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Bauer professors’ work experience provides teaching tool

Ranked No. 2 for its undergraduate entrepreneurship program in the country by The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur Media Inc. and No. 49 for its MBA program by, the C.T. Bauer College of Business continues to rise in the nation’s esteem for business schools.

“It is exciting to hear that our program(s) (are) doing such a great job,” Bauer graduate Christian Carranza said. “(Each) recognition that UH receives is a testament to the quality of education and determination of the students (and professors) to achieve success.”

Known in the late 1950s as glorified trade schools, business schools transitioned from hiring business professionals and business owners to hiring more academically trained faculty. The pendulum now swings in the opposite direction as business schools are back to hiring what are termed executive professionals — those who own, manage or play an important role in businesses while teaching.

“(Professors) in the real world have a more realistic view,” Carranza said. “(Their teaching) is oriented to what’s going to make you successful in your career as opposed to what you’re supposed to take out of a book. Theory is obviously relevant to the industry that you’re in, but it’s not the same as someone who’s doing what you want to do and has been successful.”

Carranza speaks from the experience of having professors like finance professor Art Smith, who over the course of his life has worked in various energy industry fields and was the chief economist consultant for CIMA Energy.

“One of my students from my first graduate course at UH told me, ‘Really what you’re teaching is a jargon course,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, you’re right, but understand that there is tremendous reason behind it,’ ” Smith said. ” ‘When you hear these words on the trading floor or in the business, you have to know what it means.’ ”

It is this relevance, as economics senior Nicolas Huerta said, that keeps the students engaged and heightens their confidence in them. Similarly, Carranza said executive professors’ in-depth knowledge — usually specific to their industry, provides their students with an edge.

“In general, you’re able to leave college with a comparative-advantage,” Carranza said. “You look at the next guy who only knows the basics and scholastic views (of their area), and you’re automatically placing yourself above your competition.”

Other such benefits of executive professors include contacts, Huerta said.

“When I was in Professor (William) Alexander’s class I wanted to start an economics society,” Huerta said. “When I spoke to him, he seemed to know everyone in the business and economics departments to help me with that — and that was his reach just at school.”

While balancing a corporate life and academic life may seem distracting, Smith said the contrary is true because what he does in his corporate ventures directly translate to the subjects he teaches.

As for the old teaching cliché, Smith agrees.

“I would say that that’s true,” Smith said. “I was on the floor for nine to 10 years, obviously way over-qualified with a PhD. I was out there with guys who had high school degrees but they could beat the sock off of you trading; they knew what they were doing. So there is something to be said about that. I’ve been fortunate enough that I can do both, I guess.”

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