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Faculty Stars

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Rajesh Aggarwal

My greatest challenge as a teacher is to get students out of their comfort zones.

Rajesh Aggarwal

Rajesh Aggarwal

Associate Professor, Department of Finance, US Bancorp Professor in Financial Markets and Institutions 
Rajesh Aggarwal subscribes to the theory that a good teacher is one who makes himself or herself progressively unnecessary. “I try to bring to the classroom an emphasis on students learning to think for themselves in settings of ambiguity and uncertainty,” he says. “I want students to find creative but analytically rigorous solutions to issues in financial management—and I want them to eventually be able to do so without my guidance.”

Aggarwal’s areas of specialty are corporate finance and the economics of organizations. Formulas and spreadsheets, however, will take you only so far in his classroom. Numbers are only a gateway to an absorbing exploration of topics such as capital structure, financial innovation, bankruptcy and corporate restructuring, IPOs, corporate governance, and mergers and acquisitions. “I want students to leave with a sense that finance is more than just a set of equations, tools, or models,” Aggarwal says. “Finance is a decision-making process that extends well beyond financial markets, and students should have the ability to make that next step.”

Over the years, Aggarwal came to realize that a teacher has to be just as fascinating as the material he or she is teaching. “When I first started as a teacher, I failed more often than I succeeded, mostly because I couldn’t convey my enthusiasm for the material,” he acknowledges. “With that enthusiasm, you can get students to face almost any academic challenge; without it, they tune you out, and there is no way to engage them. Over the course of several years, I learned how to channel it.”

Aggarwal’s sense of humor and quiet confidence helps him connect to his students so that they are open and eager to tap into his accumulated knowledge and expertise. “I think what makes my teaching unique is the combination of creative and unstructured problem solving, analytical rigor, and practical experience from years of working with and talking with actual financial managers,” he says.

While Aggarwal strives to make his students comfortable in class, he’s also determined to make them uncomfortable with being too comfortable. “My greatest challenge as a teacher is to get students out of their comfort zones,” he says. “Many people would rather hide and be anonymous in class. That isn’t a good way to learn.”

Awards and Honors 
• Excellence in Teaching Award (2007) 
• Most Outstanding Full-Time MBA Elective Faculty Member (2006, 2007) 
• Award for Media Appearances (2005) 
• Best Discussant, Financial Research Association Conference, (2007) 
• Progress Investment Management Company Emerging Manager Research Award Best Research Prize, Journal of Investing (2009) 
• Best Reviewer, Journal of International Business Studies (2009) 
• Distinguished Referee Award, Review of Financial Studies (2010)


Mark Bergen

Education is not about what you say to the students, it's in helping them find moments when they see it for themselves.

Mark Bergen


Mark Bergen

Professor, Department of Marketing and Logistics Management, James D. Watkins Chair in Marketing 
Mark Bergen sees himself as a facilitator more than a lecturer. “I just hold the pen,” he says with a laugh. “I use case studies and exercises and try to do as little formal lecturing as possible. I want my class to be experiential, where students work through an exercise and discover the answer, rather than accepting something I just told them.”

The son of two lifelong teachers, Bergen was taught that knowledge is priceless, so he does his best to share his knowledge of pricing. “My passion is in pricing, and my areas of specialty include channels of distribution, marketing management, and marketing strategy,” says Bergen, who has written a number of acclaimed articles, including “Pricing as a Strategic Capability” for MIT Sloan Management Review.

Although he’s considered an expert on pricing, Bergen often defers to the cumulative knowledge of his students.“I don’t view myself as having the answer to pricing and that students should come in, learn it, and replicate it,” he says.“I learned early on that there’s more expertise in the classroom among the 65 students than I could ever bring. I see my job as helping to bring out the knowledge that’s in the room, and trying to create moments where students who already come in with knowledge and expertise can go even further.”

Bergen has witnessed more than his share of those magical moments. “I’ve come to realize that it’s in the discussions between students where learning happens,” he says. “Education is not about what you say to the students, it’s in helping them find the moments when they see it for themselves.”

Awards and Honors 
• Inaugural recipient of the Carlson School Excellence in Teaching Award (2002) 
• Voted the Full-Time MBA Outstanding Teacher of the Year by students (1998, 1999, 2001, 2007, 2008, 2009) 
• Outstanding Teacher at the Carlson School in BusinessWeek Guide to the Best Business Schools (1998, 1999, 2000)


Svjetlana Madzar

There's a need for students to understand team dynamics. I bring an international perspective on multicultural and globally dispersed teams.

Svjetlana Madzar


Svjetlana Madzar

Senior Lecturer, Department of Strategic Management and Organization 
As the world grows smaller, Svjetlana Madzar’s classes in international management and strategic alliances become ever more valuable. “Companies are sourcing ideas and looking for partnerships globally,” she says. “Most case studies I use are about cross-border collaboration.”

Indeed, the global business model is largely characterized by partnerships. “Alliances are very much the way new industries are structured,” says Madzar. “Alliances provide strategic flexibility for companies—it’s much easier to partner with others on an idea or an application rather than acquire them.”

As corporate cultures merge and interact, Madzar’s expertise in teamwork and group behavior also becomes more applicable. “Employees are often put in teams, but they’re [often] not trained to work in teams,” she says. “So there’s a need for students to understand team dynamics. I bring an international perspective on multicultural and globally dispersed teams.”

Madzar’s passion is contagious. “I do consulting and teach in other countries, so I try to convey my own excitement about what’s happening in organizations out there,” she says. “I enjoy seeing students get excited about these topics.”

She also appreciates that there is more to teaching than instruction. “Last year was difficult on our students. Besides losing jobs in the recession, some of my students experienced very major losses: One student’s child died and another student was diagnosed with cancer. I realized there is more to my job than the content. I’ve gained new insight into what my job is all about and who I need to be in the classroom.”

Awards and Honors 
• Voted Part-Time MBA Outstanding Teacher of the Year by students (2009)


Aks Zaheer

I want people to understand that in strategy there isn't a single right answer; but at the same time, all answers are not equally right.

Aks Zaheer


Aks Zaheer

Professor, Department of Strategic Management and Organization, Curtis L. Carlson Chair in Strategic Management 
There’s more to strategy than strategic thinking, notes Aks Zaheer, who teaches strategy to MBAs, executive MBAs, and executives. “One of my greatest challenges is helping students understand that it’s not enough to have the perfect strategy—you have to be able to implement it,” he says.“And implementation involves soft skills like communication and creating an appropriate organizational culture.”

He focuses his research efforts in specific areas of strategy, including mergers and acquisitions, strategic alliances, and buyer-supplier relationships. “I look at trust between firms and I also look at networks of firms to see how patterns of relationships influence performance,” he says.

Zaheer stresses that notions of right and wrong do not necessarily apply to strategic thinking. “I try to help students think strategically and look at things differently in a strategic sense,” he says. “I want people to understand that in strategy there isn’t a single right answer; but at the same time, all answers are not equally right.”

Zaheer acknowledges that there is room for intuitive thinking in the framework of his science-based approach to strategy, but only if it’s informed by experience, is consistent with research findings, or is in line with theoretical precepts. “Your gut feeling may be a hypothesis, but because we are working in teams in an organizational context, and because it is costly to make errors at the organizational level, I would ask you to gather data to test your hypothesis,” he says.

What can Zaheer’s students expect from his classes? A nurturing environment, vigorous discussion, and high expectations. “I remember when I first realized the joy and excitement that students can experience when they come face to face with something that changes their perceptions about strategic thinking,” he says. “Helping people get exhilarated by seeing things from a different perspective is a tremendous source of satisfaction.”

Awards and Honors 
• Voted MBA Core Teacher of the Year four times by Full-Time MBA students (1995, 2005, 2009, 2010) 
• Awarded the Curtis Cup for Outstanding Teaching by Executive MBA students (2006) 
• Best Paper Award at the Academy of International Business for a paper on when and how Taiwanese business groups perform better (2008)


Jim Gahlon

My job is to deliver a course that grounds students in finance principles and theory and challenges everyone in terms of applications.

Jim Gahlon


Jim Gahlon

Senior Lecturer, Department of Finance 
Jim Gahlon is not one to rest on his laurels. After winning numerous teaching awards over more than three decades, he still prepares for each class as if it’s his first. “If I don’t go in with new material, a different approach, or a substantive revision of my class notes, I don’t feel like I’m doing my job,” he says.

Gahlon’s classes explore corporate finance and emphasize how systematic thinking about value creation contributes to sound operating and financial decisions. “My job is to deliver a course that grounds students in finance principles and theory and challenges everyone in terms of applications,” he says.

His greatest hope is that students leave class with a solid theoretical understanding and a system for applying theory to business decisions. “I’d also like them to have enthusiasm for the subject, regardless of whether they’re going to be in finance,” he says.

Gahlon also strives to present material relevant to students. “In the Executive MBA program, many students have significant managerial experience,” he says. “In the Full-Time MBA program, some students have just taken their first accounting class. The challenge is to appeal to students with diversity in experience and knowledge.”

Gahlon likens that quandary to his favorite Peanuts cartoon, in which Charlie Brown tells Lucy, “My teacher says teaching is like bowling; you throw the ball down the middle and hope you hit pins.”

Gahlon does his best to hit as many pins as he can but he’s also realistic: “I’d like to think I always throw strikes, but I know that I leave some spares standing.”

Awards and Honors 
• Curtis Cup for Outstanding Teaching, Carlson Executive MBA Program (1991, 1994, 1995, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010) 
• Most Outstanding Core Faculty Member, Carlson Full-Time MBA Program (2006) 
• Excellence in Teaching Award (2005) 
• Outstanding Teacher at the Carlson School in BusinessWeek Guide to the Best Business Schools (1998) 
• Alumni Teacher Appreciation Award (1992)


Mary Zellmer-Bruhn

Having fun in class makes students more comfortable and willing to participate.

Mary Zellmer-Bruhn


Mary Zellmer-Bruhn

Associate Professor, Department of Strategic Management and Organization 
With a PhD in organizational behavior, Mary Zellmer-Bruhn has made a career out of studying organizational teams and teamwork. Her diverse research focus includes such topics as how learning and knowledge management occurs in teams, how the composition of teams can be leveraged for effective performance, how management teams for startup companies form and develop, and the characteristics of global teams. She distills all of that down into a teaching focus on change management, organizational culture, leadership, and international management.

Zellmer-Bruhn’s classroom lessons are fun to learn and often immediately applicable. “I had an executive student who couldn’t sleep after reading an assignment on influence tactics,” she says. “He decided to try them out in his office, and freaked out because they worked. That’s my definition of success—getting people to build their curiosity enough to go out and learn independently.”

While that quality is important for students of all ages, it’s especially crucial for undergrads, says Zellmer-Bruhn, who’s determined to switch their viewpoints from being consumers of learning to driving learning themselves. “The message I give undergrads is this: ‘Look, you’ve spent your whole life having someone hand you a syllabus, which is telling you what’s important to know,’” she says. “‘But life doesn’t have a syllabus, so you need to figure out what you think is important and what you’re going to do to continually improve your knowledge.’”

Zellmer-Bruhn’s relaxed and engaging style helps break down barriers to learning and creates an environment that students feel comfortable in across all levels of experience. “That’s by design, but it’s probably my personality too,” she says. “Having fun in class makes students more comfortable and willing to participate.”

Zellmer-Bruhn, who’s taught every type of student in virtually every Carlson School program, enjoys the challenge of tailoring the same concepts and theories to different audiences and ages. “There are many things an executive gets about management that a freshman can too,” she says. “They just get it at different levels of complexity.”

Her ultimate goal is getting students to think about management or organization in ways they hadn’t thought about before. “I hope that I spark some curiosity,” she says. “I think I’m doing pretty well if I can get them to have at least one ‘Aha!’”

Awards and Honors 
• Excellence in Teaching Award (2003-2004) 
• Outstanding Honors Faculty Teaching Award (2005)


John Molloy

I bring practical corporate experience along with significant teaching experience. Experience in both areas helps me communicate financial theory and its applications.

John Molloy


John Molloy

Senior Lecturer, Department of Finance 
Seven years ago, John Molloy learned the difference between teaching and reaching students. “I sat in on a class taught by a Carlson alumnus,” he recalls. “I thought I knew quite a bit about teaching, but I wasn’t even close to this guy. How he engaged students, worked in anecdotes, and tied in the topic for the day was amazing. It sparked a desire to improve my teaching and made me rethink what a class could be.”

Molloy brainstormed ways to make his coursework more relevant to students. “I never stop asking, ‘How are my students going to “get” this?’” he says. “I also encourage them to actively engage by using in-class activities, real-world examples, and humor.”

Molloy never stops tweaking his classroom methodology. “Every time I teach a course, I learn what’s effective and what’s not,” he says. “Every time thereafter, I make adjustments and try to improve.”

Molloy’s classes—Fundamentals of Finance for undergraduates and Financial Management for MBA students—are informed by his 12 years in the corporate sector. “I bring practical corporate experience along with significant teaching experience,” he says. “Experience in both areas helps me communicate financial theory and its applications.”

Molloy feels privileged to be able to make a contribution to students’ career success. “I want students to leave with a better understanding of the role finance plays in firms and in their daily lives,” he says. “And I hope a few students discover the passion for the subject that I discovered during my first finance course.”

Awards and Honors 
• Voted the PricewaterhouseCoopers Outstanding Faculty Award by students (2009)


John Budd

Being able to get students truly engaged in a topic so that they are not only interested in it, but are also thinking deeply about it never gets old and continues to provide not only my inspiration and motivation, but also my reward.

John Budd


John Budd

Professor and Chair, Department of Human Resources and Industrial Relations, Industrial Relations Land Grant Professor 
John Budd’s great enthusiasm for his chosen field helps fuel his students’ interest and desire for knowledge. “I became involved with the human resources and industrial relations discipline because I find its history and its intellectual breadth to be truly fascinating,” he says. “The field of labor relations, for example, has been influenced by everything from violent strikes to religious writings, from Libertarians to Marxists, from radical union leaders to great industrialists. Where else do you encounter not one, but two central characters named Big Bill, the brazen yet grandmotherly Mother Jones, and the still-missing Jimmy Hoffa?”

On one hand, Budd uses the colorful figures and remarkable historical events to capture students’ interest. At the same time, however, they also serve as entry points into the labor relations realm and highlight the importance of the broad perspectives required of successful human resources managers. “Being able to get students truly engaged in a topic so that they are not only interested in it, but are also thinking deeply about it never gets old and continues to provide not only my inspiration and motivation, but also my reward,” Budd says, adding that there is another motivation as well. “These days, labor relations is often seen as no longer highly relevant to today’s business or society. I want students to be able to see the fallacy of this thinking, and instead to appreciate the broad importance of understanding issues raised by studying labor relations. Not only for their ways of thinking as managers, but also for thinking about the business world and the type of society we want to live in.”

Awards and Honors 
• Herbert G. Heneman Jr. Distinguished Teaching Award (the “Herbie”) (1991-1992, 1993-1994, 1996-1997, 1997-1998, 2000-2001, 2004-2005) 
• Industrial Relations Research Association Excellence in Education Award (2002) 
• MAIR Teacher of the Year (1995-1996)