2017 Top 40 Undergraduate Professors: Robert Rhodes, Texas Christian University (Neeley)

Robert Rhodes

Professor of Professional Practice

Texas Christian University, Neeley School of Business

From law attorney to alumni professor of the year, top ten undergraduate professor, and a handful of other teaching honors from the Neeley School of Business, there have been many times over that Robert Rhodes has been called one of the best professors that the business school has to offer. For more than 30 years, Neeley has been his home where he teaches a course called the Legal Environment of Business to undergraduate students. Rhodes’ quiet demeanor outside of the classroom is said to be misleading as within seconds of stepping inside one of his classes, students are captivated by his booming voice and a desire to see students learn that becomes contagious. During his career, Professor Rhodes has been honored seven times as an Outstanding Professor, a career achievement he says he’s most proud of.

Age: 62

At current institution since: 1984

Education: Doctor of Jurisprudence, Baylor Law School, 1980; Master of Laws in International Trade and Finance, Tulane Law School, 1992

List of courses currently teaching: Legal Environment of Business

Fun fact about yourself: My first job out of high school was playing keyboards in a band on the road

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…” In law school, I was given the chance to teach incoming students how to do online legal research.  I was hooked from day one

“If I weren’t a business school professor…” I would be a travel writer

“One word that describes my first time teaching…” Petrifying!  I learned that I had gotten the job 24 hours before my first class!!

What do you enjoy most about teaching undergraduate business students? I don’t buy into the whole millennial/gen x stuff.  I think students, regardless of generation, are fundamentally the same.  If you bring passion to the task, if you can show them how absolutely fascinating your subject matter is, all the other things you are supposed to do to teach young people today just turns out to be noise.

What is the biggest challenge that comes with teaching undergraduate business students? Convincing them that learning trumps grades.  

What is the most impressive thing one of your undergraduate students has done? It’s not one student, or one thing.  What brings me the most joy, what is most impressive, is when I hear from students who have learned that having some sort of positive impact is way more important than stacking up dollar bills.

What is the least favorite thing one has done? The same answer, in reverse. Students whose main motivation is making money.

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class? Demonstrate excellence

“When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as …” Tough, fair, and transparent

“But I would describe myself as …” The same

What are your hobbies? Travel, cooking, listening to music

How did you spend your summer? I took a group of students to Italy in May. I then went back to Europe to pick up our son, who had been studying in Germany.

Favorite place to vacation: Mexico

Favorite book: “Let the Trumpet Sound: A Life of Martin Luther King”

Favorite movie and/or television show: I would choose a nearly-ancient television series, “The Andy Griffith Show.” It’s more than a hick comedy set in the south. It’s a guide to living life decently.

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: I have no favorite artists or groups, and no favorite genre.  There’s virtually nothing that I don’t listen to.  

Bucket list item #1: Take an around-the-world flight

What professional achievement are you most proud of? Having been named an Outstanding Professor seven times

What is your most memorable moment as a professor? Receiving the Michael and Susan Baer Award for Outstanding Mentoring in 2008

Professor you most admire and why: Professor David Guinn, Baylor Law School.  Professor Guinn had the three character traits I admire most in a teacher:  his knowledge was vast, near encyclopedic, he demanded that you bring your very best effort to the task, and he cared deeply about his students.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I am in a non-research position at TCU

Twitter handle: It almost embarrasses me to say this, but I don’t have a presence on any social media platform. The Neeley School’s is @NeeleySchoolTCU.

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…” Only one change: move the focus of class away from memorizing and regurgitating, and shift it toward applying domain knowledge to really messy business problems, where arguments are more highly prized than answers.

“And much less of this…” Objective tests

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would like for you: If I’m still teaching, I would hope I can maintain the level of passion I’ve always tried to bring to the classroom.

Students say…

“Dr. Rhodes’ class is one of my most memorable classes. He is incredibly knowledgeable and wants to teach his students how to think critically, not just about law but about life.”

“Rhodes is my favorite teacher. It was definitely a hard class but I don’t even care that I didn’t get an A because I learned so much, and he truly wants you to learn and ask for help.”

“Probably one of the best, if not the best, teachers in the business school. He loves what he does and his students love him. He cares about each student’s success and it shows with the passion and enthusiasm he exhibits during each class.”

“Professor Rhodes doesn’t use Power Points or textbooks, and it’s wonderful. He’s testing understanding instead of memorization. You have to participate and do the work to get a great grade, but he’s fun, empathetic, to-the-point, and easy to work with.”