LEARNING EQUALS CHANGE
Maybe it is strategy class that stirs the inner Rockne in faculty. At Cornell, Lucie Coates credits her Critical and Strategic Thinking professor, Risa Mish, for doing far more than bringing discipline to her thinking.
“Perhaps it is the former lawyer in her,” Coates suggests, “but whether you are in her class or consulting with her about a challenge you are facing outside the classroom, she has a way of pushing you to develop an action plan and then find the language and courage to actually execute it.”
If you asked top faculty what constitutes true learning, you won’t hear them fawning over high test scores. Instead, learning involves change, both in terms of how students think and (more importantly) how they act over time. By that definition, HEC Paris’ Gonçalo Pacheco de Almeida is a resounding success. Just ask Priya Darshinee Ramkissoon, whose entire perspective on negotiation was changed by his class.
“Before his class, I had always viewed a negotiation as being intrinsically about conflict (i.e. getting one over the other party),” she confesses. “However, after this class, I learned, more often than not, that an effective compromise can be found for all if the right questions are asked. Also, Professor de Almeida always encouraged us to ‘be hard on the problem but not on the person’ – a takeaway that will stick with me forever.”
TELLING A GOOD STORY…THROUGH A FINANCIAL STATEMENT
Negotiation wasn’t the only subject where a gifted professor made all the difference. At Emory, Alex McNair credits Kathryn Kadous with turning accounting into something he “didn’t dread” – not to mention “understandable, practical, and relevant.” You can bet that NYU Stern’s Mahum Yunus would apply similar terms to what he learned in Dan Gode’s Business Drivers class – a course that revealed how numbers can tell stories too.
“I had no experience working with financial statements and ratios prior to his class,” he admits, “but the class forced us to work with them for different industries. Professor Gode connected the company’s strategy to how it shows up in the numbers, and the financial statements to industry strategy. It truly helped me see how you can better understand a company and an industry by weaving the numbers with a narrative.”
In other words, Gode’s teaching targets the bigger picture, to help students visualize cause-and-effect as much as debits-and-credits. While Gode uses finance as the window into the real world, Tuck’s Ron Adner prefers a “wide lens,” says Alen Amini. His method, in Amini’s words, is to “distill complex problems into sizable issues that can be solved by understanding different interactions between stakeholders in an ecosystem.” At IESE, Victor Martínez de Albéniz takes this micro approach to the extreme – to great effect.
“He always challenges me to think down to the earth,” say Jieqiong Xu. “In class, he pushes me to put myself into others’ shoes, to act like I am the one who needs to make those tough decisions, and thus to rethink how my suggestions would be actionable.”
KELLOGG PROF GOES ABOVE-AND-BEYOND
Then again, Martínez de Albéniz is flexible enough to know that the best approach can be to simply step back and answer one overarching question. “When I was so overwhelmed by the amount of work I undertook,” Xu recalls, “he calmed me down by asking me, point-black, about my long-term goal, which in the rush of things I had not been able to think about. “Who do I want to be in 5 years?” This is the homework he gave me, and I believe I have my answer now.”
Perhaps the most valuable gift that faculty offered to the 2018 Class was simply support. More than lessons in five forces, four Ps, and 360-degree analysis, the top faculty left their mark by investing heavily in the students themselves. That was the case for Kathryn Bernell, who bonded with Professor Carter Cast long before she took a class from him at Kellogg. From startup advice to career strategy, Cast has been a go-to counselor and confidante for Bernell – and many of her peers as well.
“Over the course of the past two years, I have spent countless hours gleaning feedback and insight from a professor that views his role to be far more than just teaching.” Bernell shares. “In the classroom, Professor Cast invests more time than any other professor I’ve had to ensure he is prepared and extending meaningful feedback on all assignments. After each assignment, Professor Cast personally evaluated and shared his thoughts to make sure we were getting the most from the course that we possibly could.”
BRINGING EVERYONE INTO THE DISCUSSION
Other faculty members, such as Yale SOM’s Amy Wrzesniewski, give back by taking their students into their own lives, offering inspiration and expertise in the process. “Every semester, she partners with Women in Management and takes a handful of women out to a boot camp class at a local gym called Tuff Girl Fitness,” says Christine Chen. “After the workout, she hosts us for dessert at her house to talk about anything from gender in the workplace to stories about her family. She is such a strong example of teachers who invest in their students and make a difference in the lives of others.”
That difference can come in acts large and small. At the Ross School of Business, Professor Yesim Orhun earned Ariana Almas’ respect for her willingness to experiment and tackle controversial issues in her marketing class. However, she won Almas’ heart by bringing her non-traditional background into the discussion. In one fell swoop, Orhun had instilled confidence in Almas, validating her background and making the class more inclusive.
“I was having trouble navigating the first few months of business school,” Almas remembers. “In my classes, I found that I couldn’t connect well with the for-profit context because all of my prior professional experience was in the nonprofit sector. I remember there was one assignment in marketing, where instead of trying to explain my thoughts in a for-profit context, I just shared what I would do from a non-profit perspective. The next day in class, Professor Orhun led with an example of marketing in nonprofits. I don’t know if it was intentional, but I could’ve sworn I saw her look my way when she spoke!”
To read about other stellar professors from programs like Stanford, Chicago Booth, INSEAD, and MIT Sloan, go to the next pages.