Nicknames. That’s how Matthew McPheeters, ’16 MD/MBA, remembers Finance Senior Lecturer Helen Moser, or H-Mo, as she became known. “On the first day of class, everyone would introduce the student next to them to the class and the introduction had to include a nickname,” he says. “I’m not sure how she did it, but I swear by day two H-Mo knew everyone in the class by their nickname.” Although it sounds like a small thing, McPheeters says, it really added to the atmosphere that Moser created that made learning finance enjoyable. He does offer one postscript to the topic however. “Looking back, I think a better nickname for H-Mo may have been Pro-Mo, for Professor Moser,” he says.
“I’ve read a lot of research that students learn better in an environment where they are recognized as a person, not just a number,” says Moser, who was recently named one of the Outstanding Faculty of the Year by Part-Time MBA students.
“Nicknames for me are easier to remember and a lot of times they say something about the person, which I think is important.”
McPheeters considers Moser the most approachable and engaging professor he had during his MBA. “Her financial management course during my first semester was easily my hardest course,” he says. “However, she created an environment that pushed me to perform, partly because I did not want to disappoint her.” McPheeters adds that the primary reason he took a financial decision-making course his second semester was because Moser was the instructor.
Because of the nature of her class, Moser gets a mixed assortment of students. Some have degrees in finance and have worked in the field while other may have been music or English majors. “We have both poets and quants,” she says. “The poets come to finance with a certain level of anxiety and trepidation because they think it’s going to be a very difficult course,” she says.
To alleviate the anxiety, Moser assembles the class into teams. “All the teams have one strong finance person because there should be cooperation in learning rather than competition,” she says. Here also is where nicknames are helpful. “I become more approachable and hopefully that encourages students to ask questions and to participate in discussions; this improves the learning environment for everyone,” she adds.
Now a neurosurgery resident at the University of Buffalo, McPheeters says the biggest takeaway from Moser’s classes was learning that all financial models are wrong; some are just more useful than others. “H-Mo taught me that often times the most valuable takeaway from building financial models is not the final number, but the understanding of how different factors will interact with one another when changes inevitably occur,” he says.
A Force for Innovation
In recent years, the demand by business schools for new faculty has never been greater. Outstanding faculty allows us to make more contributions in research, teaching, and assistance to the business community. High-quality faculty is a tide that raises all boats. Our school, our students, and our community all benefit.
Learn more about using business as a force for good in the Carlson School Alumni Magazine, where this feature originally appeared, as well as the Driven Campaign.