STAND UP COMEDY AT AN IVY
This personalized approach was also realized by Professor Ashleigh Rosette’s Women and Leadership course. She built it from scratch after noticing that women’s perspectives and contributions were sometimes overlooked in traditional leadership courses. By creating this course, says Ashley Brown, Rosette fostered a classroom where students could truly open themselves up and learn. “I admired the way that Professor Rosette facilitated the discussion in our classroom, creating an environment in which my peers felt comfortable sharing their points of view on what were often personal and sensitive topics,” writes the Duke Fuqua MBA. “I also valued that each case had a female protagonist and that we exclusively had women leaders as guest speakers.”
Another quality that defines great teachers is the ability to connect. This was the forte of Drew Jacoby-Senghor, who teaches Negotiations and Conflict Resolution to MBAs at the University of California-Berkeley. By applying humor and stirring curiosity, observes Bosun Adebaki, Jacoby-Senghor breathed life into mantras like “Focus on interests and not positions.” At Columbia Business School, Daniel Ames also taught negotiations. Like many classroom phenoms, Ames relied heavily on intricate preparation and world-class course material. However, it was his high energy approach, mixed with a comic bent, that truly made his lessons unforgettable, says Rahul Goyal.
“Professor Ames infused the course with some theatrics, ranging from elaborate narrations to him attending hilarious fake phone calls from protagonists from our cases, which always kept us engaged and made the class extremely entertaining.”
ASKING THE BIG QUESTIONS
Entertainment is just one path. Brooke Castillo, an author and coach, is fond of saying that “Discomfort is the currency of success.” In other words, students really don’t learn and grow until they confront uncertainty, conflict, and even failure. Replicating such experiences is the secret behind Andrew Knight’s teaching. A professor of organizational behavior at Washington University’s Olin School, Knight led activities that enabled MBA students like Janell Cleare to reflect on who they truly are – and the kind of impact they hope to make in their careers…and beyond.
“Knight made us lead our peers during simulations that forced me to make unpopular decisions,” Cleare reminisces. “In these difficult moments, I learned more about my strengths and weaknesses. As a result, I left his class with a clear development plan for strengthening my areas of growth.”
Of course, Knight was hardly alone among this year’s Favorite Professors for continuously pushing their students to bring out their best. In his corporate governance and financial strategy courses, Indiana University’s Merih Seviliremployed a Socratic style to dig below the obvious to flush out thought-provoking angles and innovative solutions, says Miguel Klee Roldan.
“In Corporate Governance & Restructuring, for example, we would discuss challenging topics such as whether layoffs resulting from M&A deals were truly justified? Should we, as a society, care about thousands of people losing their jobs through a merger even though the transaction might be good for the market? These questions led to challenging discussions in class. Yet, through those discussions, I was able to gain a more wholesome perspective to issues that in reality are far more than just “business” issues.”
TEACHING IN “BITE-SIZED CHUNKS”
Rodrigo Canales is blessed with a similar gift in his classes at Yale SOM. His innovation course is designed to set the stage for students to ask ‘why’ and – more importantly – ‘why not.’ “Rodrigo’s teaching stands out because he grounds every lesson in why we should care, and helps us understand the real-world implications that our learnings can have through cases and his own experience in the field,” writes Becca Constantine. “He asks insightful questions that help students think through how to improve our approaches to addressing a given problem and to transforming systems.”
Perhaps the most difficult job of any teacher is to place themselves in their students’ shoes, to understand what will truly be important to them and shed the details and deviations so the lessons are easy to understand and apply. At the University of Wisconsin, Belinda Mucklow has straddled both sides. Before she was a senior lecturer in finance, Mucklow worked in consulting and valuation. Such experiences prepared her to package dense financial concepts in ways that non-quants could grasp.
“Belinda broke down complex financial issues into bite-sized pieces while providing strategic frameworks to help us understand how one should interpret complex financial narratives put forth by firms,” notes Michael Hilfiker, who came to Madison with a background in economics research.
TEACHING STARTS WITH TRUST
Of course, great teaching starts with establishing trust, something faculty can’t learn through books or practice. That sense of certitude starts with students knowing that professors truly care about them. At Notre Dame’s Mendoza College, Professor Joseph Holt built trust through action, says Charlotte Pekoske, particularly his involvement in activities important to her.
“He is a steadfast supporter of the MBA Military Veterans and Women in Business Clubs and renders services to ensure we are prepared to negotiate offers and transition out of the military,” explains the U.S. Coast Guard officer. “He even volunteered with students to ensure every veteran grave at the Mishawaka Fairview Cemetery had a memorial wreath this holiday season. I sincerely appreciate the time that he continues to make for all of his students.”
When Alyssa Murray arrived at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, she had been an assistant principal in a low-income middle school. While she taught math, she admittedly “knew next to nothing about finance.” Thankfully, her Managerial Finance course was taught by Haoxiang Zhu, a teacher’s teacher who was steadfast in leaving no student behind.
‘HE MADE ME FEEL LIKE HE GENUINELY CARED’
“Many other courses spend lecture time on theory and recitation time on practice,” Murray admits. “Professor Zhu carved out a majority of his lectures to student practice. We would complete practice problems together and submit our answers electronically so that he could ascertain the understanding level of the class real-time. When 80% or more of students answered correctly, he knew he could move on, but when only 30 or 40% of students answered correctly, he stopped and re-taught material in a new way. He welcomed questions and was incredibly patient. Over the course of each 90-minute period, I dramatically improved in my knowledge and understanding. He also always made himself available to get to know us as people via group lunches and dinners. Professor Zhu made me feel like he genuinely cared about how much I understood finance.”
At the University of Virginia’s Darden School – a program regaled for teaching excellence – Franklyn Darnis was “blown away” by her professors. Still, Lalin Anik stood out for who she was – and what she did outside the classroom as much as inside of it. She connects with her students one-on-one, Darnis notes, while attending all the Darden events (and even playing sports with students). It is Anik’s personal touch, Darnis adds, that hits home as much as her jaw-dropping resume and intellect.
“At the end of her first year Marketing course, she hand-wrote personalized notes to all 70 of us. I still have mine today. Learning from Lalin and getting to know her better have been highlights of my Darden experience.”
To read the best faculty tributes from Best & Brightest MBAs at programs like Wharton, Dartmouth Tuck, Yale SOM, and NYU Stern, go to the next pages.