#KnowYourProfessors: Paul Berry, Finance and Accounting
What do you think the benefit of a double major in Commerce and another discipline?
I think business pervades all studies whether we realize it or not, for example an artist is essentially a small business owner. I think some of the best work in business studies are often by academics who were not necessarily business people. There have been a number of academics with economics or sociology backgrounds that have had an impact on management thought. Cross-disciplinary studies hold a lot of value.
When making a decision, what do you think is the most important consideration?
I think how it will affect the people involved, particularly the students.
Was there an experience in any of your classes that you found very rewarding?
I had a number of students over the years that have really stood out. One student, Charles Chang, did his thesis on the issue of accounting and options. The thesis itself was related to a conference that was organized the following year in Montreal. I asked Charles if he would be interested in submitting part of his thesis to the conference. I helped him set up the chapter of his thesis as an academic article. He submitted it and it was accepted. The conference was very interesting, as it involved both academics and industry participants. The thesis was very relevant at the time as a lot of big businesses in the United States that were failing because they were using options without full knowledge about them.
Why did you decide to teach at Mount A?
When I graduated from Mount Allison, at first I had no intention of returning. Initially I worked for a bank and then I went to Queen's to complete their MBA program. My second year, a faculty member from Mount Allison came to campus to conduct interviews; they were looking to hire three new professors that year as they were expanding the program. Bill Miklas, the Associate Dean, encouraged me to apply. The funny thing was, Bill had done his undergraduate degree at Queen's and now thoroughly enjoyed teaching there. Eventually I was offered the position and signed a two-year contract. I ended up enjoying the job so I stayed.
#KnowYourProfessors: Dr. Nauman Farooqi, Finance and Entrepreneurship
In your courses, like Entrepreneurship where you have students start and run an actual business, you use experiential learning to teach the students. What inspired you to start using experiential learning in your classes?
Many years ago, I took over my family business from my father who passed away and I was very confident that I could take that business places. About a week into the job I realised there was a huge difference between the theory and the practice of business and it does not necessarily translate into the real world. In my later role as a professor, I tried to bring business experiences into my courses so that students could see how theory relates to practice.
How did you come to teach finance?
My 'claim to fame' for teaching finance courses is because I have a PhD in Finance. My 'claim to fame' for teaching entrepreneurship is because I was an entrepreneur and got burned badly. One of the great things about teaching at Mount A is that it's small enough and has a liberal arts focus so you can really teach what you're passionate about and that enthusiasm really translates well for the students. I call myself an accidental academic. When I finished my MBA, I had the option to either work at Citi Bank or avail myself of a scholarship to get my PhD in the US and I chose to get my PhD.
How did you end up at Mount A?
It was a match of interests. I was teaching overseas and looking at opportunities in Canada. The plan was that I was going to move to Canada for the summer and keep on exploring the opportunities and if things didn't pan out then I'd move back to my job. The first day that I landed I checked my email there was an offer from Mount Allison. I said 'hmm that's interesting' and ended up saying yes. It was just a one-year position. After the year was done I had actually accepted a tenure track position at another Canadian university but the head of the department at Mount Allison told me he wanted me to stay, a week before I planned to leave. He ended up moving heaven and earth and I ended up staying.
Originally I wanted to move on and do something else but after two years I realised I like the town; I like the University, I don't want to go anywhere else.
#KnowYourProfessors: Dr. Judith Holton, Management
Why do you think it is important to feature books focused on humanity in the strategy courses?
Business is people, organizations are people. We really have to keep that in mind. It's one thing to develop strategies and plans and put them in place but we always have to remember that people enact strategies and their actions impact those strategies whether overtly or covertly. There is always an informal channel in organizations and much of what gets done often occurs through the informal channels not the formal channels. We might call these informal connections networking or just getting together with friends and colleagues, having a coffee at work or a conversation at a hockey game. These connections are where employees try to make sense of what is happening in their organization and how they are going to respond. So, how they perceive and make sense of a situation can have a significant effect on an organization's planned strategy.
Was there anything a student ever said or a realisation a student ever had that really struck you as very interesting? Or was there a time you really learned something from a student?
I learn from students all the time. As one example, I recently changed the format of the leadership class to focus on values. Articulating shared values is an important criterion for effectively mobilizing commitment and energy in an organization so I felt it was important for students to explore their own values and how these might influence them as leaders. It was a bit of an experiment. I wasn't sure how comfortable students would be in sharing their values and whether or not they would make the connections to leadership development and effectiveness. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how receptive students were to this kind of self-exploration. We had fantastic conversations exploring and comparing individual values, where these values had originated and how they might impact on their approach to leadership.
There was one student who participated in a 'pitch' competition where she had to prove why she would be a valuable asset to a company. When she came back from the competition and said, "guess what, I won", she told me that she had used her values as the basis of her pitch. She explained that the judges were struck by how authentic her presentation was and how different it was compared to the more conventional 'packaged' pitches that students tend to use to promote themselves. It was really gratifying to see how she had made that deeper connection. Having her spend some time thinking about: Who am I? What do I value? Why is it important to me and because it is important to me, needs to be a part of who I am in an organization? That struck a chord, we need a lot more of this in organizations where people can be open and honest about who they are. To do that, you first have to know who you are. When you can then find other people who have those same values and you can make those connections, the impact that can have in an organization is profound. When we look at successful organizations it is often the ones that has a strong values base, a strong statement of who they are and why. I think all of that really confirmed in my mind the importance of a values-based leadership course.
What is Grounded Theory and can you give me an example of it?
Grounded theory is probably the most frequently cited methodology in social sciences. Academics in disciplines as varied as management, medicine, nursing, and education use grounded theory. The idea of grounded theory is that rather than basing your research on established theory and going out and collecting your data to confirm or elaborate on the established theory you instead go out and collect your data first, being as completely open as you possibly can to what is really going on. You don't start with a pre-framed question or any preconceived ideas. You remain open to discovering a main concern to emerge in the data and a pattern of behaviour that explains how that concern is managed or resolved.
In one study I completed I wanted to see why high-level managers participated in certain activities outside of work. I thought it was about professional development but what I found from my interviews was that these managers were most concerned about the impact of change and its effect on the people in the organizations they work in. This was a bit frustrating because the interviews didn't seem to link to what I thought would be my research topic. But using grounded theory and staying open to the main concern of these managers, I discovered that the persistent and unpredictable nature of change in organizations was experienced as dehumanizing the workplace and that these managers used these 'outside' activities to rehumanize their work and their work environments by re-igniting their passion for work that they enjoyed. The side benefit for their organizations was that it also fostered renewed energy, creativity and innovation - a win-win!
You recently had a book published. What inspired you to write it and why did you choose Classic Grounded Theory?
I used Classic Grounded Theory with my PHD thesis. Grounded Theory is frequently cited as one of the most used research methodologies in the social sciences but there is also a lot of confusion around it because of the different variations of Grounded Theory that have been created. People often think they are using Grounded Theory when they are really only using parts of the methodology; not the full package. I was fortunate fairly early in my PhD to attend a seminar given by one of the men who created the original methodology - Dr. Barney Glaser, who continued to mentor me informally. I started helping him with seminars and we eventually started writing together, particularly about the challenges that people new to the methodology have in learning Grounded Theory. Dr Glaser has published over 15 books on Grounded Theory but his press - Sociology Press - is not as well-known as some of the major academic publishers. I didn't know anything about his press until I found his 1978 book, Theoretical Sensitivity , in the library of my UK university. He had established a very rudimentary website for advertising his books and seminars but I kept saying to him "you need to set up a page to sell your books online." That was 2004 and he was so skeptical about using PayPal but he now sells his books all over the world this his website.
However, I still felt there was a need for a book through a major publisher that would take its place among all the other versions of Grounded Theory that they were promoting. This idea was something I had started working on maybe 10 years ago. I would take notes at seminars and save emails from PhD students who contacted me for advice and help. All this became my data for the book. Then I met Isabelle Walsh, my co-author. We first met online in 2013. She had never met Barney but she had learned Grounded Theory from his books. We had had similar experiences in realising that there were a lot of variations in the books on Grounded Theory so we were attuned in that way. She uses both quantitative and qualitative data in her theory generation where I use only qualitative date. I thought her expertise in using quantitative data would be a valuable addition to the book so when Sage made the offer to me to go ahead and write the book I said I wanted to bring in a co-author. That proved to be another interesting and valuable learning experience for both of us as we then had to sort out some differences in perspectives. It was a very interesting dynamic to write together and a great sense of accomplishment when it was done. It's just starting to get out there, I've just seen the first review. It's from an academic in Norway and the review is very favourable.
What other research interests do you have?
My research has always been about looking at the connection between people and their organizations; how individuals impact upon the organizational effectiveness and how organizations impact upon the health and well-being of individuals. My Masters thesis was about building trust and collaboration in virtual teams. In my PhD research, I became fascinated with why extremely busy managers always seemed to make time for what I called ‘side of the desk’ projects. These were usually informal projects and activities where they connected with other managers often outside their own organization. I used Grounded Theory to explore what was really going on and developed a theory of rehumanizing knowledge work through fluctuating support networks, explaining that these very busy people make time for informal networking as a means of actually coping with really hectic work environments where persistent and unpredictable change often leaves them feeling less valued and less passionate about their roles and their work. The rehumanizing process that they experience in these fluctuating support networks helps to restore their sense of being respected and valued and re-ignites their passion for work. The process also has benefits for the organization as it fosters energy, creativity and innovation.
I have continued my interest in the impact of change on organizations; particularly, how to mobilize energy for change in complex systems such as health care and leadership development needs for middle managers.
#KnowYourProfessors: Dr. Jane Mullen, Management
What made you pursue workplace safety as a research topic?
As with all of the research topics that I choose they usually extend from a family member or a friend's experience at work. My interest in workplace safety started with my curiosity about their early work experiences and what really intrigued me were the stories about the workplaces that really didn't prioritize safety, it was all about productivity and efficiency. I would hear about family members and friends who had been injured at work or experienced a close call. A common theme that would come out of these conversations was that a supervisor had a really strong role to play. That's how my interest in workplace safety came to be.
How do you think case competitions benefit student's learning?
We explore concepts and theories in the lectures and I try to link the concepts to examples in organizations. Providing students with an opportunity to work with organizations to solve issues brings an experiential element to the course. They are able to work closely with the organization to solve current issues and provide their recommendations. Students see firsthand when working on a current organizational issue that when it comes to applying concepts learned in the classroom it is not always so neat and tidy. It is also important for students to make the connection between research and practice to ensure their recommendations are grounded in empirical evidence. Overall, there are so many added benefits, not only the application of theory but also making those connections with the people in the organizations.
With such a focus on safety workplace culture, how do you think leadership training will change?
If leaders do certain things, then we can expect positive safety outcomes. Through research we know that this relationship exists but the question now becomes how do we design and implement effective safety training interventions. In terms of research, I am now focusing on identifying what the specific things organizational leaders can do to help build a positive safety climate and I am designing effective safety leadership interventions that help leaders incorporate safety into their daily practices.
What is the most memorable thing from teaching - is there something a student said once that really changed your thinking or really taught you something?
I learn so much from experiences with our international students. The perspectives that international students offer are so interesting and add considerably to discussions in class. We have great conversations about how and why cultural context is important when exploring a theoretical framework in the organizational behavior course.
Interview by Commerce student Kathleen Cowie.
#KnowYourProfessors: Dr. Rosemary Polegato, Marketing
We celebrated the 5th annual Sackville Culture Days. How did this project come to be? What do you see as the value of experiential learning?
In 2010, the NB Task Force asked me to participate in a new national program called Culture Days, which aims to provide all Canadians with opportunities to participate in, and appreciate, all forms of arts and culture. I immediately thought of an unconventional “inside out” model for a student project - a project that moved from inside the Commerce Department out to other departments and off-campus. Students in the Arts and Culture Marketing course organize an event in which students in Drama, English, Fine Arts, and Music share their talent with the people of Sackville at ten downtown businesses while they shop, eat, and pick up their mail.
The event is lively and fun, and a fantastic way to celebrate the business and creative talents of Mount Allison students. It also taps into a perfect storm of ingredients for experiential learning, a rich mixture of learning-by-doing, book learning, and reflection. The project models collaboration within and outside the University. Students practice soft skills, as well as manage schedules and a budget. Learning is hands-on, deep, and memorable.
What do you think makes Mount Allison grads special?
When I interviewed here, I was very impressed with the Mount Allison students I met. I continue to be impressed with their energy, multiple talents, and diversity. They make teaching a joy! Every day, I get to interact with young people who are willing to work with each other and me to resolve business issues; to complete a wide variety of assignments, papers, and projects; to discuss, write about, and present ideas; and to participate in community-based learning.
They are willing to explore beyond their comfort zone both inside and outside the classroom. Commerce students are involved in volunteer activities, student governance, wellness activities, varsity sports, part-time work, drama, music - the list is endless. They take opportunities to connect academic work to their other interests. Mount Allison grads not only know about business theory and practice; they also have a good grasp on their strengths, interests, and what they want out of a career and life. They are interesting, well-rounded, young adults.
Your specialty is arts and culture marketing, what sparked that interest?
That spark has always been there! My interest in creative expression evolved to dove-tail with my interests in business. My seven years of mainstream graduate study in business included courses and projects related to retailing, non-profit and service organizations (e.g., museums), the apparel industry, and of course, the creative side of marketing.
My good fortune was that about ten years ago, the University started to gravitate towards highlighting the creative arts. The concept of a centre for the arts was percolating, for example. Music and fine arts students were taking marketing courses, and Commerce students were choosing course projects and thesis topics on the arts sector. I was ready and I was excited! I introduced two courses on the arts and culture sector. Also, my research interests moved towards audience development and the role of the arts in teaching and learning. It was a seamless transition that complements my teaching in Consumer Behaviour, International Marketing, and Sustainable Marketing.
#KnowYourProfessors: First Edition - Brent White, Accounting
What was your experience like working with the Auditor General?
Having worked at the Office of the Auditor General for over twenty years, I had a variety of interesting experiences. One thing about working on value-for-money (VFM) audits, it's almost like starting a new job every fall, kind of like going back to school. You would have to build up a knowledge of the organization you were auditing in order to determine which areas were most significant, (or material as we say in financial auditing) and where key risks resided. You were learning, so to speak, which gave you the "new job" sensation.
Another thing that was a big positive in working with the Office of the Auditor General was the quality of the people I worked with. We had a number of very committed staff who took their jobs very seriously. They were really interested in doing the right thing to promote accountability of the government and its agencies.
A third thing I should mention is that I had the pleasure of working for a number of years with one of the finest leaders, and best human beings, I have known. Auditor General Ralph W. Black, FCA showed tremendous leadership during his tenure (1993-97). He brought an excitement to the Office that was so evident. The day he announced his retirement, you could have heard a pin drop. It was like someone had told you a good friend died; a sense of great loss.
What do you think about the future of accounting?
It's difficult to predict the future of course. One of the big things in accountancy in Canada right now is the merger of the three accounting bodies (CA, CGA, CMA) into one new designation—the CPA. I wonder about this. In my opinion—and I think we may see this already beginning to happen—the new CPA designation will find other designations will rise to compete with it. The history of accounting is instructive here, but it seems that as accountants we show too little interest in our history.
What brought you to MtA?
I came to Mount A because it offered a chance for a career change and a new challenge at an opportune time in my life. I had been teaching part time for 10 years or so at UNB and I liked it. I had just completed a research—based masters at Queen's and I enjoyed the research. And along came one of my fellow CA's one day at coffee break, telling me about this opportunity at Mount A. Nice fit.
The Know your Professors feature was developed by Commerce graduate, Anthony De Palma.