Mays Business School is committed to advancing the world’s prosperity. In part, achieving this vision is attained by creating impactful knowledge, knowing that the more challenged students are in class the more they will be prepared to initiate inspirational change as alumni. Mays is actualizing this undertaking by stressing the importance of enhancing research through two classes that are being offered during this upcoming school year.

One of the courses focuses on graduate-level academic research, while the other introduces undergraduate students to methods for researching material through the lens of business research. R. Duane Ireland, executive associate dean and University Distinguished Professor at Mays, said the courses will serve a greater purpose for Mays graduates.

“Learning is an important objective that drives Mays’ faculty members as they engage in academic research. In this regard, we know that to be successful, business people must strive to consistently learn more about the needs of customers, employees, suppliers and the local communities in which they work and live,” Ireland said. “Similarly, in addition to developing new knowledge, academic researchers are committed to learning about practices that when effectively followed, have a strong probability of helping business people and their firms create value for those they serve. We are indeed pleased that courses are now available to Mays’ students through which they will learn about the purposes of academic research and how it can help them understand how to be effective leaders throughout their careers.”

Introduction to Academic Research

The accounting department is offering a new course called an “Introduction to Academic Research,” which will be taught by Associate Professor Nate Sharp. Its purpose is to encourage students to consider pursuing a Ph.D. in accounting through introducing them to scholarly research. It also includes a discussion element regarding what to expect from Ph.D. programs and how to succeed both in the classroom and as a professor.

Students will hear from guest speakers on why they chose to pursue a Ph.D. and how it impacted their careers. The immediate interest in this innovative course resulted in an enrollment that quickly exceeded the number of classroom seats that were initially available. So many students were eager to participate in this course, the interest surpassed the capacity of the class. Sharp hopes that while teaching the course, he “will be able to persuade them (students) that the scope and novelty of accounting research goes way beyond what they have learned in their undergraduate and even master’s classes about accounting.”

This course is being offered to fifth-year accounting students in the department’s Professional Program (PPA). PPA is a five-year program that offers students the opportunity to simultaneously earn a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting and a Master of Science in Accounting, MIS, Management, Marketing, or Financial Management. Students in this program can learn from Sharp about the importance of academic research and the role that it plays in a university setting.

It will debut in the Fall 2017 semester.

Applied Business Competencies: Mays Business School Faculty Research

Business research is everywhere, from newspapers to journals to viral social media content. Used well, it can help firms make prudent financial investments, install talented leadership and shape successful advertising campaigns. It can also help everyday shoppers make more informed decisions and even provide rewarding opportunities for a potential career path as an academic researcher.

Yet many college students, outside of Ph.D. tracks and academic circles, are unfamiliar with business research. For them, research is esoteric at best; at worst, uninteresting.

But Stephen (Steve) Courtright, an assistant professor of management, hopes to change those perceptions. He designed an elective course “Applied Business Competencies: Mays Business School Faculty Research” to help make the world of academic business research more accessible to undergraduate and graduate students. The course launched in Spring 2017.

Through the one-hour-credit course, Courtright said he hoped to show students that business research is incredibly relevant for society. “What not everyone knows is that business research is like medical research; it has the potential to affect the quality of people’s lives,” he said. “It can improve how business is conducted and how organizations are run. This makes for a better work environment for everyone involved.”

He also explained that the life of the researcher is like an entrepreneur – and it comes with similar rewards. “Researchers are not just question-askers; they are problem solvers, and you have total freedom pursue the questions and problems that most interest you.”

During the first few weeks of the course, Courtright helped students understand what business research is. Students also learned to look past sensational headlines and questionable sample sizes to evaluate whether research is useful or not. The remaining few weeks of the course, Courtright invited professors from the various Mays departments as guest speakers to present on their own research pursuits and passions.

Participating professors included Nate Sharp,  an associate professor of accounting; Matthew (Matt) Call, an assistant professor of management; Shane Johnson, a professor of finance; Subodha Kumar, an associate professor of information and operations management; and Leonard Berry, University Distinguished Professor of Marketing.

At the end of the semester, students wrote reflections on what they had learned during the semester.

Colton Bucey said the course helped him better see that the role of a researcher is like an entrepreneur. “Coming into this course, I thought I had a solid understanding of what professors’ jobs were like; I thought that professors each lectured for a few hours every week, held office hours, graded assignments and then were finished,” he said. “Actually, at any given time, professors can be working on numerous research topics. They are more or less their own bosses and have extreme flexibility in when/where they chose to work.”

Lauren Abiog, a business administration freshman, reflected on Berry’s presentation on his healthcare industry research and how it opened her eyes to the greater good that many researchers hope to realize. “Dr. Berry’s purpose in researching is to help improve the quality of life of others,” she said. “What a selfless and purposeful reason to live for!”

Courtright said he hopes the course will gain momentum with students in the coming years. “I want more students to be thinking about research as a career,” he said. “Even if they choose not to pursue it as a career, it will give them an appreciation for what faculty like those at Mays do for a living.”

The course is set to be offered in future spring semesters.

By creating these two classes, Mays is providing a platform where professors can instill in students an interest in research that will extend past the four years that they are in college. It has the chance to influence learners to become more intellectually curious, which in turn increases their ability to develop innovative approaches to pursue while seeking to advance the world’s prosperity.

Caitlin Nutt ’19 contributed to this story.