Teaching Associate Professor of Business Administration
Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The University of Illinois Gies College of Business describes Mark Wolters as “the epitome of a student-first professor.” Their proof? Wolters taught his entire Principles of Marketing course straight-through for 15 hours from his home this past spring to raise money for the Gies Student Emergency Fund. The fund was created to support Gies students facing a personal financial crisis so they’re able to continue their education.
Indeed, Wolters is a popular professor among Gies students and alumni. An undergraduate alum of the University of Illinois, Wolters says the beginnings of his career started as a freshman when he was trying to decide if he should change his major from business to education. “That sowed the seed of an idea of doing both business and education,” Wolters says. “Later, I had the opportunity to volunteer to teach business in Lithuania and that experience was my confirmation that a career in business education was for me.”
Wolters is currently the Academic Director of the marketing major and teaches Principles of Marketing, Advanced Marketing Management, and Social Media Marketing.
Current age: 43
At current institution since what year? 2011
Education: Doctorate in Management from the Lisbon School of Economics and Management, the University of Lisbon (ISEG – Instituto Superior de Economia e Gestão da Universidade de Lisboa)
List of courses you currently teach: Principles of Marketing, Advanced Marketing Management, Social Media Marketing
TELL US ABOUT YOUR LIFE AS A BUSINESS PROFESSOR
I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… when I was a freshman in college and I sat in the University of Illinois library debating if I should change my major from business to education. That sowed the seed of an idea of doing both business and education. Later, I had the opportunity to volunteer to teach business in Lithuania and that experience was my confirmation that a career in business education was for me.
What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?
Right now, I am researching online education and how best to democratize education to local communities. For me, the most significant thing I have learned from this is that we have no idea how many people truly want to learn, but have not had the opportunity. It has been a fantastic experience being able to reach out and touch so many people’s lives through online education.
If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be… a travel YouTuber helping people get the most out of their travels abroad.
What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?
I truly care about my students and their success. I tell them each semester that it is my job to prepare them for the real world they will be facing, so I try to prepare them the best I can.
One word that describes my first time teaching: Gobsmacked
Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: If you want to truly be successful as a business professor (in terms of educating your students), you need to be a bit CRAZY. CARE about your students, use REALISTIC examples that relate to your students, have ACTUAL experience in your area or find people who do to speak to your students, have a true ZEAL for teaching as students can always tell the professors who actually care about what they teach, and remember that YOU can make all the difference in a student’s academic journey.
Professor I most admire and why: Prof. Tiffany White at the University of Illinois. She is a dedicated researcher, hard-working educator, and a wonderful person. However, what wins the most respect from me is that I have had so many students over the years tell me how she inspired them to be better marketers and better people. She is a true inspiration and I am so proud to be able to call her a friend and colleague.
TEACHING BUSINESS STUDENTS
What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?
I love the focus and tenacity that business students bring to class. You have to be on the ball every class, and be ready for stimulating, hard-hitting, insightful questions and commentary. I love when classes become large discussions about business and marketing topics of the day.
What is most challenging?
Getting students to make their first phone call to their clients in our action learning programs. They will gladly text, email, or direct message, but getting them to physically call and talk to the client for the first time is always the hardest. After the first call, it is completely fine, but that first call always takes a bit of time.
In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Inquisitive
In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Absent
When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… quite fair.
LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM
What are your hobbies?
I travel extensively with my family. And I have a few YouTube channels for various interests.
How will you spend your summer?
My typical summer consists of traveling and teaching.
Favorite place(s) to vacation: Minas Gerais, Brazil, Vicenza, Italy, and Savannah, Georgia.
Favorite book(s): The Lord of the Rings trilogy as it was the first series I read as a child that really made me appreciate the written word. However, if you see me with a book it will most likely be a travel guide to a future travel destination.
What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?
A Christmas Story, because when I lived in Lithuania I had very few English movies at home, and this was one I watched over and over again. I even watch it when it is not the holiday season, much to my wife’s chagrin.
What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why?
My favorite type of music is rock and roll, but I will listen to any genre of music if it has a good beat.
THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS
If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… preparing students for their careers as well as their lives post-college. We should be creating future leaders of industries as well as communities. Therefore, more hands-on training for their jobs with action learning, and helping students understand how they can take their skills and help out in their communities.
In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… helping their employees grow professionally during their whole career, not just during the introduction training period.
I’m grateful for… my family and friends and their continued health.
Faculty, students, alumni, and/or administrators say:
“What other professor in the country would teach for 15 consecutive hours? That’s exactly what Mark Wolters did earlier this spring. He taught his entire Principles of Marketing course straight through – all 15 hours – from his home in order to raise money for the Gies Student Emergency Fund. The fund helps support Gies students facing a personal financial crisis, so they’re able to continue their education uninterrupted. Mark is the epitome of a student-first professor. Year after year, he is one of the most popular undergraduate professors at Gies because of the way he engages students and makes the content relatable to their everyday lives. He’s always friendly, he has a passion for making a difference in the lives of undergraduate students, and he’s always willing to go the extra mile – even if it means teaching for 15 straight hours!” – Aaron Bennett, associate dean of Marketing Communications, University of Illinois Gies College of Business