economist for the President’s Council of Economic Advisors during the Reagan administration. Still teaching from a blackboard with chalk, Goodfriend draws from both economic theory and practical experience to illustrate how macroeconomic principles work in the real world. “Again, that combination of theory and application really helps his courses shine,” Trick beams.
“I WISH I COULD BOTTLE HIM”
Kole also goes “old school” when picking her favorite professor at Booth: Harry L. Davis. How old school is Davis? He joined the Booth faculty during the Kennedy administration and is credited with crafting the first core MBA leadership development program. For Kole, Davis exemplifies the qualities of the greatest teachers: pushing students out of their comfort zone; challenging them to open up new ideas, inspiring them to reflect on how the content can impact and enhance their craft; and demanding that students raise their expectations for themselves — and those around them.
“Harry pushes students to think deeper about an issue that they thought they had already explored,” Kole explains. “He drives them to think about behaviors that they observe and the core of the behaviors. For example, he had students read Katherine Graham’s biography to understand what forces — her life history and dynamics with others — created this leader. Then he turns the lens and gets students back to how they would think about that for themselves.”
Davis’ trademark is his personal reflection paper. Kole even admits that graduates from every generation still talk to her about how it pushed them to places they were afraid — but needed — to go. In a world that prizes easy answers, clear connections, and immediate returns, Davis’ teaching method requires some adjustment. But it’s worth it. “I had this conversation with a student this week,” Kole shares. “She said, ‘I took Harry’s class. I loved it! Some days, I walked out and I wasn’t sure what I learned, but the pieces all came together at the end of the course in a way that I see the landscape.’”
In other words, he treats students like adults. A guide and a mentor, Davis understands that learning is a deeply personal journey where students often come out with very different takeaways. “He teaches in a way that students don’t leave with a box with a pretty bow on it in every class,” Kole concludes. “Over the course of the quarter, they begin to understand that he is pushing them to think harder about themselves and their world in a way that will make them more reflective and a better leader. It’s magical. I wish we could bottle him.”
To see where the faculties at the top MBA programs scored on the Economist student survey, go to the next page.