Johnson Earns Top Marks for Teaching in Media and among MBA Students

4/19/2012 3:56:00 PM

Accessibility, collaboration, and connecting concepts with practice are keys to faculty teaching excellence

During their time at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, students draw on the faculty’s accessibility and expertise to help shape their career paths and business ideas, pursue unique learning opportunities, and even to share volunteer experiences outside the classroom.

In his first year at Johnson, Alex Green, MBA '12, found Professor Vishal Gaur’s knowledge and passion for retail operations and his ability to link operations to a company’s financial performance so valuable that they met one-on-one before Green started his summer internship in retail technology at Apple. Gaur is the Emerson Professor of Manufacturing Management and associate professor of operations management.

“We chatted for an hour about how I could prepare for my new role and what I should consider in my internship,” Green said. “After my internship, I de-briefed with him, because he was interested in what I did and wanted to incorporate some of my key takeaways into the classroom.”

With a background in consulting and working on large-scale enterprise resource planning systems for major retail organizations, Green appreciates Gaur’s ability to make retail operations topics interesting for both novices and those who have spent years in the industry.

Much of the value that Johnson’s teaching faculty provides goes beyond instilling deep knowledge in the functional areas of business. They enhance the learning experience and encourage students to maximize their potential by showing genuine interest in students’ success, inspiring knowledge and curiosity, and infusing every aspect of learning with enthusiasm.

“Professor Gaur brings an energy and enthusiasm to teaching that’s simply amazing,” Green added. “It’s not intimidating and he brings real zeal to operations [class] that’s infectious. Students get excited to do complex math.”

Johnson’s commitment to teaching excellence and effectiveness is reflected in Poets & Quants’ recent analysis of the best teaching faculty at the nation’s top business schools. The b-school Web site ranked Johnson third, based on BusinessWeek’s rankings survey data collected from 1998 to 2010.

“I’m not surprised that Johnson ranked so well, because we have tremendous professors, said Eunice Jin, MBA '12. “With Johnson’s faculty, you not only get extremely intelligent professors who will educate you, but you also get mentors and friends.”

“I wanted to attend a school where I would feel welcome and would have no problem walking up to someone and talking about anything,” added Green. “That’s an attribute of the faculty—they are happy to talk to you at any time.”

Small by design, Johnson’s close-knit community contributes to the high quality of MBA instruction that students receive.

“Faculty members get to know students and provide individual attention,” said Bill De Groot, MBA ‘13. “My professors know who I am and a little about my background. They’ll call on individuals based on their previous work experience, which creates a more vibrant classroom discussion.”

Johnson faculty seek ways to make classroom material engaging and current, by sharing ideas and by actively collaborating across functional areas, said Elizabeth “Beta” Mannix, faculty director of the Cornell Executive MBA Program, Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Management, and professor of management and organizations, and an award-winning instructor.

“I see how much we share material and update each other on new business cases and interesting issues going on in the business press,” she said. “We also work across areas to coordinate, so we might have a case that is relevant to venture capital taught in the negotiations class, or sustainability in the power class. All this is so students can see the connections across areas.”

Gaur, who was awarded the Johnson School Core Faculty Award by the graduating class of 2008, said the faculty is quick to respond to student feedback and to introduce new material to keep classes fresh and interesting.

 “Even in our core [operations] course, we make changes every year to make topics relevant and current,” Gaur said. “We use real-life examples and connect concepts with practice.”