2021 Best Undergraduate Professors: Mahfuja Malik, Sacred Heart University, Jack Welch College of Business & Technology

Mahfuja Malik

Sacred Heart University, Jack Welch College of Business & Technology

“Professor Malik is a G.O.A.T when it comes to college professors. I had Professor Malik during the start of the pandemic last year and she did whatever she had to do to ensure her students were learning and understanding the difficult materials. She never gave up on her students. Whether that was personal Zoom meetings to go over what you didn’t understand or just staying an extra 5 minutes past class to make sure her students were ok. It is safe to say I wouldn’t be where I am in my career without her mentorship.” – Mary Magliozzi, student

Mahfuja Malik, 42, is Associate Professor of Accounting and Director of the Master’s in Accounting Program at the Jack Welch College of Business & Technology at Sacred Heart University. She has been at Sacred Heart since 2014.

She has a PhD in Accounting from Boston University, an MBA in International Finance from Brandeis University,  and a BBA and MBA in Finance from University of Dhaka. Courses she currently teaches include Advanced Accounting, Managerial Accounting, Governmental and Not-for-Profit Accounting, and Honors Research Capstone.

While many colleagues nominated Malik for this honor, most of her 25 nominations came from students, who effusively praised both her effectiveness in the classroom and her dedication to students outside of it. Here is a small sample: 

  • “Professor Malik has by far been the most caring, innovative, intelligent professor I have come across in my years at Sacred Heart University. Her teaching skills along with her strong willingness to support her students within and beyond the classroom has been life changing.” – Nicole Bruzik
  • Throughout my five years at SHU, she has served as a role model, confidante, and advisor. Because I am a first-generation student, I have had many fears and uncertainties as a student; Professor Malik has gone out of her way to be a caring professor and has made every effort to assist as much as she can. She even encouraged me to pursue my MSA. Simply said, she is outstanding!” – Valerie Sotelo
  • “Professor Malik is the most enjoyable and most effective professor I had at Sacred Heart University. She is engaging, incredibly knowledgeable, and will only move on to the next topic when every student is ready. She frequently sends out job openings to all of her accounting students to help with their job searches.” –  Jared Grillo

Malik’s research has appeared in many high-quality journals such as Accounting Horizons, Journal of Corporate Finance, Advances in Management Accounting, Asia-Pacific Journal of Accounting & Economic, and Managerial Finance, etc. She also won several research awards either at her school or at American Accounting Association. 

She is a Fulbright Scholar and winner of numerous prestigious academic and teaching awards including the Prime Minister’s Gold Medal (the highest academic award bestowed by the University of Dhaka in her native Bangladesh) and the 2021 Inclusive Teaching Fellowship from Sacred Heart.

LIFE AS A BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSOR

I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… My father was a professor of literature in Bangladesh, and I grew up in a household full of books, reading classic literature from around the world. By example, my father showed me the impact that one can have as a professor by inspiring young minds to think outside the box, and playing an integral part in the evolution of tomorrow’s leaders. Thus, I was inspired to follow in my father’s footsteps. Although his passion was literature, mine was business education. My aspiration to become a business school professor subsequently led me to attend a business school for my undergraduate degree. While I was mostly attracted to the rapid and ever-changing nature of the business field, I was also deeply fascinated by the problem-solving and decision-making skills that I learnt during my studies. After graduation, I continued to reflect on how fulfilling it would be to educate young minds, and became more determined than ever to achieve my calling as a business school professor. 

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? My current research focuses on corporate social responsibility (CSR), climate change risk management, carbon emission disclosure policies, and the impacts of these firm-level decisions on corporate value and performance. I also research corporate governance, earnings management, top executives’ compensation, and financial crises. One of my notable research findings established a theory on the value-enhancing capabilities of CSR, where I showed that companies can benefit from conducting businesses ethically and promoting social and environmental initiatives for the common good of society. A paper that I published on this work has since been cited over 500 times and downloaded 10,000+ times by various scholars worldwide. My goal is to always conduct research that has large-scale impacts and can benefit overall society. 

If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be… If I weren’t a business school professor, I would be a writer. When I was a child, my father used to read Shakespeare to me and explain the true meaning of each line. Although I could not fully comprehend it at the time, I understood that writers have the unique capability of ensnaring the reader and influencing their mind; consequently, I dreamed of becoming a best-selling author. 

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? Being a college professor is not only about content expertise and delivering lectures, but also about the impact that one has on their students’ lives. I consider each classroom session as an opportunity to make a positive contribution to the development of my students. I invest a considerable amount of time in getting to know my students and understanding their learning style. I believe that students learn best when the teaching method matches their learning style. Therefore, I carefully plan every class session ahead of time and make sure every minute of my class is utilized properly.

I divide each class into different teaching methods, such as traditional lecture, use of digital pedagogical tools, hands-on problem solving, critical thinking, and discussions, to enable students to utilize the method that is most effective for their respective learning style and engage themselves efficiently. I have observed first-hand that when lessons are supplemented with hands-on activities, students leave the classroom with better understanding and cognition. 

It is also important to motivate our students properly and establish a relationship with them both inside and outside the classroom. I want to make sure my students feel comfortable in my classroom and can approach me without hesitation whenever they need help. I hope that my enthusiasm and sincere efforts to provide the best learning experience motivate my students to appreciate the content that they are learning. 

Showing support and care is also a necessity. Especially during these years of unprecedented disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have learned the importance of empathy and kindness. No curriculum is as effective as a caring and compassionate professor.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Excitement! Truly speaking, I experienced no anxiety or nervousness. On the first day of my teaching, I was totally overwhelmed with positive energy and excitement.

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: Developing a work-life balance is essential and not at all trivial. I wish someone had told me that university professors do not have ample free time and extreme flexibility, and that working in academia is by no means low-stress or relaxing. We need to be dedicated to our work and allocate our time appropriately to balance research, teaching, and service. 

Professor I most admire and why: There are three professors whom I most admire: Prof. Osman Imam, Prof Benjamin Gomes-Casseres, and Prof. Eddie Riedl. Prof. Osman Imam was my undergraduate and grad school professor at the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh. His enthusiasm and excitement to teach left a lasting impression on me. He is such a dedicated professor, and I always strive to be like him. Prof. Benjamin Gomes-Casseres, whom I met at Brandeis University, is a skillful and efficient educator who engages students very effectively in classroom discussions. His teaching approaches made every minute of the class deeply enjoyable. Lastly, Prof. Eddie Riedl, whom I met at Boston University while doing my PhD, taught me by example the importance of establishing meaningful connections with your students to show them you care.

TEACHING BUSINESS SCHOOL STUDENTS

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? The most enjoyable part about teaching business students is that they are goal-oriented and future-driven. They are well-informed about their career prospects, and most of them develop a professional mind-set during their college years. 

What is most challenging? Sometimes, students are extremely focused on their grades rather than learning. Often, when students try to find shortcuts to achieving a good grade, they compromise their learning opportunities and lose the excitement and joy of learning.

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Hardworking. 

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

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… A fair grader. It is easy to grade quantitative problems or a paper with a rubric, whereas grading is difficult when it involves subjective judgment such as presentations or class participation. I consistently endeavor to be consistent and fair and ensure that all grades are returned in a timely manner. Additionally, I believe students should be well-informed about their academic performance and progress throughout the semester.

LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM

What are your hobbies? Reading books and watching documentaries.

How will you spend your summer? Spending time on research and traveling.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: My home country, Bangladesh.

Favorite book(s):I love to read historical fiction and short stories. My favorite authors are Leo Tolstoy, O. Henry, Edgar Allan Poe, and Rabindranath Tagore. I also enjoy nonfiction social science, and one of my recent favorites in this genre is Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum.

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? I recently watched a Netflix original series called Maid. The show is based on a true story about a single mother who starts housecleaning to escape an abusive relationship and provide a better life for her daughter. Later, she ends up at her dream college and starts a new life. The story is heartbreaking but very powerful and inspiring. The message I got from this series is that each person is the master of their own life; by taking charge, and with consistent determination and hard work, anyone can transform their life for the better.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? I love country music and music in my native language. While I do not have any specific favorite artists, I love to listen to slow and melodious songs, as I think music is excellent for soothing the heart.

THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS

If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… The business school of the future should incorporate a curriculum on social justice. Our current business education is predominantly focused on honing students’ technical skills and teaching them how to maximize economic benefits or financial profits. However, this has resulted in many students becoming more materialistic and individualistic. Therefore, it is necessary to incorporate more ethical and moral learning into the business curriculum. Business students should learn more about important contemporary issues such as corporate social responsibility, climate change, diversity & inclusion, workplace equity, passionate leadership, and overall the moral obligations that are intrinsic to being a good global citizen

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… Companies today need to train professionals to consider the impact of their roles on society. Business professionals and executives should be encouraged to care about improving society as well as meeting their earning targets. Every decision can impact various stakeholders, and business organizations should increasingly prioritize what is best for the greater interest of the society, not the interest of an individual or a specific organization. When we serve for the sake of others rather than ourselves, the world becomes a better place.

I’m grateful for… I am most grateful for my two beautiful children, my supportive husband, my wonderful friends, and, especially, my mom, who has always encouraged me to be confident and optimistic in every situation.

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