Review: Professor Cheryl Shavers, Management, Leavey School of Business

This is the fourth of my reviews on the professors I’ve had while an MBA student at Santa Clara University‘s Leavey School of Business. There are lots of sites out there that provide feedback and rates – ratemyprofessor is the most notable. The SantaClaraMBA Yahoo group also has a big database of comments and lots of additional information in its message archive. But only here can I write as much as I want  🙂

I review professors from a variety of perspectives.  First, I explain the context(s) under which I took the class.  Time of year, time of day, etc.  Then I talk about the quality of the class and the professor, and finally about the professor as a person.  After all, we are trying to learn about our interactions with people, so knowing that side of a teacher is critical, too.  So these would be interactions outside the classroom, etc.

The facts

I took Professor Shaver’s class in Winter Quarter, 2008.  It was the 5:30 section, Tuesday and Thursdays, I think.  Already Winter seems like a long ways away.  The course, Management 512, is titled the ‘Social Psychology of Leadership’ but is best described generically as a leadership course.  Professor Shavers does go over the material out there, but it’s not research-based.  The book introduces some of the research concepts out there, but essentially Shavers challenges each student on how to handle certain situations.  She poses problems and asks us what to do.  The course is pretty loose, mechanically.  A bit of reading, some questionnaires, and each group has to do a presentation on a particular case.  There is also a final individual paper.  But the course is otherwise discussion-based.

My motivation for taking the course was two-fold – one practical, the other programmatic.  First, it was an requirement for the leadership concentration at the school.  So I intended to take it at some point.  Second, it was available that quarter, plain and simple.  So I took it.  However, many of the students in the class are taking it just as they are finishing up their time at Leavey, and you’ll often have students taking Capstone (the final class in the program) sitting next to you.  It’s actually a nice mix of students, though, and really breaks one free from the first year or so of requirements and core courses.

Them’s the facts. Now read on for the review.
The class

Looking back, the more I realize how loose the class was.  Again, it was a lot of discussion, and some of the self-assessments in the book were used.  Shavers does address topics in the book and has slides for presentation, but she routinely skips right past about 15 slides, talks for 10 seconds on one of them, then skips another 20.  She just highlights topics.  In many situations her lecture part is based on the presumption that you have read the book, but it’s not like it’s a requirement or that it’s impossible to make it through a class unless you have read the assigned chapters.

The ‘meat’ of the class is that Shavers challenges you throughout the class with situations.  ‘What would you do”  ‘Why did this person do that”  ‘Would you be ethical in this situation”  Shavers has an impressive resume, as I mentioned in an earlier post (now lost) .  She can really intimidate sometimes in class, sometimes singling someone out to answer a question, then picking the answer apart.  She does not mock anyone, but will poke holes in an answer that can seem aggressive.  Some students will become defensive – you could see this quite quickly.  But she’ll give you a chance to defend yourself.  You might feel like you lost the argument, but she’ll give you a chance.

However, if you take even one chance to speak with her outside of class, you will quickly learn that she is very approachable, has a great sense of humor, and is truly out there to challenge us.  She does throw out her personal experiences – an African-American woman rising up through the ranks of the semi-conductor and engineering field to a position in the national government – as examples of challenges that she has had to deal with.  Then she holds us up to that same standard.  But you know what’  If I can meet her standard, I would be pretty darn proud of myself.  Note that I don’t mean that I want her approval of my actions.  Just that she sets a standard that is a good one.  She also holds herself highly accountable for her own actions vis-a-vis her standards.  The discussion on ethics, in particular, illustrated how she is committed to her principles.

The Person

Professor Shavers – I will not lie – I like her as a person.  Anyone that has that kind of confidence, who has that kind of presence in a room, that sticks to her principles and makes you believe in her, then also has a lighter side is a great person to me.  I want to have that kind of command of a room.  All professors have inherent command of a room, but she pulls in a kind of respect, at least from me, that is far above and beyond what is a given to the sage on the stage. When she talks about what it means to be a leader – trust, motivational skills, respect, etc – I have that for her.  She motivated me to think harder and deeper, and to question myself while not doubting myself.

I don’t think that this presence and sense of confidence is a result of her professional success.  I think her professional success is a result of this confidence.  She said early in the class that we should each have one word that describes ourselves.  It’s sad, but I can’t remember what word she used for herself.  But it was about how, when she was appointed to a position in the Clinton administration, she went ahead and moved her family to DC even before she was approved by Congress.  It wasn’t a risk (well, it was, but not in her eyes).  It was taking on that challenge and running with it.  I think that her success as a minority (both race and gender) in an engineering field (she has a Ph.D in electrical engineering, I believe) and in the technology field in general is because of that kind of confidence and determination.

I ran into Professor Shavers relatively often last spring, as she taught a class next door to one I was attending.  We laughed, joked a bit, and I felt at ease.  But I think part of why I felt so at ease was because I respect her so much.  I’m not trying to sound like some kind of crazy fan here, but if I can look someone in the eye 10 years from now and say ‘I object to how Shell is doing business in Africa (not exactly the most unbiased reference ever, but it’s something) and will never buy gasoline from them’ and they believe me that I am making a difference, or at least truly committed that I must make whatever difference I can, then I will be a happy and proud person.

Some Metrics

Metrics are of questionable use, depending on professor and what classes I have and haven’t taken.  But they might be of interest so I’ll do what I can.  These are more like ‘comparisons’ than metrics but I like the word better :-).  Some rough parameters are:

  • Workload:  runs from heavy, which would be work in class, after class, individual and team, to just a lot of problem sets to basically just in-class discussion.
  • Teaching style:  spectrum runs from pure-lecture to interactive to all-over-the place.
  • Interest in students:  pretty obvious
  • Relevance to the outside world:  pretty obvious, though heavily restricted due to my background in academia

Workload:  Light

The reading is not difficult and as long as  you come to class awake and with mind ready to go you’re fine.  The paper at the end is not difficult.

Teaching Style:  Interactive.

Interest in students:  Fairly to very high.

Relevance to outside world:  High.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *