It takes courage to start an EMBA program. Most students haven’t entered a classroom in a decade (or two). During that time, they’ve become seasoned professionals who’ve helped build markets and organizations. Forge the cliché of students being mounds of clay who need molding. Executive MBAs are success stories looking for fine-tuning. They are adults with responsibilities and expertise. They know who they are and what has worked for them. And it takes a special kind of teacher to reach such students.
For Melinda Shockley, who founded Innolign Biomedical before recently earning her EMBA from Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, Fernando Suarez epitomizes the type of teacher who gets the best out of his students and keeps them coming back for more. A strategy and innovation professor, Suarez acts as a guide who channels his students’ experience to helping them better internalize the material. “[He encourages] the class to supplement our understandings by sharing work experiences and connecting them to the case studies,” Shockley tells Poets&Quants. “The entire course was enriched by Fernando’s willingness to allow the knowledge of classmates to serve as a driver of learning.”
Shockley was one member of Poets&Quants’ Best Executive MBAs of the Class of 2015 to share what makes a great business school professor. Not surprisingly, in a group of EMBAs that included CEOs, CFOs, bankers, physicians, and engineers, you’ll find a range of opinions. However, the ability to simplify content was paramount, with Texas A&M’s Dr. Shane Johnson mastering this delicate balance, writes Patti Fitzpatrick. “He took the complicated subject of Finance, distilled it into the important succinct elements, and provided tips to take back to the office and apply in the real world.
At the same time, top professors like IESE’s Javier Zamora can open up the imaginations of even the most battle-hardened students according to Flavio Palaci. “He had a wonderful ability to lift the class by introducing unequivocal and very relevant thought leadership such as design thinking and disruptive business models, which apply far beyond the course outline. From my experience, great professors are able to interact, connect and bring forward insights, pushing leaders to think beyond their comfort zone and develop winning aspirations. A great professor makes a lasting impact on an individual both professionally and personally, which was my journey with Javier.”
In the end, good teaching is no different than any other talent. Behind the thought and practice, the best professors make their approach appear innate and easy. Make no mistake: There is a method behind most – and a desired outcome as well. “It is so hard to capture “the why” of Professor Grant Olsen in a short answer,” writes Scott Gates of Arizona State’s W. P. Carey School of Business. “As I reflect back on Dr. Olsen’s class, I don’t think that I’ve ever worked as hard (his class was incredibly challenging), laughed as much (he should be a professional comedian), or been as proud (Doug had a unique ability to encourage and inspire every student of their great potential) as when I completed my Marketing 502 class.”
Here is how some professors made a difference with the top EMBAs from the Class of 2015:
Change How You See The World
“All of the professors at Kellogg have been exceptional, but I think Professor Sergio Rebelo has really moved me. I took his World Economics class. It tied everything together I have learned thus far. His class was like a story on history, with the economics and finance weaved in that you didn’t realize that you were learning about market cycles, international finance and global economy. As a physician in the US, I never thought I had to really think globally – but I was mistaken. Our economies are now so intertwined, it’s hard not to.” – Meera Atkins / Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management
“My favorite professor was Macroeconomics professor, John Huizinga. He was capable of linking the topics of his classes to day-to-day examples on the news, taught us to analyze any Macro article, opinion or quote with a critic and insightful view and, last but not least, he conveyed this intrinsically hard subject in a very amusing way.” – Sebastian Cerezo Montañez / University of Chicago, Booth School of Business
“Paul Ingram. As a core teacher, Professor Ingram sets the tone for the rest of the program, laying the foundation to several high-impact electives including Managerial Negotiations, Managerial Decision Making and Personal Leadership and Success. He is an excellent teacher who effectively drills down concepts. He is authoritative, commands respect but approachable and compassionate. I still fondly remember him trying to cheer up the class after our accounting mid-terms.
Professor Ingram’s course content is extensive, focusing on organizational alignment and change management, issues that are extremely pertinent to managers and future leaders. Through highly effective and practical mechanisms including journal documentation, self-reflection exercises, role play, 360 feedback, coaching and mentoring, and novel concepts such as the use of Jazz players as a surrogate model for demonstrating high quality team play at work in real-time, his course has offered me a repertoire of tools for continuous personal and professional development. Lessons learnt from Leadership and Organizational Change have allowed me to view complex situations at work such as high-impact acquisitions, drastic change in the scope of work and major team disagreements objectively and consequently deal with the challenges in a constructive manner. In conclusion, Leadership and Organizational Change was one of the most fun and valuable classes I have attended at CBS.” – Jolly Mazumdar / Columbia Business School
“In my view, best professors are those that have the greatest impact on future choices of their students. During my time at IE, I have been blessed to come across numerous fabulous Professors. However, Paolo Porchia (Financial Decision Making), Eloy Garcia Alvarez (Foundations of Banking), Carl Kock (Strategy), and Francisco Lopez Lubian did truly stand out. These professors showcased the traits of those that are true experts in their fields; they were passionate, dynamic, a cared for the students. Most importantly, they were able to assist in the discovery of new areas of interest by bridging theory with practice that impacted not only my choices during the time at IE but my future career as well.” – Dulce Altabella Lazzi / IE Business School
“There are so many incredible professors at Darden, it’s impossible to pick just one. Alec Horniman: Alec speaks to the heart of business: people and leadership. He challenges and probes his students with the purpose of enacting transformational learning and development. Jacqueline Doyle: Jacquie empowers her students and teaches her classes with vigor. Her talent at presenting a thorough qualitative and quantitative analytical framework to business strategy and execution is impactful.” – Jennifer Schretter / University of Virginia, Darden School of Business