Winning in Academic Innovation

WINNING

Paul Busch // Marketing

Just as important as the innovations in what is being taught (curriculum) is how it is being taught (pedagogy). While innovation seems to be synonymous with high-tech, an overlooked piece of pedagogy is high-touch learning, a specialty of Paul Busch, Ph.D., Texas A&M University System Regents Professor, Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence, and Professor of Marketing.

Busch has taken a different approach to Academic Innovation, an approach that has been highly recognized by academics. Having been awarded some of Texas A&M’s most coveted teaching awards (like Distinguished Achievement Award, College Level, 2007; University Level, 2008; and Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence, 2019), Busch’s high-touch, highly-personal approach is extraordinarily applauded. Before classes even start, he asks for the enrollees’ resumes. On the first day of class, students answer questions such as: 1) What is the most interesting thing that has ever happened to you? 2) What are your career goals? 3) What is your favorite ad, and your least favorite ad? These questions help him become acquainted and build rapport with the students. He studies the pictures of the students in the class, which are on eCampus, to associate their names with their faces. In his classrooms, you will find students at all stages in their academic journeys. Busch teaches undergraduates, MS Marketing students, Executive MBA (EMBA) students, executives in Mays Center for Executive Development (CED), and veterans involved in McFerrin Center’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Disabled Veterans (EBV).

Busch strongly advocates for his students to enhance their self-awareness by using projects and assignments that are personal in nature. In the case of undergraduates and EBV participants, Busch implores students to “think wide.” Busch’s MS Marketing students complete a personal branding assignment built on Gallup’s StrengthsFinder results and input from a 360 survey. Using these inputs, students construct a personal branding statement that includes the value they bring to an employer, their points of differentiation, and their target market (i.e., companies and industries in which they aspire to work). In his EMBA classes, Busch uses assignments such as a brand report card and an internal marketing assessment that are highly customized to the students’ current and past professional experiences. These assignments make these marketing concepts and techniques “come alive” for these seasoned executive students. With CED students, Busch assigns the StrengthsFinder assessment and makes students dig deep to understand themselves better and how their strengths can be applied to improve their professional and personal lives.

Busch abides by the philosophy, “Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” There is no debate that the impacts that Busch has on his students ripple into boardrooms and advances the world’s prosperity.

Arvind Mahajan // Office of the Dean

In today’s culture, few people stay in one place long enough to make a true impact. In academia, it is hard to retain talent because researchers are so well-networked with colleagues in their academic discipline. However, occasionally, someone will not only stay but invest well beyond expectations to really champion for a college. Arvind Mahajan, Ph.D., is one of those people.

Mahajan, Associate Dean for Graduate Programs, Texas A&M University System Regents Professor, Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence, Piper Professor for Scholarly and Academic Achievement, and Lamar Savings Professor of Finance, has been called an outstanding teacher, a profound scholar, and an accomplished educator. But to understand the gravity of those characteristics, one must look at the impact he has made on students and industry.

Mahajan has been with Mays for 39 years and has piloted and established a handful of Mays most successful programs. He is directly responsible for study abroad (started in the early ‘80s!), an international finance seminar at the doctoral level (one of the first of its kind in the nation), Aggies on Wall Street Investment Banking Program, bringing MS Analytics program to Mays, and creating the largest healthcare analytics case competition in the U.S. in collaboration with Humana, Inc. Under his leadership, the Certified Financial Analyst Institute (CFA) approved our BBA Finance, MSF, and MBA programs to receive CFA Partner Status enables us to provide CFA scholarships to ten students each year to take the CFA certification examination.

Mahajan believes in the holistic development of a student, which means mentoring beyond the mere accumulation of skills, information, and knowledge. He also utilizes the power of intersectional knowledge, meaning he combines ideas from multiple disciplines and links them with business theory. Therefore, despite diverse backgrounds, his students (which include practicing executives) can relate to the concepts being taught and understand their real-world relevance.

Mahajan teaches rigorously, requires critical thinking, sets high standards, insists that students achieve them, and facilitates their attaining them. “Relentlessly challenging students and taking an uncompromising stance on standards occasionally results in a tense classroom, which I am willing to deal with,” Mahajan explained.

Mahajan’s decades-long devotion to Mays has left quite an impression. “I feel a deeper commitment to my students’ lives, future, and well-being than what a one-semester interaction requires, and students can sense it,” Mahajan said. “Teaching is my calling, and doing it is not only a privilege, it is fun!”

Janet Parish // Marketing

“To reach their highest potential, students and teachers alike must engage themselves in the process of learning. Both parties must commit to being truly INVOLVED in the process,” Janet Parish, Ph.D., stated. Parish is Clinical Professor, Associate Department Head, Director of Reynolds and Reynolds Sales Leadership Institute, and Mays Teaching Fellow. Parish is a University Professor for Undergraduate Teaching Excellence Award holder, an award for educators who have exhibited uncommon excellence and devotion to the education of undergraduate students of Texas A&M University. These professors are not only exceptional classroom teachers but are also innovating in pedagogy, exploring new teaching methods, and seeking engagement with other educators in pursuit of excellence.

That pursuit of excellence is what has led Parish to be an academic innovator. “I think continuous improvement should be a part of everything we do, including our courses,” Parish said. “Students learn when teachers use practices that fit the topic and the participants. There is no best way to teach.” And it is evident that using an ever-evolving, ever-transforming pedagogy has helped Parish excel in her career.

Parish has taught an introductory marketing class for more than twenty years and regularly “reinvents” the course. Parish now uses a flipped-classroom where students are introduced to the basic course content outside of the classroom so that they can use class time in action. For about a decade, Parish has included a service-learning project in her courses. Her reinventions include enhancement to the projects, new examples and richer discussion, new assignments, and an increasingly higher bar. Parish also admits that she learns a lot from her students. “They share marketing examples as well as new technologies with me on a regular basis,” Parish shared.

Parish, with a love for helping people find their passion and purpose, thinks in “good to great” terms. “Students and faculty both benefit when we work together and utilize the tools and resources available to us to maximize our experiences.”