2017 Top 40 Undergraduate Professors: William Coyle, Babson College

William Coyle

Associate Professor Accounting & Law

Babson College

Had someone told William Coyle that he’d end up a business school professor and an expert on all things Russia as a major force in global business, he’d wouldn’t have believed them. Yet, after graduating with an MBA, “I had Wall Street opportunities for good pay, but I passed that up to be a poor PhD student,” he said in a 2015 article. Coyle reflects on the visit to Russia that sparked his unexpected obsession with the country. “This is a country that is never boring. It touches three continents, employs a strong military, serves as a key supplier of gas and oil to Europe, and enjoys veto power on the U.N. Security Council.” As a result, Coyle has led 30 groups of Babson MBA and undergraduate students to Russia, totaling more than 800 students.

Inside the classroom, where he teaches accounting Financial Accounting and Auditing to undergraduate students, he is highly regarded. He’s known for his storytelling and humor. As one student put it, “GREAT professor, very persuasive and hilarious, everyone loves him, I DEFINITELY RECOMMEND HIM.”

Age: 61

At current institution since: 1992

Education: BBA in Accounting at the University of Notre Dame, 1977; MBA in Finance from Cornell University, 1983; Ph.D in Accounting, minor in Psychology from Texas A&M University, 1993

List of courses currently teaching: Undergraduate: Financial Accounting, Auditing, Business Environment in Russia; Graduate: MSA Advanced Accounting Topics

Fun fact about yourself: I started playing golf at 9 years old and I am still trying to figure it out.

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…” I became a TA at Cornell during my MBA Program

“If I weren’t a business school professor…” I’d be clueless and sad

“One word that describes my first time teaching…” Excited/Nervous

What do you enjoy most about teaching undergraduate business students? Helping them learn and maybe in a small way changing their lives like a professor I had in college

What is the biggest challenge that comes with teaching undergraduate business students? Making an inherently boring subject as financial accounting relevant and enjoyable

What is the most impressive thing one of your undergraduate students has done? Became a Rhodes Scholar

What is the least favorite thing one has done? Violate the Honor Code at Babson

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class? Be an enthusiastic learner, work hard and ask questions when they need help

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

“But I would describe myself as …” Tough, fair and understanding

What are your hobbies? Golf and learning all the things 5 year olds love to do and watch

How did you spend your summer? Taking care of my family

Favorite place to vacation: Ireland

Favorite book: The Harry Potter books because it got American children to rediscover the joy of reading and I learned about quiditch

Favorite movie and/or television show: Apollo 13 and The Rachel Maddow Show

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: Elton John

Bucket list item #1: Get a hole in one and play a round of golf with my son when he gets old enough

What professional achievement are you most proud of? Leading students to Russia every year since 1996

What is your most memorable moment as a professor? Teaching oil executives from Kazakhstan that there are no secrets in a 10K report

Professor you most admire and why: Bob Swieringa, the professor I was a TA for at Cornell. He taught me the joy and pride of being a college professor

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? Teaching Auditing Simultaneously to Babson and Russian Undergraduate Students. It is difficult to make both sets of students engaged in the course, especially those that I am not physically present at. The students need to buy into the process and the opportunities available to learn from each other.

Twitter handle: Sorry, I don’t do Twitter

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…” International Business using technology in real-time to be in class with students from around the world.

“And much less of this…” Mired in the technical detail and the rules

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would like for you

First, my family is doing well. Second, I have written a book or two about my experience and opinions of Russia and Ukraine. Third, the students who have taken my course(s) find value in what they experienced.

Students say…

“Professor Coyle made subjects that one might not consider fascinating, fun and approachable. His infectious energy and sense of humor kept me and my fellow classmates not only awake but engaged and fully participating. Babson is extremely lucky to have a professor that is not only effective, but extraordinary.”

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