Kellogg World Alumni Magazine, Summer 2003Kellogg School of Management
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The soul of entrepreneurship
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  Prof. Anne Coughlan
All photos © Nathan Mandell
Prof. Anne Coughlan
  Prof. Karl Schmedders
  Prof. Daniel Diermeier
Class acts make learning come alive

Entrepreneurship plays a role in the Kellogg School classroom, where professors use innovative methods to keep their lessons engaging

By Matt Golosinski

Entrepreneurial passion runs deep at the Kellogg School, and not simply among the students. The Kellogg administration has always embraced cutting-edge strategies that make the school a perennial leader in management education. In addition, Kellogg School professors consistently demonstrate exemplary dedication in their teaching and research.

The result is a rich, entrepreneurial culture that produces leaders who are creative risk-takers, yet grounded in disciplined analysis.

"One of the defining characteristics of Kellogg is its willingness and ability to think ahead of prevailing market conditions," says Kellogg School Dean Dipak C. Jain. "We embrace continuous change that delivers strategic advantages for our students."

Kellogg World recently spoke with several Kellogg professors about their teaching, and learned how these thought leaders turn their intellectual passions into engaging classroom lessons.

Kellogg World: How do you approach teaching so that you keep the material fresh for yourself and your students?

Daniel Diermeier, the IBM Professor of Regulation and Competitive Practice, and the 2001 L.G. Lavengood Professor of the Year: I connect my teaching to ongoing developments in the business world. In my area of expertise [strategic management in nonmarket environments], this is fairly easy since nonmarket issues are extensively covered in the media. I also encourage my students to share their professional experiences in having to deal with these issues.

Robert Kozinets, assistant professor of marketing, and a 2001-02 Sidney


See the related articles:
The soul of entrepreneurship,
Portrait of an entrepreneur,
Faculty forum: Revolutionary Innovation and
High stakes on the home front


J. Levy Teaching Award recipient: In terms of style and substance, I try to combine my passion for music, film and entertainment with what I teach in courses such as Entertainment Culture and Marketing. Bringing in media tools, including film, to help convey practices and events — like new product development or interesting subcultures that teach us about consumption and marketing — is something I'm increasingly implementing. I constantly update everything in my course. That's challenging, but it means the course is always brand-new.

Anne Coughlan, associate professor of marketing, and a 2000-01 Sidney J. Levy Teaching Award recipient: I try to revamp my course every time I teach so that I don't get stale doing it. This past year, I wrote two new cases and assembled a new module for my Marketing Channel Strategies course. It's a lot of work, but it keeps things current and interesting.

Karl Schmedders, associate professor of managerial economics and decision sciences, and the 2002 L.G. Lavengood Professor of the Year: My students have told me that I succeed in the formidable task of making the core statistics course relevant and entertaining. I do try to bring a high level of enthusiasm and personal commitment to my work, making myself accessible to my students whenever possible.

KW: What Best Practices do you believe help you excel in the classroom?

Kellogg School Dean Dipak C. Jain, the Sandy and Morton Goldman Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies, and a recipient of the 1994-95 Levy Teaching Award: I approach teaching with a religious devotion, rather than look at it as simply a job. A special goal for me is bridging theory and practice so that the lessons we impart in the Kellogg classroom effect real-world results. One of the strategies I employ is using compelling, and updated, case studies in my work, and then challenging my students to think through the complexities of these materials. By remaining current, and by turning to real-world examples, we can better engage our students and generate passion for the intellectual journey that will make them great leaders.

Christie Nordhielm, assistant professor of marketing, and the 2003 L.G. Lavengood Professor of the Year: I encourage my students to challenge me in the classroom. This is the best way to look for gaps in my teaching. Many students are afraid to voice contrary opinions, but you can be sure they are thinking them. By encouraging students to challenge me, I run the risk of not having an answer to a question. But as soon as the students realize we are not in an oppositional relationship, but rather working together to explore a problem, the tenor and progress of the class improves radically.

Karl Schmedders: I try to balance the demands and high expectations that I place on my students with a good sense of humor. I think I'm able to explain statistics to "non-math" people because I have had to work hard to understand the material myself, and so I can better relate to the student trying to learn the material. One of the "philosophical" frameworks that I bring into the classroom is the value I place on intellectual curiosity. I want Kellogg students to value this kind of curiosity too — and not think that everything they learn must always immediately be applicable tomorrow. Sometimes things can have inherent intellectual beauty.

Sunil Chopra, the IBM Distinguished Professor of Operations Management and Information Systems, and a recipient of a 2002-03 Chairs' Core Course Teaching Award: I expend a lot of energy on preparation. My preparation focuses on looking at material from the students' perspective and asking, "How will they use the lessons when they leave class?" The better prepared I am to answer this question, the better I do in class. I also love student interaction. My best classes are those where I'm not the only one speaking, but where we've created a conversational dynamic.

Daniel Diermeier: I strive to have the students involved in collectively discovering the solution to a problem, and allow for a broad, free-flowing discussion while ensuring that everyone understands the key learning point of the exercise.

KW: How do you view the interplay between your teaching and research?

Christie Nordhielm: I try to be sensitive to all opportunities to bring insights from one arena into the other. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but I never assume that something I do in my research might be too esoteric for my students. Or that the challenges my students face are too practitioner-oriented for the issues to be interesting from a theoretical standpoint.

Anne Coughlan: Research and teaching feed each other. I've found research ideas in cases and lectures that I've taught. A great example is the Tweeter case, one about an electronics retailer that offers a particular form of price-matching guarantee. It's hard to disentangle where the academic research and the interaction with MBAs starts and ends. That's a nice thing.

Daniel Diermeier: I incorporate both into my classroom on a regular basis. Research provides concepts and frameworks; consulting provides complexity and richness.

KW: What's the most challenging hurdle to maintaining your creativity as a teacher, and how does the Kellogg community help you meet this challenge?

Robert Kozinets: Creativity takes time, and it also means taking risks. Fortunately, at Kellogg we have a fantastically supportive atmosphere. The entrepreneurial environment here means faculty and students are given a lot of opportunities and resources to succeed. I find that others here are amazingly receptive to innovation.

Sunil Chopra: My biggest challenge is ensuring that I am not overloaded in terms of my commitments, so that I maintain the time to improve the content and delivery of my material. At Kellogg, I really enjoy the interaction with my colleagues and the students. We have a wonderful relationship among the various stakeholders. Working collectively with my colleagues — a rarity in other places — we have really improved our Operations offering, and I've certainly learned a lot in the process.

Daniel Diermeier: The diversity of our students in terms of their cultural and industry backgrounds can prove challenging. I try to meet the challenge by including examples from different countries and many industries. What makes my job enjoyable is our students' enthusiasm and their willingness to learn. My favorite moments as a teacher are when a student tells me: "I can't look at the newspaper anymore without thinking of your class. It has fundamentally changed the way I view business."

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University