2018 Top 50 Undergraduate Professors: Deborah Good, University of Pittsburgh (Pitt Business)

Deborah Good

Clinical Assistant Professor of Business Administration

University of Pittsburgh, College of Business Administration

Professor Deborah Good is the recipient of the Pitt Business Service Award and Best Teaching awards in both Human Resource Management and General Management. Additionally, she received the school’s Doris & Douglas Bernstein Award for Faculty Teaching Excellence. At the University of Pittsburgh’s College of Business Administration, she is a pillar of the human resources management faculty, teaching courses in general HR, compensation, business communication, employee/labor relations, managing diversity in organizations, and HR analytics. She has also taught a Sports Management course in which students gain the experience of planning, developing, and executing a major sports event. Her students have put on a charity basketball game involving players from the Pittsburgh Steelers versus Pitt students in order to raise thousands of dollars for scholarships. Students offer high reviews for Professor Good’s kindness and a genuine desire to see students succeed.

Age: 60

Education: PhD, Human Resource Management, University of Pittsburgh

At current institution since: 1984

List of courses you currently teach: Human Resources Staffing, Training and Development, Compensation and Performance Management, Fundamentals of Business Communication, Sports Management, Negotiating in Business, Managerial Ethics and Stakeholder Management

What professional achievement are you most proud of? Receiving the student impact award at last year’s spring graduation ceremony.  The award is voted on by the students and the notion that they felt I had influenced them in some way during their stay in our college was overwhelming to me.

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…” I took my first principles of management course.  I was an English major for most of my undergraduate career, but when I had an issue with scheduling student teaching during one semester, I decided to take a business class just to “try it”.  I fell in love with the topic and suddenly I knew I did not want to teach high school English but business at the collegiate level.

“One word that describes my first time teaching…” Scared.  I was concerned I did not have the technical knowledge to convey to students and that my manner of delivery would not resonate with the class.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I work primarily in the Experienced-Based Learning (EBL) area.  As the manner in which students learn and professors deliver information has dramatically shifted since I began teaching, I am curious as to the nature of learning that actually occurs in today’s classrooms.  Further, I am unclear as to an appropriate manner in which such application learning can be evaluated. My interactions with colleagues in my own school as well as at other institutions has “taught” me that such uncertainty with evaluation methods is a common concern among EBL-based professors.  I am currently in the midst of a long range project which aims to understand all aspects of evaluation from what is being done to what should be done and why. I also am currently working on a University-grant funded project with a colleague looking at microaggressions from an identity perspective.

What is your most memorable moment as a professor? My second year at the University of Pittsburgh I had a class which was a mix of traditional and non-traditional students.  A non-traditional student employed at a local corporation in a middle level management position lacked a degree having worked her way up the organization ladder after taking a job upon her high school graduation.  In her late 30s at the time, the student decided she wanted a degree and pursued it part-time at night. Upon the completion of my class, she wrote a letter to the dean of the school complimenting my class and noting the value it added to her personally but how important she felt it was to the development of the young students as a whole.  When the dean shared the letter with me, I was shocked and felt reinforced on the decisions I had made as to content and delivery in that course. As a side note, when the dean called me to the office to share the letter, he presented me with an apple for the teacher (it was glass). I still have that apple on my desk this many years later as a reminder that I must remember the impact I can have and must work hard to ensure I deliver the very best class day after day.

Since you first started teaching, how has business education changed? Business education has changed from being individually centered to be largely characterized by group work (reflecting shifts in the workplace as well).  I frequently see myself now as a facilitator, not a teacher. I work much harder now on the creation of content for my class and less on personally delivering that content as I lecture only part of a class now and offer exercises that are completed and debriefed to fill the class time frame.

“If I weren’t a business school professor, I would be…” A high school teacher.  I have wanted to be a teacher my entire life.  As a child I “taught” my stuffed animal students during my play time.  My mother frequently tells me I have been teaching all my life.

“Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a professor”: That being a professor is like being an actor.  You perform every day. It takes creativity and a tremendous amount of energy to engage your audience and have them take away key concepts.  

Name of the professor you most admire and why: A number of my colleagues are fabulous teachers and I greatly admire them.  However, the professor I admire the most is one I had many years ago. His name was David Butt and he was a Speech Communications Professor at Penn State in 1977 and beyond.  I had David for a required Speech Communication class then served as his teaching assistant in a subsequent semester. David was so innovative and forward looking. I did EBL projects in 1977. Indeed, I worked harder in his course than I did in some of my doctoral seminars but I never noticed how much I was working because I enjoyed it so much.  David was incredible at creating lesson plans, projects, exams and exercises and then delivered them in a way I could only hope to emulate. To this day he is my favorite professor and the individual I admire most in the profession.

What do you enjoy most about teaching undergraduate business students? I know that I am preparing them for their jobs.  And, I know that because I get phone calls, letters and email messages thanking me for preparing them for what they are doing in  their jobs. So, I know that if I offer them a challenging project, they deliver and I enjoy seeing them reach that level of success.  

What’s the biggest challenge? Reaching those students who do not want to be in business as a major or even in college as a whole.

What is the most impressive thing one of your undergraduate students has done? I currently have a student who took to the segments of human resource analytics I introduced into our upper level HR classes like a “sponge to water”.  She took each database I presented and spent hours understanding the nature of the database and, most importantly, developing the ability to create interesting questions from that data.  She took an internship with PwC this summer and very quickly demonstrated to them her outstanding capabilities with various HR analytics to the point that she was given roles on projects run by senior HR specialists.  Her performance was so outstanding that the firm is keeping her on for various projects in a remote capacity this fall and she has been offered an outstanding job offer for placement following graduation in April.

A second student also impressed me with her singular focus on using her superior skill set in HR exclusively for non-profit firms. This student was one of our top students in the HR area and was heavily recruited by a consulting firm.  But though the salary was definitely a “top salary” for undergraduates, she chose to reject the offer from the consulting firm and work in a local non-profit because of her passion for the area and her desire to make an immediate difference using the HR field.  That singular focus is impressive to me.

What is the least favorite thing one has done? I had a student that dressed in a Spider Man costume and proceeded to try and scale the outside of a multi-story building near campus “just because he could”.

Since you’ve been teaching, how have students changed over the years?  They do not read assigned articles, textbooks or any other reading material today.  Instead they reference the Internet for all information. They don’t complete homework unless they get credit for it and any assignment must clearly have value to be addressed.  They constantly argue for points and often equate the amount of time spent on a project to high grades as opposed to high quality equaling high grades. In short, time spent is actually equated to quality attained.  On the flip side, now students are fabulous when it comes to hands-on projects for clients and they want value for their money and need to see how what is done in class translates to what they will do on the job or how what they do in class will help them get that job.  Students reject lectures and crave exercises. Students want to be satisfied in their jobs as much as they want to make money and they now recognize that they must select a company as much as the company selects them.

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class? They must demonstrate technical knowledge (knowledge of terminology, models, theory) and then apply it in a real world scenario.  They must explain the processes they use in implementing a program or plan, and clearly rationalize those processes using evidence from the learning material at hand.  

“When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as …” Demanding but fair.  They also would suggest that I take the time to not just give them a score on an assignment but to comment on what they have done, what was good about it, what fell a bit short and what they could contemplate doing in the future to correct their errors.

If your teaching style/classroom experience had a theme song, what would it be? The theme from Rocky.  I want students to be passionate about my subject area and business in general.

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

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

“If my students can make informed decisions, then I’ve done my job as their professor.”

Fun fact about yourself: I collect Hallmark Christmas ornaments and have been doing so since 1976.

What are your hobbies? Reading, crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, watching hockey, football and baseball at the collegiate and professional level both in person and on TV.

How did you spend your summer? Preparing for a new class I was teaching, teaching an online course, reading romance novels and relaxing at my pool.

Favorite place to vacation: Disney World

Favorite book: Little Women

Favorite movie and/or television show: The Big Bang Theory

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: Barbara Streisand

Bucket list item #1: Attending a National Championship Football Game

What’s the biggest challenge facing business education at the moment? Developing the skill sets in our students that are needed by companies to be productive today and innovative tomorrow.

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…” A curriculum that emphasizes the importance of analytics but also constantly recognizes that behind every number analyzed or generated in business is a person.  Thus more attention to and courses to develop interpersonal skills.

“And much less of this…” Classes that require students to do nothing more than simply parrot back what a professor has told students.

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would be like for you: I will feel I have succeeded if I know that in some way I have made a difference in a student’s life and that I have developed a piece of curriculum (course, program) that will remain in place after I have left.  But most of all that someone would say, we miss her and what she brought to the students and this school.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.