What drew the Best & Brightest to their favorite professors? For one, says the University of Wisconsin’s Tan Bui, they possess a certain contagious energy. For him, Professor Alan Talarczyk personifies this energy in his tax courses, a place where his passion demanded Bui’s attention and made him “appreciate learning rather than simply memorize material.” Similarly, Emory Goizueta’s Allison Burdette’s “jump around the room” energy pushed Grace Cleland to commit to “purposeful learning and mastery of [Business Law] and beyond.” And then there’s Professor James Desimpelare, a man who teaches the driest of subjects — Tax Law — without the aid of any technology. Then again, he didn’t need it, says Danny Sheridan, who joined Amazon after graduating from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.
“He taught me that a teacher can make any topic engaging if they have high expectations of students, involve students through cold-calling, and are comfortable putting students on the spot not to be judged by a professor but instead their peer.”
NYU PROF OPENS CLASS WITH A ‘HUMBLING’ EXERCISE
Beyond energy, students also take notice when professors are committed to their craft. That involves more than their research prowess or classroom mechanics. It also means always being available when students need them most. The University of Richmond’s Kylie Regan, for example, notes that Dr. Saif Mehkari, an economics professor, can sometimes be found answering student questions at 2 a.m. — if he isn’t too busy pushing them out of their comfort zones. At NYU Stern, you might even find Professor Jay Rubin returning to campus over the weekend to coach teams and individuals alike according to Shobhit Jain.
“I have never come across a business professor so engaged in students’ personal and professional growth to the extent that he is,” Jain adds. “Professor Rubin embodies the rich wisdom and nurturing spirit that is intrinsic of Stern professors, and he is someone who made me feel prepared and confident to embark on my journey through business school.”
At its heart, teaching is about fostering change and sponsoring growth. At NYU Stern, Robert Salomon opens the first class with an exercise designed to embody the purpose of his International Business class’ and debunk the clichés surrounding the topic. In the process, he created a curiosity and “empathy” that resonated throughout the semester, says Michelle Enkerlin.
“The first day of class, we did a Global Footprint exercise to measure how ‘global’ we all are and how ‘global’ the world has become,” Enkerlin explains. “We were surprised to see how little of the world even the most traveled had seen and were reminded that we are a very small privileged group of students that are lucky to have had these experiences. This exercise was meant to remind us that although we may have more global exposure than most, our knowledge still does not even begin to touch the surface of really understanding the world, and I thought this was very humbling. I believe business cannot be done effectively in any context without empathy.”
“PERMANENT CHANGE” IS THE GOAL
Indeed, Rachael Sun offers the ultimate compliment to Professor Joel Rubin, who teaches law, ethics, and consulting courses at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. Not only has he been “an effective and impactful instructor,” she says, but he has “permanently changed” the way his students think. “Professor Rubin has challenged me to expand my point of view, defend my arguments, and think about my responsibility as a businessperson and student,” she adds.
This permanent change often stems from business school faculty excelling at what great teachers have always done: Pushing students to examine the “what” and “why” before deciding for themselves what the “how” should be. That is one of the gifts possessed by Ohio State’s Steffanie Wilk, says Joe Kline. This mindset is a game-changer for students who are lucky enough to take her Organizational Behavior or Strategic Human Resource Management courses.
“She is always challenging the status quo and wants students to understand why the status quo is there in the first place,” Kline observes. “She often conducts class so that our perception of the specific topic would be entirely different by the time class is over. I really respect the way she continuously challenged our current beliefs about certain topics.”
Here are some additional faculty members who were honored by this year’s Best & Brightest business majors.
“General John Van Alstyne has challenged me to consider the bigger picture in life for the past three years now. Not only did he challenge me to identify and prioritize my values, but he helped me understand how my talents, abilities, and knowledge provide value and purpose to the world around me.” – Audrey Adkins, Texas A&M (Mays)
“Dr. Barbara Porco. She taught me that a career in accounting requires critical thought beyond the general ledger, and that with conviction and conscientiousness I have the opportunity to improve procedures and systems beyond the books. Her role as a teacher extended far beyond the confines of the classroom; she introduced me to the sustainability issues facing businesses and helped me expand my network in the accounting and sustainability industries.”
– Kate Marinkovich, Fordham University (Gabelli)
“My favorite professor is Venkat Kuppuswamy. The class I took with Professor Kuppuswamy was my first class as a UNC Kenan-Flagler student. It was an unconventional class — a global immersion elective with once a week in-class sessions leading up to a two-week trip to South Africa. I didn’t know what to expect, and I was nervous. Despite maintaining the highest expectations, he was patient and gave me constructive criticism on my work. He allowed me to learn from my mistakes and finish the class prepared to take on any group project, challenging subject matter, and with a deep understanding for business in South Africa.” – Caroline Ririe, University of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)
“My favorite professor is not so coincidentally also the professor of my favorite class at Northeastern. Mark Bernfeld is the kind of educator that you have once and wish you could have had freshman year and every semester afterwards. He meets with every student individually; his class is engaging and fun; he brings in awesome guest speakers; and he supports his students in endeavors beyond the classroom. Mark has been one of the most impactful additions to my collegiate career and I know that I do not only speak for myself, but also for many of my classmates.” – Kate Murdock, Northeastern University (D’Amore-McKim)
“My favorite professor in Pitt Business is Heidi Bartholomew, a professor I had for Advanced Financial Accounting. She explained very challenging material in methodical ways, drew on examples from her time in industry, and brought humor to class to keep everyone on their toes.” – Maximilian Kneis, University of Pittsburgh