Passionate teachers of challenging subjects transform students. That was the message students in three Stanford business programs sent to the faculty this month by selecting outstanding teachers of the year to honor. In their nominating comments, the students often called out teachers for their passion and willingness to respond to challenging questions from the most expert students, while engaging novices with clarity, flourishes of humor, and worldly examples.
MBA students chose professor Dirk Jenter for his compelling teaching of Managerial Finance, a tough, required course that builds a framework for first-year students.
Master of science students in the Sloan Program honored professor Charles Lee for making accounting compelling to all, including some who had hoped to avoid it. It was the second year in a row that the Sloan students chose Lee as their outstanding professor.
Doctoral students honored a professor less for classroom teaching than for mentoring and advising on a one-on-one basis. They chose economics professor Jeremy Bulow not only for the attention he is willing to give them individually, but also for his role in creating a "friendly and warm environment." Bulow is "always available and provides advice that demonstrates he truly cares about his students' best interests," one student wrote. Students also appreciate the thoughtful way he introduces them to other scholars in his vast network. Bulow is famous among doctoral students, one said, for the "strikingly perceptive and quick way in which his mind works — unusual because he can tell you what 17 cubed is immediately."
Lee was cited for his commitment and availability, plus his catchy enthusiasm for accounting. "He makes the boring stuff really interesting," one student wrote. An expert on fundamental analysis, equity evaluation, behavioral finance, and microstructure, Lee also has won teaching awards at Cornell and the University of Michigan.
MBA students nominated 46 professors and instructors for their teaching award, but Jenter, an associate professor of finance, landed the top honor despite the fact that his required course met at 8am on Mondays and 3pm on Fridays.
A student with finance experience and "relatively obscure questions" was impressed that Jenter engaged in "lengthy and detailed replies back and forth" via email. Meanwhile, neophytes in the field found his enthusiasm for the material "infectious" and enlightening. "His quotes were inspiring enough to become slogans," one added.
Never one to punt a teachable moment, Jenter repeated his key piece of advice at the award ceremony on May 31:
"The most important thing in the world is personal happiness, or your mother, or your dog, or whatever you want it to be," he reminded students.
"However, the second most important thing in the world is free cash flow, and if you don't watch your free cash flow very carefully at any point in time, both your mother and I will be deeply disappointed."
By Kathleen O'Toole