Personal attention to each student, a willingness to tailor lessons to all learning styles, and a dedication to self-improvement in the classroom are traits that earned Associate Professor of Finance Paige Fields recent recognition as the recipient of the Academy of Finance 2010 Teaching Excellence Award. This is the only international teaching award available in the discipline of finance.
Fields has also been nominated for a 2010 Texas A&M Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence Award (the highest teaching honor at the university), as well as the John Robert Gregg Award in Business Education from the National Business Education Association.
Another testament to her classroom success, she has received the Texas A&M University’s Association of Former Students Distinguished Teaching Award at the university level (2000) and at the college level (1998), and a Mays Teaching Innovation Fellowship (2004-2006); received a teaching innovation grant from Mays in 2009; received the 1996 Distinguished MBA Faculty Award; and was a Center for Teaching Excellence Montague scholar in 1997.
After 20 years in the classroom, Fields is confident in her skills, but not satisfied with the status quo. “You really don’t achieve teaching excellence. You’re always striving for teaching excellence,” she says, noting that she participates in a Faculty Learning Community on Universal Design (classroom theory that incorporates teaching to all types of learners); she takes seriously comments from her students on teacher evaluation forms; and she is constantly trying to improve her curriculum and her style of teaching by attending and presenting at workshops dedicated to the craft.
“I believe that as faculty members, we should care deeply about each student and his or her learning experiences. The faculty/student relationship should be a mentoring relationship that is based on mutual respect. We should invest sufficient time in our students so that they know that we are going the extra mile to provide them with a top-notch learning experience.”
—Excerpt from Fields’ teaching philosophy statement
After teaching the “Honors Corporate Finance I” course for 14 years, Fields recently began teaching “Corporate Finance II” for Mays undergraduates. She has completely overhauled the course to improve content, ensuring students are better prepared for the workplace. She is also the curriculum coordinator for the course, so she works with other faculty members who teach the material to maintain consistent quality across multiple sections. The course is a requirement for all finance majors, and contains information vital to their success in the program and in the professional world.
It’s her personal touch that makes Fields stand out as a teacher at a large institution: she makes a point of supporting her students outside of the classroom by attending their special events including athletic games or other performances.
As if that wasn’t enough, Fields is involved in research in the areas of corporate governance, banking, insurance, and capital structure. Her current work examines how the quality of a company’s board of directors influences the cost of bank loans. If a firm has board members with many years of experience or one that is employed in the same industry as the borrowing company, then they are able to borrow at a significantly lower interest rate. The same is true if the board of directors is large and is dominated by independent directors.
Her research has appeared in the Journal of Corporate Finance, Journal of Finance, the Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, and the Journal of Money, Credit, and Banking.
She assumes one thing that impressed the Academy of Finance award selection committee was that she has an active research agenda and still maintains a high level of teaching quality, as the other four finalists for the award came from schools where teaching was the primary requirement.