Faculty Best Practices
Joetta Forsyth, PhD
Assistant Professor of Finance
Finance is a very mathematical subject, so it’s important not to just throw up equations on the board. Whenever I’m demonstrating something mathematically, I’ll apply it somewhere in a way that’s intuitive. I like to start the class by discussing articles in the Wall Street Journal – I can take the math we used in class and relate it to the story. For example, a recent WSJ article discussed how uncertainty is preventing businesses from investing and thereby depressing the economy. We talked about it in class, then I wrote a capital budgeting equation that demonstrated how uncertainty would make companies less likely to invest in projects. Students are interested in understanding how the concepts we learn in class can be applied to current events in business.
One of the students’ favorite parts of class is when I hold “How to Impress Your Boss” sessions. They can bring in issues they are dealing with on the job and we work through it. For instance, we’ll review how to do a better job with capital budgeting, in other words, if they have to make a proposal, how they can improve the analysis to get the project approved. It’s very student-focused and shows them how to use what they learn immediately at work.
Before the term begins, I print out the photo rosters of students and make sure I know who they are on the first day. They are very surprised when I know who they are, but it makes the class more personal. Also, when I grade papers, I use a program that allows me to record and insert voice comments, so students receive lots of feedback that has a personal feel.
Above all, I think it’s important to let students know they are valued. On the first day of class I tell them that in this world, there are poets and scientists, and both are important in business. If you’re a poet, you may have to work harder in my class, but you are perfectly capable of being successful in the business world. Some people are nervous about the math, so I try to make it less scary and tell them to come talk to me and we’ll problem solve it.