College involved quite a change for Cassandra Raffi.
“In high school, teachers enforced academic discipline and were hyper-involved in my studies,” writes the University of Massachusetts-Amherst Accounting major. “When I came to college, I quickly learned that no professor was going to be constantly hounding me to turn in assignments. Rather, I would need to hound myself.”
That doesn’t mean Raffi was tossed into the deep end, left to fend for herself while faculty pursued research. While the Isenberg School of Management reinforced discipline and accountability, she learned something else entirely from Melissa Baker, who taught her Business in Italy course. Despite a 20-year business career – including 11 years as a faculty member – Baker hardly gave off a ‘Been there, done that’ vibe. Instead, says Raffi, she was “genuinely excited” about the material. When she took the class to Italy, Raffi adds, she mixed teaching and fun, ensuring her students’ experience was – in a word – “unforgettable.”
THE BEST OF THE BEST
“Professor Baker is not only kind, but she truly cares about her students and the quality of course material to which we were exposed. While some professors make it obvious that their work is a job, Professor Baker’s approach to teaching makes it seem like less of a job and more of a passion.”
Committed…Entertaining…Thought-Provoking…Supportive. These are just a few qualities of the best business professors. As a whole, they possess an innate ability to speak directly to individual students. They simplify what’s complex and highlight what’s critical, using examples and stories to make lessons relevant and lasting. They emphasize demanding processes over quick answers and growth over grades. Forget memorization and mediocrity. Great professors demand critical thought, to look deeper, explore various angles, and always back up assertions. In the end, their goal is to open new worlds and expose new ways, to drag students from comfort and motivate them to act. At its best, their teaching brings out the best in their classes, with no student ever left behind.
The Class of 2020 knew who the phenomenal faculty were. They held the must-see classes, the ones that were still packed at 8:00 a.m. or Fridays because students knew they would always learn something. These professors took the time to connect with their students, always remaining approachable after class, or keep their door open during office hours. They understood that learning couldn’t be conscribed to those 60-90 magical minutes of class. No, the favorite professors are coaches, champions, consciences, and confidantes – the voice that guides and the contagious spirit that inspires. This year’s business graduates may not aspire to join the faculty lounge, but many look to model themselves after these exception men and women nonetheless.
THEIR INFLUENCE EXTENDS TO CLASSES THEY DON’T TEACH
These professors included the University of Richmond’s Bill Bergman. His teachings were so profound that Hanna Lankler would rearrange her class schedule so she could take his marketing electives.
“Professor Bergman has shaped the way I approach the discipline of marketing,” she writes. “He begins every class like a focus group so we can work backward from the customer perspective to get to the core of why certain marketing campaigns excel and some fail. His Marketing and Media Disruption course was one of the most influential classes I have taken, as it addressed the constant evolution of industries and how businesses can remain innovative and relevant as competitors come into the market.”
What Bergman knows is amplified by who he is. Lankler describes him as a man who “can make any student smile even on their worst days.” More than that, his teaching enriches the student experience beyond his classroom. “Professor Bergman’s classes are also genuinely fun,” Lankler adds. “He is incredibly funny, deeply insightful, and his classes run as conversations in which he pushes us to truly understand the concepts by bouncing off of the ideas of our peers. These discussions are often so casual and collaborative that I don’t even realize how much I have truly gotten out of them until I notice how they influence the ways in which I analyze cases and strategize marketing solutions.”
Personal growth is also paramount to Professor F. Asís Martínez-Jerez, known to many at the University of Notre Dame as simply “Asís.” His defining philosophy? He never lets his students become self-satisfied. “Almost every question asked and answered by a student is followed up with at least one question that Asís asks to prod our thinking, for us to not be fixated solely on the answer but also the dominos that fall after,” writes Kate Oh. “Although this level of detail and questioning that Asís guides students through might be unfamiliar territory at first, he does it with such a big smile, laughter, and energy that we all know we’re in good hands. Someone to challenge you, someone to guide you, someone to lead you – that’s Asís!”
FACULTY WHO GO ABOVE-AND-BEYOND
Jenna Scheffert pays her Investment Banking professor the ultimate compliment: “If the world had more teachers like Marisa Palmer, everyone would want to pursue a finance degree.” Now a banking analyst at Rothschild & Company, Scheffert is actually following in the footsteps of Palmer, herself a former senior executive at Gerson Lehrman. “Marisa Palmer was one of the most thought-provoking, knowledgeable, and well-spoken professors I’ve ever had,” Scheffert adds. “She has a remarkable background working on Wall Street and uses that to provide great insight and expound on stories during her time at the desk. She simulates real-world examples for problems in class and pushes students to use a quantitative lens when understanding what’s happening in current events around them.”
Palmer was also available, carving out extra time to answer any industry and career questions that Scheffert had. You’ll find that same level of engagement at Villanova University with Professor Julie Pirsch, the school’s associate dean of teaching and learning. Julie Snitzer describes her as “fun and upbeat” – adding that she is always there for her students. “When I came to her second-semester junior year,” Snitzer notes, “I was thinking of changing my major to marketing. She encouraged me saying, “Julie, we can do this!” Her encouragement allowed me to switch my major so late and feel supported in doing so. Despite her busy schedule, she always makes time for her students; even it means chatting with her while walking through the hallway between her meetings to get her advice.”
Each year, Poets&Quants asks the 100 Best & Brightest business majors to name their favorite business professor — and share what made them so special. From there, P&Q selects the best responses to honor those faculty members who stand out by truly going above-and-beyond. What made these professors so special? From Boston College to Wharton, here is what made top faculty members and top undergraduate business schools so unforgettable.
“My favorite professor is Alice Bonaime, who teaches Corporate Finance. Aside from being an incredible professor, Professor Bonaime is someone who truly cares about the success of her students. She has the capability to teach the same concept in at least three different ways, adapts her class to her students’ needs, and even goes as far as to create a question bank with interview questions that her students have received in order to help her future students. She is a professor who is passionate about helping others and is invested in all of the aspirations of her students.”
Daniela Cuevas, University of Arizona (Eller)
“My favorite professor is Robert Metzger from Gies College of Business. I have been fortunate to have Professor Metzger play an important role in my college career. He is also the director of the Gies Business Honors Program and Investment Banking Academy. Because of my involvement in these programs, I have been able to develop a strong relationship with him over my four years of college. I was a student in his Finance 463: Investment Banking course which was one of the most useful classes that I have taken in college. Professor Metzger has believed in my ability to be successful in the classroom and in a career in private equity since my freshman year of college. He has become my closest faculty mentor throughout my time at Gies. Professor Metzger helped me make connections with important business executives in the investment banking and private equity industries. His sound advice helped solidify my interest in finance and propel my professional pursuits. I am extremely grateful for his mentorship, friendship, and commitment to me and my future.”
Robert Mitchell, University of Illinois (Gies)