2018 Top 50 Undergraduate Professors: Ray Jones, University of Pittsburgh (Pitt Business)

Ray Jones

Clinical Associate Professor of Business Administration

University of Pittsburgh, College of Business Administration

Not once, not twice, but ten times Pitt Business’s Ray Jones has been voted by students as the best professor in all of the University of Pittsburgh. In case anyone’s wondering, this is indeed a school record. Continuing the tradition, Professor Jones recently received the Pitt Chancellor’s highest teaching honor. At the College of Business Administration, Professor Jones teaches introductory undergraduate courses in business ethics and organizational behavior as well as advanced undergraduate courses in gender and diversity in management and governance and management.

Inside the classroom, he makes a profound impact on students of all business majors by challenging them to consider the broader issues of ethics, social responsibility, and stakeholder management. He co-developed and leads the school’s Certificate Program in Leadership and Ethics (CPLE) and since 2004, CPLE students have contributed more than 16,000 hours of service-learning projects to more than 100 Pittsburgh-area organizations.

Professor Jones holds a number of faculty advisor roles including university athletics’ Academy of Sports Marketing, a sports marketing internship program offered exclusively to business administration students.

Education: PhD, Business Environment, Ethics and Public Policy, University of Pittsburgh – Katz School of Business

At current institution since: 1991

List of courses you currently teach: Managerial Ethics, Organizational Behavior, Leadership and Ethics

Twitter handle: I only read Twitter. I like Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/rayjonesinpittsburgh

What professional achievement are you most proud of? Professor Audrey Murrell and I are working our 16th class of students who are completing our Certificate Program in Leadership and Ethics (CPLE).

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…” I taught my first business ethics class with Professor Donna Wood in Pitt Business.  She and I did every lecture together and had fun debating our views on ethics and corporate social responsibility. Students had to come to class every day and pay attention because we would go back and forth for 75 minutes.

“One word that describes my first time teaching…”40% for attendance!?!?!  What were you thinking Jones!?!?!?!?!

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? In our ethics center (The David Berg Center for Ethics and Leadership), we have been doing a number of research projects related to hunger and food security in local communities.  This has led us to several projects related to an on campus food truck at Pitt. The truck just launched in August!

What is your most memorable moment as a professor? I used to (arguably still do) look a lot like Tobey Maguire when he was starring in Spiderman.  One day in the middle of a 150+ student lecture, Spiderman (in full costume) suddenly appeared in my classroom and stormed down the aisle directly toward me.  I was actually ready to take a hit from him, but he suddenly stopped and then sprinted out the door. Amazingly (see what I did there?), I happened to be discussing decision-making under uncertainty at the time, so I then made several references to my reaction to Spiderman’s unexpected visit for the rest of class.

Since you first started teaching, how has business education changed? One thing I really enjoy about teaching younger students is how they understand and accept new technologies.  For example, we did a team project in my sophomore ethics and leadership class last spring on the ethics of Bitcoin with a middle-market investment bank in New York City.  While I helped form the client contact and the overall organization of the project, the sophomores on the team really drove all of the content related to Bitcoin, as they had a deep interest in it and eve n had some experience with trading cryptocurrencies.

“If I weren’t a business school professor, I would be…” I would be a brand rep for Under Armour.  I’m essentially an unpaid brand rep for them now, since I always wear their gear. They could pay me in free gear and I would definitely come out ahead.

“Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a professor”: That almost sounds negative. It’s hard to focus on the negatives when you have a job like this that makes it challenging and fun to be at work every day.

Name of the professor you most admire and why: I’m going to pass on this one. I have met too many great ones to single out just one.

What do you enjoy most about teaching undergraduate business students? The best thing about teaching undergraduate business students is that everyone in class is looking to apply what you’re talking about to leadership and management roles at work, in student organizations and on sports teams, etc.  Business students like to get out there and make things happen – personally and professionally, so it’s energizing to be up in front of them.

What’s the biggest challenge? The biggest challenge is to try and make a required course engaging and interesting.

What is the most impressive thing one of your undergraduate students has done? The project teams in our Certificate Program in Leadership and Ethics always put themselves out there on projects with real world clients.  We have done projects for a wide range of clients, from banks and real estate developers to the local animal shelter.

What is the least favorite thing one has done? The negative examples fade away. It’s disappointing when someone is close minded and won’t work with their peers or consider an idea.  But – you have to keep going past this and not take it personally.

Since you’ve been teaching, how have students changed over the years? As I mentioned before, it is enjoyable to work with students today because they are so open to new technology and trying new ways of doing things.

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class? You need to bring it every day and then bring it strong on Quiz #1, Quiz #2 and the Final Exam.

“When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as …” LOL – I have heard that students call me the “Ray-Minus” Get it!?

If your teaching style/classroom experience had a theme song, what would it be? My song is the Pittsburgh version of Lady GaGa’s “You and I” – which she recorded as part of her promotions for a summer tour a few years back.  I like to believe though that she is singing about me (“There’s something about my cool Pittsburgh guy…”) in the Pittsburgh version.

Using just one word, describe your favorite type of student: Make it happen!

Using just one word, describe your least favorite type of student: I skipped class today. Did we go over anything?

“If my students can get out there and make it happen, then I’ve done my job as their professor.”

Fun fact about yourself: I frequently teach class in the room where I took my PSAT exam in high school (i.e. I’m clearly a “Pittsburgh guy”)

What are your hobbies? I play adult coed slowpitch softball, I coach 3rd/4th grade boys basketball at my old grade school and I am a genealogist and teach classes on genetic genealogy at our local library.

How did you spend your summer? I come into the office nearly every day in the summer.  We do a lot of work in our Ethics center and then prepare for all of the projects that we will work on with students over the next year.

Favorite place to vacation: My living room

Favorite book: Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point always comes to mind

Favorite movie and/or television show: The Sopranos was my favorite television show, as I loved the characters.  I don’t like TV though. I mostly just watch sports on TV.

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: I like many types of music, from Top 40 (soundtrack of life) to jazz and great standards.

Bucket list item #1: I don’t have a bucket list.

What’s the biggest challenge facing business education at the moment? I think we need to find ways to engage with students through high quality online content that has substantial interactions.  The technology is not quite there yet, but it is definitely in development.

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…” opportunities for students to interact with real world clients in course exercises and projects

“And much less of this…” requirements that force students to take on debt and inhibit them from pursuing their professional development

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would be like for you: In 10 years, I would like to remain current and relevant for students who are trying to pursue their personal and professional development in 2028.