2017 Top 40 Undergraduate Professors: Paul Seaborn, University of Denver (Daniels)

Paul Seaborn

Assistant Professor of Management

University of Denver, Daniels College of Business

It’s likely that of all the top business schools around the world, there’s only a few places where students engage in open discussion and debate about the effects of cannabis. Yet, conversations about marijuana are commonplace at the University of Denver. This, thanks to Daniels College of Business professor Paul Seaborn. This year he launched the first-ever course at any AACSB-accredited business school about the marijuana industry and business implications surrounding it.

Proving that there’s much more to weed than just the recreational and medicinal uses of it, Seaborn has established a platform for himself as cannabis connoisseur of sorts. He’s an expert on cannabis industry regulation and self-regulation, its influence on the political economy, entrepreneurship, business models, economics of information, and non-market strategy/corporate political activity. He published one of the first business cases focused on the weed industry, specifically looking at outdoor advertising of the drug in Denver. He also created the first-ever Colorado Marijuana Market Report, which analyzed marijuana license data gathered by the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division from 2013 to 2016.

In 2016, Professor Seaborn was the recipient of the Daniels Excellence in Teaching Award and he was one of two finalists for the award in the year prior.

Age: 42

At current institution since: 2011

Education: PhD in Strategic Management, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto 2011; MBA, Ivey School of Business, Western University (London, Ontario, Canada) 2003; BSc, Mathematics with Business, Acadia University (Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada) 1997

List of courses currently teaching: Business & Society, Introduction to Management Consulting, Business of Marijuana – When I taught this course for the first time in Spring 2017 it was the first such course at an AACSB-accredited business school. I will offer it again in Spring 2018.

Fun fact about yourself: Won an 8th grade contest to name a Canadian Coast Guard Ship. I got to travel from Newfoundland to Vancouver, British Columbia to christen the ship at the shipyard.

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…”  I got to know my MBA professors at the Ivey School of Business. I loved my undergraduate math degree but being a business school professor seemed to offer a greater variety of experiences and more opportunities to combine deep knowledge with real-world impact. I had entered the MBA program with a goal of entering strategy consulting so I did that for a few years before returning to academia to become a professor.

“If I weren’t a business school professor…”  I would still be working in strategy consulting, travelling regularly to work with my clients and accumulating lots of frequent flyer points.

“One word that describes my first time teaching…”  Excitement.

What do you enjoy most about teaching undergraduate business students? There seem to be more exciting “wow” and “a-ha” moments with my undergraduate students when they are exposed to a new concept or case for the first time and those are very satisfying.

What is the biggest challenge that comes with teaching undergraduate business students? Most lack the hands-on business experience of our graduate students so it falls to the professor to connect what they are learning in the classroom to the real world.

What is the most impressive thing one of your undergraduate students has done? I am always impressed with my students who have significant family and work obligations yet also manage to excel as full-time students.

What is the least favorite thing one has done? One of my students had a goal of skiing 70 days during one ski season. Our school is on the quarter system which provides a break between U.S. Thanksgiving and New Year’s but even still his goal seemed to impede his success in the classroom.

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class? Fully commit – not just be physically present but actively participate in a way that improves the outcome of the class. As a private school we have quite small class sizes so there is really nowhere for students to hide.

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

“But I would describe myself as …” Thorough and fair!

What are your hobbies? Travel, basketball, skiing, music, coaching our three boys in youth sports

How did you spend your summer?  As usual I made a return trip to Canada to visit family and friends and then attended the annual Academy of Management conference (this year in Atlanta).

Favorite place to vacation:  So many – Costa Rica, South Africa, Bolivia, Eastern Europe and of course Canada.

Favorite book: The Big Short (Michael Lewis), The Last Amateurs (John Feinstein)

Favorite movie and/or television show:  Movies: The Shawshank Redemption (watched it in the theater on a first date with my now-wife Heidi) and Hoop Dreams. Television Show: 24

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist:  As a Canadian living in the U.S. I am partial to Canadian bands. Hey Rosetta, Great Big Sea and The Tragically Hip are my favorites along with Bruce Springsteen. Seeing how much effort and joy Bruce puts into his live performances after so many years is an inspiration for me each time I step into the classroom.

Bucket list item #1: Helicopter skiing

What professional achievement are you most proud of? I received the Daniels Faculty Teaching Excellence Award for 2015-16. There are many excellent teachers at our business school so it was especially meaningful to receive this award early in my career.

What is your most memorable moment as a professor? In 2012, I made a friendly bet with my dissertation co-chair Tim Simcoe at Boston University on the Broncos/Patriot playoff football game. If the Broncos won he had to film himself “Tebowing” like Tim Tebow in front of his students. Unfortunately, the Broncos lost 45-10 so instead I had to film myself doing an enthusiastic Rob Gronkowski spike during my class. Somehow the football bounced straight up and hit the ceiling-mounted video projector so hard it was no longer pointing towards the screen.

Professor you most admire and why: There are many but Anita McGahan at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto stands out. In addition to being an accomplished scholar and teacher she has used her position to tackle the most pressing societal issues. Her presidential speech at this year’s Academy of Management conference was a great example of her willingness to speak out against injustice and effectively advocate for change.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? Because of my focus on business-government issues and firm non-market strategy I have started a research program focused on the emerging legalized marijuana industry. A significant early discovery has been seeing how government regulations regarding vertical integration (either requiring firms to grow/manufacture as well as sell the product or prohibiting them from doing so) affect the early evolution of the industry.

Twitter handle: @pseaborn

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…” Willingness to take risks and embrace new real-world phenomena as they emerge, even if they don’t fit cleanly into our existing departments, degrees, textbooks and journals.

“And much less of this…” Students who are so focused on their course grade and first job that they fail to take risks or pursue opportunities outside of their comfort zone.

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would like for you: Continuing to balance teaching and research in a way that allows me to help my students develop and prepare for successful careers while also serving as a thought leader to those in industry, government and academia.

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