2017 Top 40 Undergraduate Professors: Kristen Collett-Schmitt, Notre Dame (Mendoza)

Kristen Collett-Schmitt

Associate Teaching Professor of Finance and Director of Special Projects

University of Notre Dame, Mendoza College of Business

Kristen Collett-Schmitt teaches microeconomics to undergraduate students at the Mendoza College of Business. Her honors include multiple outstanding undergraduate teaching awards and being credited with designing and launching Mendoza’s first-ever 100% online course for undergrads. Collett-Schmitt’s research activities are in economics education and literacy, encouraging students to develop an interest for economics through the use of real-world applications. Service-wise, she channels this interest by serving as the faculty advisor for MoneyThink, a student organization promoting financial literacy by placing college mentors in local high schools to teach personal finance lessons. Collett-Schmitt also gives back through Wishes for Preemies, a nonprofit organization she founded after the birth of her daughter. The organization provides preemie clothing and other necessities for infants and their families.

Earlier this year, Professor Collett-Schmitt was recognized by The South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce in their annual commemoration of 40 professionals under 40 who have noteworthy achievements in their workplaces and communities.

Age: 36

At current institution since: 2008

Education: Ph.D., Economics – North Carolina State University, 2008; Master of Economics – North Carolina State University, 2004; Bachelor of Arts, Economics and Sociology – Bellarmine University, 2003

List of courses currently teaching: Managerial Economics, Managerial Economics Online, Economics of the Firm (Executive MBA), Economics of the Not-For-Profit Enterprise (Master of Nonprofit Administration)

Fun fact about yourself: I married my high school sweetheart

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…I threw up on my very first day of teaching. I was a teaching assistant for a lab section of principles of economics in my first year of graduate school. I got lost on the giant campus and was late for class, not to mention I had first-day jitters and zero teaching experience. When I finally reached the correct classroom with only 15 minutes to spare, I felt so overwhelmed that I threw up in the grass right outside the building. The fact that I survived that day, and kept coming back for more, meant I had found my passion.”

“If I weren’t a business school professor… I would be a trial attorney. I was a member of and captain for a nationally-ranked mock trial team in college, and my dissertation explores the intersection of law and economics.”

“One word that describes my first time teachingembarrassing.” (I am grateful you only asked for one word, because I don’t want to relive it!)

What do you enjoy most about teaching undergraduate business students? I most enjoy getting to know my undergraduate business students, and even forming friendships with them after graduation. I find that when I know more about my students’ personalities, interests, and challenges, or even how they spend their time outside of the classroom, I become a more effective communicator and educator. I also feel more connected to the larger Mendoza and Notre Dame communities. Additionally, it is a pleasure to see the generosity of my undergraduate business students in action outside of the classroom. I’ve lost count of how many photos with the Notre Dame Leprechaun and autographed game balls my daughter has received because of the kindness of my former students!

What is the biggest challenge that comes with teaching undergraduate business students? The biggest challenges I face in teaching undergraduate business students are the preconceived notions they may have about economics, particularly about its difficulty or applicability to the real world. One of the most rewarding things a student can tell me is that I changed his/her mind, for the better, about economics.

What is the most impressive thing one of your undergraduate students has done? I often say that my undergraduate business students are what I want to be when I grow up! Not only are they all incredibly motivated in the classroom and place well in internships and full-time positions after graduation, but they are also active in academic and service groups outside of the classroom. They are athletically gifted, generous with their time and talents, and establish start-ups and nonprofits – even when enrolled as full-time students. Our undergraduate business students are always answering the call to ask more of business.

What is the least favorite thing one has done? My least favorite thing that any student has done is try to multitask in my classroom, especially using technology. While undergraduate students are incredibly busy and must allocate their time wisely, it is difficult to impress upon them the importance of mindfulness when it comes to performance on assessments.

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class? On the first day of class, I first ask students to be open to the fact that learning is only productive when it’s difficult. To master the difficult material in the course, I encourage them to utilize the plethora of available course resources, which I work hard to deliver effectively and efficiently. I remind students that they control their own success – their ability to learn economics is not predetermined, and I can only do so much. Finally, I encourage them to think about economics outside of the classroom. These habits, along with lots of practice, are likely to lead to a successful semester.

“When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as … Fair

“But I would describe myself as …Discontent. Grading is the absolute worst part of my job, but that’s probably true for most professors.  I like to ask exam questions that give students multiple and varied opportunities to demonstrate their understanding, but that often leads to a lengthy and inefficient grading process. I am constantly searching for new and better assessment methods.

What are your hobbies? Other than spending time with my husband and daughter, I enjoy DIY, keeping up with politics and pop culture, and all things Notre Dame.

How did you spend your summer? My summer involved lots of teaching, a few good books, a new puppy, and family vacation to visit Mickey Mouse.

Favorite place to vacation: The American West.

Favorite book: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (the latter being the namesake of my daughter, Harper).

Favorite movie and/or television show: Dirty Dancing and Mad Men

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: The Dave Matthews Band and Beyoncé

Bucket list item #1: Write an economics textbook, with my husband as the illustrator.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? In the summer of 2016, I created the first 100% online undergraduate core course in the Mendoza College of Business. The goal was to deliver the course online without sacrificing face-to-face interaction or the high quality of a traditional Notre Dame course. In addition, I wanted to give students the opportunity to advance their coursework in the summer to free up other semesters for study abroad and more challenging electives, while still completing summer internships. Based on student feedback, I was largely successful in achieving these goals.

What is your most memorable moment as a professor? Early in my career at Notre Dame, I scheduled an evening Q&A session with students before an exam. My husband suddenly came down with the flu, and I was left with no choice but to bring my infant daughter along. I strapped the three-month old to a baby carrier, hoped for the best, and conducted a two-hour review session with a packed room of students. I worried the entire time that my daughter was distracting the students and they would complain about it at the exam or on course evaluations. But, as soon as the session was over, a handful of students let me know it was inspirational to see a mother and professor literally do it all. I also learned that evening that my kid increases my popularity among students by roughly 200%…

Professor you most admire and why: I am fortunate to have known many scholars who helped shape my teaching philosophy, including faculty at Bellarmine University and North Carolina State University and colleagues in the Mendoza College of Business. However, Dr. Myra McCrickard at Bellarmine University, who was my very first economics professor, will always be the one who gave me the confidence to believe that my gender could not hinder my dreams.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? My current research focuses on economics education. Much of this actually comes from the field of neuroscience. My goal is to apply existing research on how adults learn and remember to the field of economics, where teaching well generally isn’t a focus. One influential finding from this research is that we (adults) have plummeting attention spans, and that boring experiences are rarely remembered. While this may not sound “significant,” it has forced me to change how I deliver economic content in the classroom and motivated new and innovative teaching and assessment methods. I believe that better experiences inside the classroom will encourage students to use more economics outside the classroom.

Twitter handle: Follow me at @NDProfCS and #econwithprofcs

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…” The business school of the future would focus more on building leaders who believe in financial education and its contribution to the economic health of the United States.  

“And much less of this…” The business school of the future would rely less on conventional metrics of achievement and stop stigmatizing failure.  In the startup world, “failing upward” is a reality. I think students can benefit from thinking that way, too.  

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would like for you: My (now 7-year-old) daughter enrolling in the Mendoza College of Business as a freshman. That would be the ultimate culmination of my work as a mother and economist, and a reflection of my adoration for the Notre Dame community.  

Students Say:

“Professor CS is probably the best professor I’ve had at Notre Dame. She genuinely cares about every single one of her students and not only their success in the class, but their understanding of the subject matter. One of the things that really caught my attention about professor CS on the first day of class was how she was applying the research she’d done on learning on us students so that we could learn best. I could tell all of her teaching tactics came from her effort in her research and her desire for us to learn. She made me really enjoy the subject at hand (even though I wasn’t sure if I would), the actual class (even though it was my first class of the day and I was always tired), and made me actually interested in learning the material so that I could apply it in my future job. Most of all, though, Professor CS is an amazing example of a hard working professional and mother and one that I hope to follow.” 

“Professor C-S was one of the most organized and well-spoken professors I’ve had in my time at Notre Dame. Her clarity of communication made the course and its most challenging topics go over smoothly, and her teaching style kept me engaged and truly excited for class every day. We are lucky to have her in Mendoza!”

I had Professor CS for Managerial Econ that I took as an online course over the summer. Even though I had never actually met her in person, I finished the course with the definite conviction that she was one of the best professors I had ever had. Professor CS managed to keep the course engaging throughout, mixing in lecture content with group work and presentations, and throwing in her own examples and “memory pegs” that made the material more memorable.

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