Ross Reflections: 5 Most Impactful Business Classes I’ve Taken

Professor Marcus Collins teaching an undergraduate class

As I enter my second semester at the Ross School of Business, I wanted to take some time to reflect on a handful of the most impactful classes I’ve taken at Ross.

Now, I say “impactful” rather than “favorite” because I did not necessarily enjoy the classes’ subject matter. Instead, I either found the professor to be phenomenal or the class concepts to be very applicable to my everyday life.

In this column, I’ll be sharing the biggest takeaways I gained from each class and why I found each class to be impactful. I also had the opportunity to interview my professors to hear their thoughts about teaching at business school. (Disclaimer: I took all of these classes over Zoom and these classes are listed in no particular order.).

1. MKT 409: Social Media Marketing

This is a popular elective class at Ross. I think the name of this course speaks for itself for why it’s such a highly coveted class that students actually bid points to take it.

Yes, you heard me right. BBA seniors are allocated 1,000 points that they are allowed to use to bid on classes. This is to ensure that students are enrolled in classes they need to take before they graduate (i.e. floating core classes). It also gives students a chance to really demonstrate their strong interest in taking certain business electives. In my case, I bid 400 points to take this class.

MKT 409 is such a popular class because the professor, Marcus Collins, is simply a Ross icon. He is an engaging and dynamic speaker who generates lively class discussion (even over Zoom!). Fun fact: he once worked with Beyoncé! If that doesn’t scream icon, I don’t know what does.

I feel like the name of this course was a little misleading to its actual content, though. I thought I would be learning about different social media strategies to employ and how to get the best engagement on different platforms. However, I am happy that’s not what this course was about at all.

This class revealed that marketing is truly about understanding people. One of the biggest takeaways that I got from this course was that “social is people.” Let me explain. People are composed of networks. Marketers are in the business of “getting people to move.” Simply put, our jobs as marketers are to influence networks of people. People are influenced by their networks of friends, family, sorority sisters, fraternity brothers – you get it. If we want to get people to move, you need to influence their networks.

This class was impactful because we’re always going to need to understand people and this class provided me with a methodology to better understand people and their networks.

Professor Marcus Collins

Meet Professor Collins 

How long have you been teaching at Ross? Since Winter 2016

What is your favorite thing about teaching? Helping people realize their potential to the highest fidelity possible. It is the greatest service I could ever do.

What is the biggest takeaway that you want students to take away from your class? Marketing is all about people. If we want to be better marketers then we have to better understand people. This is, as W.E.B. Dubois says, the tragedy of the age. We know so little about people, and as a result, the marketing suffers. I would go as far as to say if you don’t understand people then you likely don’t understand business altogether.

As a student, what was your favorite business class and what was your most valuable takeaway from it? My favorite business class was a research method’s course I took during my MBA program that focused on using non-traditional means of market research to better understand the user-experience and consumer journey. It was the first time I can remember consciously applying empathy to my work.

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: Design your course for the perspective that you want students to learn, not for the content you want to cover.

When did you know when you wanted to be a business school professor? I had ZERO intention of being a professor. I was working in the world of advertising for some of the biggest brands on the planet—McDonald’s, AB-InBev, Google, etc. A career in academia was likely one of the furthest things on my mind. Professor John Branch asked me to visit Ross and share my successes as an advertising executive in the form of a guest lecture for one of his classes. Being my favorite professor during my MBA program, I naturally agreed and headed back to Ann Arbor to visit my alma mater with some advice for students in-hand. I felt so intrinsically motivated watching students’ eyes light-up during my lecture that it reminded me of how I felt putting ideas in the work as an advertiser—except I wasn’t selling burgers and soda. I was making a dent in people’s lives. I was hooked immediately and decided to invest myself in the academy.

2. MKT 313: Consumer Behavior

I took this class because the name intrigued me. I’ve always been fascinated by what drives consumers to make certain purchasing decisions. How do we influence consumers? What gets them to move?

MKT 313 was one of the most impactful classes I’ve taken at Ross because it allowed me to pursue something that I’ve always wanted to start, which is a personal blog. This class assignment allowed me to vocalize my thoughts and express my creativity by choosing the blog layout, what pictures to feature, fonts to use, and so on.

Aside from the blog aesthetics, one of the biggest takeaways I got from this class was the importance of delivering value to your consumers. Everything that you put out should have some kind of value-add. For example: our blog assignment had to include pictures, links, and media – anything that would add value for our readers. It’s important to be intentional and thoughtful about the content that you are sharing.

I also enjoyed this class immensely because the professor, Amy Angell, is super engaging and encouraging. She really takes the time to invest in her students and makes it a personal point to demonstrate her interest in her students. I loved her class (and her) so much that I signed up to take my senior capstone class, MKT 430: Strategic Marketing for Product and Brand Managers, with her this semester!

UM Ross Faculty Amy Angell, Lecturer, Marketing

Meet Professor Angell

How long have you been teaching at Ross? Since Fall 2014

What is your favorite thing about teaching? It was applying my experiences from a diverse set of higher education institutions, sharing my field sales and consulting experiences, implementing action learning assignments, and learning from a varied group of colleagues to prepare students professionally and even personally. But probably what I like even more than this is staying relevant by listening and learning from my students and allowing them to make a difference in my life as much as I am trying to make a difference in theirs. After all, it’s always about our relationships!

What is the biggest takeaway that you want students to take away from your class? In order to truly understand purchase behavior, we must know what the customer values and why. But before we can address this, we need to make sure we know who our customer is and what their job-to-be-done is.

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: That knowing the questions is more important than knowing the answers.

When did you know when you wanted to be a business school professor? I didn’t! A friend of mine who taught accounting at a local community college kept telling me that I should teach there. I actually didn’t think I’d like it or be good at it, but due to her persistence I applied and taught there for five years. Then I moved on to a private university for two years, and now I’m here! It was kind of like dating: I got set up and after a while, I fell in love!

Professor Angell also added, “I’m a huge advocate of working with small businesses because I truly believe they are the backbone of our economy, which is why I have my students collaborate with them in the courses that I teach. Working up close with founders or owners allows students to apply what they’re learning and, as a result, build their own personal brands and skill sets, making them more marketable in the workforce.”

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