Friday, June 3, 2011
Do professors just head for the beach in the summer?
I want to start this post by thanking Steve Eaton, Connor Child and Sterling Morris. Not only did they suggest that I write, but they were in the George S. Eccles Business Building so we could have the conversation that led to this blog post. This is important because many people who don't work on a college campus (or in education in general) think that all teachers have the summer off and that we just close up shop and head for the beach. While it's a lovely thought, it's just not true. So I decided I'd answer the age-old question: "What do professors DO in the summer anyway?"
The spring graduation here at Utah State University was on Saturday, May 7. It was a fantastic day, and I was sad to say goodbye to so many outstanding students. On Monday, May 9, I started a new class - teaching MGT 3500 (marketing fundamentals) to 40 students as part of the School of Business' Summer Study Abroad program. There was a 90-minute class every day for three weeks, and since I was testing out both my new textbook (coming out in the fall - very excited) and a new computerized marketing simulation, there was a lot or preparation, feedback and adjustment. That class is now on brief hiatus while the students attend business visits and complete assignments on their five-week travel experience. Those experiences are being led by other Huntsman School faculty who are "on the job" 24-7 until they come home.
Now that my classes are over for the summer, I have some very important work to do. First, there is getting ready for the fall semester. Continuous improvement can't happen if we don't evaluate and change what isn't working and summer is the time to do it. There are books and articles to read, TED talks to watch and new examples to hunt for.
Then, there's the research. This is the hardest part to explain because it's just so fuzzy for people who don't do it, but let me try. Existing academic research represents the edge of thinking about a particular subject, and business research in particular focuses on what we can learn from and teach to practitioners about strategy and tactics in all areas of business. Ph.D. faculty are expected to contribute to that pool of research and learn from it - to be expert in their subject area. To do that requires reading (a LOT of it), designing and implementing new research studies and writing. I have three such projects right now and hope to complete them all before classes start in August.
Last and most important are the students. Classes are in session year round in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, and when there are classes there are students. When there are students, there are questions. When there are questions, someone needs to be there to answer them. So people like myself, Steve, Connor and Sterling, along with our incredible faculty and staff are there to answer them.
Except for June 9. That day, I'm headed to the beach.
Dr. Stacey Hills