Review: Robert Collins, Finance (OMIS), Leavey School of Business

At a glance

  • Workload:  Heavy
  • Teaching Style:  Lecture
  • Interest in students: High
  • Relevance to outside world: Moderate (this is baseline theory)

Overall Professor Rating: 4

Overall Course Rating: 4

Finance 451 is a baseline, theory-oriented course that examines some of the general principles behind finance.  One really learns to apply these concepts in later courses.  While I obviously haven’t taken 451 with professors other than Collins, I really enjoyed the course, and I felt a big part of that positive but challenging experience is due to Collins, specifically.

The Review

This is the latest 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. That database can be a bit hard to wade through, and the comments are short and often just link to other threads, which are themselves pretty short and superficial. 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.  I also just write whatever it is that I think is relevant or will be helpful to others.  That is my overall goal.

This review goes way back to Fall 2007, which is a full year ago.  I might stop my reviews of past classes after this one just for fear of having lost too much since I took it.

The facts

I took Finance 451, as I said, a year ago in Fall 2007.  It is the first of the finance courses and is a core requirement of the MBA program.  I have no idea whether I took the class on a Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday schedule.  Collins is actually in the OMIS (operations) department, but teaches Finance 451 in the fall (followed by OMIS 355 and 357 in the winter and spring, respectively).  He is obviously there because he offers a compelling and effective introduction to the topics of cost of capital, net present value, etc.

Them’s the facts (slim as they are). Now read on for the review.

The class

This part is where I’m really struggling with my memory, I must admit, so if I get something wrong, I apologize.  I’m 99% confident, though.  The class is very straightforward – lectures with slides (actually pages in WordPerfect, if you believe it), then homework which I’m pretty sure was for our own benefit.  I don’t remember him collecting homework.  But it was very important to do the homework in order to keep up with the concepts being taught in class.  Even though the material is theory and not all that practical (a lot more than net present value – NPV – calculations are used in the real world), one still has to keep up.

Collins puts his notes online (eres) and eventually I found that printing his notes out nice and large and then making notes on them or on the opposing blank page to be the most effective method.

As far as mechanics, the class has a midterm and a final, both of which are fairly intense.  I am pretty sure they were multiple choice on scantron forms.  Collins spiced up the exams with a few humorous answers here and there, which was nice.  This traditional testing style is consistent with the relatively straightforward nature of the course.

Since the class is pretty straightforward, there isn’t much to say here.  However, I will say that this is a “challenging” class that is hard, rather than just one that is hard.  Collins makes you work, but you learn.

The Person

There is a little bit to be said here about Collins, which illustrates the little touches that made me enjoy the class more.  For instance, he had heard that he was known as being this mean professor, really hard, tough on his students, etc.  While he didn’t regret being known as tough, he didn’t want people to suffer or feel like he was cold.  So at the beginning of each class he took us on a “2 minute vacation” where he showed us a photo of a place taken while he was traveling (apparently every summer he goes to Europe) and talks a bit about it.  Then he goes into lecture.

As I mentioned, he also puts clearly-humorous answer options to some of the questions on the exams.  Not all of them, of course, but some of them.

These two examples are about Collins’ accessibility as a professor.  Not that I visited him during office hours all the time or anything (just a couple), but I felt that he was approachable and was open for discussions should I feel the need.

Also – and this is important – Collins made repeated comments about “liberal arts majors” and how they would either struggle or something to that effect.  He even had a slide that literally showed us the button combination for doing some calculator function.  I am not kidding – it looked like this:

100 | +

50 | *

2 | =


(imagine that’s a table)

At first, I was offended by this (I have a BA in history).  I confronted him about this after much trepidation (if he makes fun of liberal arts majors, maybe he’ll hate me if I say something!) and it turns out that he does this because he’s trying to break up the engineering-orientation of the class.  Usually the students want to rush through calculations and miss important concepts. Admittedly, he’s “using” liberal arts majors at their expense, but he’s doing so in order to better manage the learning experience of his students.  That’s a good thing.  And I respect that a lot.

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: Heavy
It’s a lot of topics, and his questions are designed to merge multiple together (lump sum > annuity, going backwards, etc) so it’s important to keep up with the material.

Teaching Style:  Lecture

Interest in students:  High.

Relevance to outside world:  Moderate
The actual relevance is very high – it’s critical to know the basis for these financial decisions.  But this is really elementary theory and principles, not the practical application.

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