Teaching Executive MBAs isn’t an easy gig. After all, the job requires professors to work Fridays and weekends. Plus, their audience is populated with executives, doctors, lawyers, and engineers. These are students with imposing achievements, strong opinions, and high expectations – and they demand immediate returns.
No, EMBAs are different from impressionable undergrads or free-wheeling full-timers. These students are grappling with sales shortfalls, operational bottlenecks, and disruptive innovations. At home, EMBAs are contending with aging parents, sick children, and weary spouses. They’re pushed, grabbed, and spun from every direction. Chances are, they’ve traveled hours to get to class too. That means faculty must be gurus, coaches, and entertainers all rolled into one. They must make models clear, examples relevant, assignments useful, and discussions memorable. In the end, professors are expanding these students’ world as much as elevating their performance.
That was the case for Tammy Hannah, the CEO of a nonprofit brain injury rehabilitation center. In college, she studied occupational therapy, not finance. As she climbed the ranks of a 130-employee operation, Hannah realized that she needed to better understand areas like asset allocation and forecasting. Just one problem: these were the areas that “intimidated” her most. Enter Stephen Schiestel, who teaches corporate and managerial finance classes at Michigan State’s Broad College of Business. Not only did Schiestel make finance understandable, Hannah notes, but also pertinent to every facet of her job.
“Professor Schiestel has the ability to simplify highly complex concepts and teach in a way that promotes real life application. While I entered my MBA experience thinking finance would be my least favorite and most challenging, this professor made it the most impactful part of my academic experience.”
Some professors don’t just live their teachings. They personify them – and inspire their students to follow their path. That’s quite a feat in classrooms packed with leaders in their fields. That’s certainly true of Janice Victor, MD, an interventional pain management physician who has been practicing for over 20 years. At Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Victor found someone to model herself after in Suzanne Muchin, who taught the Selling Yourself and Your Ideas elective.
“Suzanne exudes leadership, confidence, and command of subject matter. She also empowers everyone, including women of all backgrounds, to become and project their best selves to the world. She challenged and encouraged us to be able to present ourselves and our stories with focus and clarity.”
LEAVING A LEGACY
Sometimes, a professor’s pull is so strong that it changes a student’s view…even a career path. Just ask Ayotunde Gibbs, a 2020 EMBA graduate from Texas Christian University’s Neeley School of Business. Gibbs didn’t follow her family’s tradition of practicing law. Instead, she pursued information technology, eventually heading up global store systems for GameStop – making her responsible for point-of-sale at 3,500 stores that account for 90% of the company’s $5 billion dollars in annual revenue. Still, even Gibbs had second thoughts after taking Dr. Robert Rhodes’ Business Law class. It was a course that stirred an excitement about the law in Gibbs – and made the family law ‘gene’ hadn’t skipped her after all.
“Dr. Rhodes taught the class with such passion and made it resonate in such a way that I now relate better with those lawyers in my family. I read newspaper articles about court cases more enlightened. At work, I am more attuned to legal implications of decisions I make as a director in the company. For a while during the class, I even briefly entertained the possibility of switching careers because I was so enthralled by the content and delivery in Dr. Rhodes’ classes.”
That’s the legacy left behind by business professors like Robert Rhodes, who passed away from COVID-19 in August. They take EMBAs who arrive distracted and stressed and returns them passionate and focused. Those are professor to celebrate – and recognize. Each year, when Poets&Quants honors its 100 Best & Brightest Executive MBAs, we ask students to share their favorite professors and how they made such a profound impact on their lives. From Arizona State to Yale, here are over 30 professors who went above-and-beyond – and whose lessons are shaping the Fortune 500…and far beyond.
“Jeff Kudisch. He really amplified my pre-existing interest in leadership and inspired me to explore more deeply the science of leadership and human capital. His class showed these concepts are broadly applicable across professions, but also uniquely applicable in different areas. It’s not possible to be an effective leader without an understanding of both the financial side and the human capital side of business.”
Patricia Turner, MD, University of Maryland (Smith)
“Anat Lechner was a professor of mine for both years of the program – and the second one was at my choosing! She brings great passion and focus in her teachings especially as it relates to the future economy. She unequivocally challenges us to think about artificial intelligence and its implications for our industries and career paths. Her comprehensive and visually appealing lessons on the evolution of management ideas, thoughts, frameworks, and tools have come in very handy in my work. She’s demonstrated her willingness to help with continuous improvement by sharing weekly ideas and thoughts with us. Her directness and high standards push me to make sure that my own pursuits are not “lame,” and that I’d not be better off just “staying at home.”
Eaton J. Kuh, New York University (Stern)
“Raj Rajagopalan, Ph.D. Raj taught our core course on Operations and Supply Chain Management. Full disclosure: this wasn’t the course I was the most excited about initially. Like many other current MBA students, I came in with a thirst for knowledge on the trendiest subject of last decade, Data Science and its interconnected disciplines: Machine Learning, Analytics, and A.I. Rather naively, I didn’t see how Raj’s course would satisfy this hunger.
Teachers like Raj have a gift of communicating complex principles that make them easy to understand. His passion and talent for teaching, combined with a great depth of knowledge, is a gift that is not to be understated. I found myself incredibly engaged and excited for every lecture, reading, and project. Raj uncovered new possibilities, ideas, and unknown interests. Raj’s teachings expanded my P.O.V. and led me to fantastic new insights and problems solving capabilities, the mark of an elite teacher.”
Ben Wells, USC (Marshall)
“My favorite professor was Robert Shiller. The Yale MBA allows you to select electives in a wide variety of fields. As an economist by education and an investor by trade, having the opportunity to learn from one of the leading minds in behavioral finance is hard to quantify. Professor Shiller takes a holistic approach to finance, and with it, presents the field in the context of its social function and human purpose. His course is the embodiment of the school’s mission of educating leaders for business and society.”
Decio Nascimento, Yale SOM
“Pushan Dutt, INSEAD Professor of Economics and Political Science, who taught the “Price and Markets” class, because of his brilliant way of breaking down serious topics and theories into amusing and comprehensible real-life experiences.”
Yu Shu, INSEAD / Tsinghua University
“I really appreciated Pri Shah’s class on negotiations. I had no previous, formal training on negotiation, but I was expected to negotiate with vendors, suppliers, and clients in my role. Her class taught me the science of negotiation and how to not only create a bigger pie for all parties involved but also to make sure I knew how to get my fair share. The class exercises and practice activities made me much more comfortable as I negotiated salary, benefits, and other aspects of my next job.”
Katie McClarty, University of Minnesota (Carlson)
Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.