2020 Best Undergraduate Business Professors: Matthew David Bailey, Bucknell University

Matthew Bailey of Bucknell University is a 2020 Poets&Quants Best Undergraduate Business School Professor

Matthew David Bailey

Professor and Department Chair of Analytics and Operations Management, Lindback Chair in Business Administration

Freeman College of Management, Bucknell University

Problem-solving is something Bucknell University’s Matthew Bailey is passionate about. So after teaching in engineering, Bailey decided the business school setting would be more conducive to that problem-solving. “My first academic position was in engineering, but I found that my focus on the problem and the subsequent managerial insight was better suited within the business school environment,” Bailey says.

Not surprisingly, Bailey is an analytics and operations management professor at the Freeman College of Management. “Most recently I’ve been involved in a series of research projects tied to resource allocation decisions for small non-profit organizations,” Bailey says. “The greatest discovery has been observing just how much value business analytics can offer to smaller organizations lacking the resources of their larger for-profit counterparts.”

Bailey was picked to this year’s list for his impact in the classroom, greater university, and with the students and alumni that nominated him.

Current age: 46

At current institution since what year? 2007

Education: Ph.D. Industrial and Operations Engineering, University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

List of courses you currently teach: Data Visualization for Business Analytics, Predictive Analytics, Spreadsheet Modeling & Data Analysis, Operations Management

LIFE AS A BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSOR

I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I’ve always enjoyed the challenge and satisfaction of solving problems. Teaching at a business school allows me to work with students and organizations to pursue that passion. My first academic position was in engineering, but I found that my focus on the problem and the subsequent managerial insight was better suited within the business school environment.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?

Most recently I’ve been involved in a series of research projects tied to resource allocation decisions for small non-profit organizations (education, tutoring services, healthcare, etc.). The greatest discovery has been observing just how much value business analytics can offer to smaller organizations lacking the resources of their larger for-profit counterparts. A significant amount of staff and leadership time is needlessly spent on tasks well outside their areas of expertise. The consequences of this wasted time are further compounded throughout the organization by the eventual implementation of a poorly planned (or incorrect) allocation of resources.

If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be… Likely a high school mathematics teacher. I had a minor in mathematics education and completed the necessary coursework and service right up to the student teaching module. In the end the opportunity to continue my education within graduate school was too alluring.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?

I am passionate about my field of study.  I sincerely enjoy working on problems for research and for class. I also understand that not everyone is as passionate about it and students may come to the subject with some preconceived notions about their capabilities. I try to break that barrier down as best I can by focusing on the fundamental relationships and relationships to their own lives. I look for areas where students are already unconsciously applying course concepts in their personal lives, e.g., how they organize their work when faced with a variety of deadlines across several courses shows a natural understanding of the operations management concept of batching.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Anxious

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: It’s been said many times, but don’t assume students share the motivations you (mis)remember having at their age. Try to meet them where they are. Find their motivations and interests and make connections in any way you can.

Professor I most admire and why: I’ve been fortunate to be around many amazing scholars and teachers. What I have always admired are those that have achieved that level of success, but still treat people with care and respect whether they are graduate students or peers. Using that criterion, the first that comes to my mind is John Birge at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

TEACHING BUSINESS SCHOOL STUDENTS

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

I think it is true of all students, but getting them to the point where they “buy in” and realize the inherent value, relevance, and (perhaps even) beauty of a topic.

What is most challenging?

Getting over the hump of “I am going to do ____, so I don’t need this course” with students. The occasional student that has no interest in taking that journey described above.

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Gritty

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Uncompromising

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

LIFE OUTSIDE OF THE CLASSROOM

What are your hobbies?

I enjoy being active outdoors with my family. I used to do a lot of distance running, but it has become more hiking and walking our dog lately. I also enjoy the mental break and challenge of golf. I didn’t start playing until my thirties and I am not very good, but it is a good mental escape for a couple hours.

How will you spend your summer?

Like many others – on Zoom. I’m consumed with university planning for the fall semester while also stressing about preparing new classes for the fall for our new Business Analytics major.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Northern Michigan. Specifically, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore area. I’ve been visiting there each year since I was a kid and my kids have fully embraced it. It is just a great place to recharge.

Favorite book(s): I really enjoy books on topics within behavioral economics and the psychology of decision making. Books about the human side of decision making. For example, Predictably Irrational, Nudge, Thinking Fast and Slow, Freakonomics, etc.

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?

Better Call Saul. It is not quite as good as Breaking Bad, but the acting and writing are excellent in both. I really appreciate the ability of both shows (and Ozark too) to get you emotionally invested in the success of people who are really quite awful.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why?

I am often given a lot of grief for only listening to sad songs, but I really enjoy good singer songwriters: Elliott Smith, Nick Drake, Aimee Mann, Ben Folds, etc.. If the music gets too dark, I’ll also add some classic rock into the mix: Bob Seger, Bruce Springsteen, etc.

THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS

If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… Upper-level students working in truly multidisciplinary teams. More project-based courses or capstones with students from the arts, humanities, engineering, science, social sciences, etc. As students approach their final years at school, their focus narrows on their major and/or their career. For the good of society and organizations, students need to understand the value of diverse opinions and skill sets by learning to work with students from a broad spectrum of fields and interests.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… The clearest answer, given the ongoing social movement, is doing a better job at addressing issues regarding diversity and inequity. Related to this and my comment above is to better leverage the power of analytics by being aware of both its great benefits (efficiency) and great dangers (codifying bias).

I’m grateful for… My colleagues and leadership at Bucknell University. The faculty and staff are very passionate and dedicated to our mission.

Students, alumni, faculty, and administrators say:

“Professor Bailey completely reframed how I view the world and how I make decisions. No matter how complex a problem, he is able to simplify it in terms of risk/reward and objectives/constraints. This framework brings focus, objectivity, and clarity to any problems I encounter in life, whether they be academic, managerial, or even personal or philosophical. Professor Bailey is also responsible for a significant amount of my technical development. He has a brilliant way of contextualizing the capabilities of tools such as tableau or excel, explaining how and why they work, rather than teaching them as a means to an end. Overall, he is not just an analytics professor who teaches his students how to use excel. He teaches students how to think objectively, holds them to high professional standards, and builds good analytical habits that are important for both business and society.”

“Professor Bailey deserves this nomination as he truly helped me excel both in his class but also once I had completed it. He took the time to ask about our days and what was going on in our lives, and truly tried to make the material as engaging as possible. The class I took with him was a foundation seminar, which at Bucknell is for first year students. While the different options are on a variety of topics, the main focus is developing writing skills and helping to facilitate the transition to the school. As a result, Professor Bailey’s passion for the subject of decision making could truly shine through. Each day in class we were presented with new challenges which I found as a useful way to learn relevant information. Having completed the class, my perspective on my day to day actions have changed, and I notice myself applying what I learned for even the smallest actions. One activity we did was determining the value individuals placed on a mug. While at first it may seem trivial, we ended up exchanging actual money. As a result, I feel that the activity had a larger impact on me. In the end, Professor Bailey continues to be a valuable resource for me at Bucknell. I know he has my best interest in mind, as well as those of all the other students. He provides valuable advice that I continue to utilize often.”

“I have had the distinct luxury of having Professor Bailey for three different classes at Bucknell. All three of his classes I took were different in terms of material taught. However, each of the three highlighted his specialization in the subject matter and true dedication to the students in the class. He was able to hold my interest in all of the classes I took and showed me how each of the skills I learned in class can be applied to the real world. I have learned a tremendous amount of new skills from Professor Bailey’s classes that will make me successful in a career in accounting and finance. I thank him for his time and dedication to the subject and there is no question in my mind that he should win this award.”