2018 Top 50 Undergraduate Professors: Carrie Heilman, University of Virginia (McIntire)

Carrie Heilman

Associate Professor of Marketing

University of Virginia, McIntire School of Commerce

One of McIntire’s most popular classes is helmed by one of its most popular faculty: marketing professor Carrie Heilman. The beloved professor teaches Promotions, a yearlong deep dive into market research and advertising strategy that ends with a competitive showing in the National Student Advertising Competition. In recent years, the McIntire team has advanced to the finals more than once, clinching first place in 2016, second place in 2018, and third place in 2013. Student comments revere Heilman for balancing her rigorous standards with very generous guidance that often extends well beyond normal business hours. Because of the special mix of teamwork, real client interaction, and tremendous mentorship that Heilman brings to the experience, students say they leave the class feeling prepared for their careers.

Age: 47

Education: BS in Mathematics, College of the Holy Cross; PhD in Marketing, Krannert School of Management, Purdue University

At current institution since: 2003

List of courses you currently teach: Brand Management (in M.S. Commerce Program); Advertising and Promotions (2 semester, 9 credit program for undergraduate seniors)

What professional achievement are you most proud of? There have been many “big moments” (e.g., winning a “best paper” award for my dissertation, publishing my first paper, winning the National Student Advertising Competition).  However, I really cherish simply watching my former students grow to become leaders in the business world and then having them return to share that I had some small part in that journey.  Additionally, I am simply proud of raising four amazing kids while also accomplishing many professional milestones, none of which would be possible without the support of my family, and especially my selfless husband.  

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…”  My dad was a business school college professor and I remember sitting in his class when I was in middle school and thinking it seemed like a fun and energizing profession.  Additionally, even at that young age I recognized that he had a lot of control over his own time, which of course was appealing. Later in life I began tutoring my peers in math and coaching younger kids in the sport of basketball and I realized how much I enjoyed teaching others and having to explain complex topics in simple terms.    

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

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? One paper I am working on right now examines how the dynamics of the longitudinal history of a consumer’s shopping basket expenditures at a retailer (e.g., increasing at an increasing rate, inverted-U, decreasing over time, etc.) can be used to make more accurate predictions about future shopping behavior than previously believed.    

What is your most memorable moment as a professor? Hearing, “and first place goes to….the University of Virginia” at the 2016 National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC). To win a competition in which over 150 schools compete was surreal.  It is extremely gratifying to work so closely with a group of students over the entire year, to see them put their hearts and souls into their work, and then to witness their satisfaction when a group of industry professionals validates their work like that.  

Since you first started teaching, how has business education changed? The biggest change is the speed with which the business landscape is changing.  Topics I am teaching this semester (e.g., the nuances of social media platforms, innovative uses of technology to reach consumers, etc.) could be completely different next semester.     

“If I weren’t a business school professor, I would be…” A brand manager at a consumer packaged goods (CPG) company or a basketball coach

“Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a professor”: It’s not as easy as it looks.

Name of the professor you most admire and why: Professor Jack Lindgren, former marketing professor at the McIntire School of Commerce.  Jack taught me the importance of pushing students beyond that which they thought they were capable, knowing in the end that they would eventually thank me for it.    

What do you enjoy most about teaching undergraduate business students? Undergraduate students are involved in a wide range of activities around the University, they are typically taking classes in other disciplines outside of the business school, and they tend to have eclectic backgrounds.  Because of this, they bring a diverse and vibrant perspective to the educational experience and to classroom discussion.

What’s the biggest challenge? Getting 21 year olds to appreciate that 11:00am is not early.   

What is the most impressive thing one of your undergraduate students has done? I am impressed with my students every day and feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to teach and interact with engaging and intelligent young people as part of my job.  

What is the least favorite thing one has done? One time a student sent me an email during class while sitting right in front of me in the front row.    

Since you’ve been teaching, how have students changed over the years? Students today are extremely informed given they have unlimited information right at their fingertips.  

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class? My undergraduate classes are very experiential.  Therefore, in addition to simply knowing the material, students need to be able to apply what they have learned to solve real and ambiguous business problems with strategic and creative solutions.   

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as …”  Tough, but only because I want them to learn and grow as students and as people.

If your teaching style/classroom experience had a theme song, what would it be? “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” by Cyndi Lauper

Using just one word, describe your favorite type of student: Industrious

Using just one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Apathetic

“If my students can identify the right questions to ask in order to solve ambiguous business problems, then I’ve done my job as their professor.”

Fun fact about yourself: I was a Division I scholarship athlete (women’s basketball) at The College of the Holy Cross.

What are your hobbies? Spending time with my family traveling and playing sports

How did you spend your summer? I spent most of my summer preparing our business school for our five-year AACSB reaccreditation review, working on some research projects, and attending my kids’ sporting events.  We were fortunate to take a week-long family vacation in August as well.

Favorite place to vacation: Any place is a good place if you are on vacation!

Favorite book: On the topic of advertising, my favorite book is, “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This.”

Favorite movie and/or television show: The Office

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: Whatever my eight-year-old daughter and eleven-year-old son are listening to at the time.

Bucket list item #1: To simply travel more, ideally internationally.

What’s the biggest challenge facing business education at the moment? Keeping up with technological changes that are affecting all disciplines of business.

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…” experiential learning opportunities for students, something at which the McIntire School excels.

“And much less of this…” students on their cell phones.

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would be like for you: Honestly, if in ten years I can simply be doing what I am doing today, I will feel pretty lucky and happy. I love my job most days and not too many people can say that.

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