Review: Judith White, Management, Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University

Management 713:  Introduction to Sustainable Development
At a glance

  • 1 unit course first offered Fall 2009
  • Workload:  Heavy final paper
  • Teaching Style:  Discussion
  • Interest in students: High
  • Relevance to outside world: High

Overall Professor Rating: 2 (though this might be because this was the first time the course was offered)

Overall Course Rating: 3 (should be higher, but it needed more organization

Note:  Like many 1-unit courses, Professor White proposed this course as a full, 3-unit class to the department.  Apparently, they decided that it was best to do this on a trial basis as a 1-unit course and to see how it went.  However, as I have learned this quarter, this can lead to inconsistencies.  In this case, while I think the workload was a bit up and down, it was more that I didn’t really know what was going on, what was expected of me, etc, from class to class.  We only met 3 times, but I think I got far more confused than I should have been in 10 or so hours of class time.

About Me

I haven’t done one of these reviews in a while.  The truth is that 1) I have gotten worn down a bit by the program so I have been less motivated to write about my courses and 2) I have a bit of senioritis.  In fact, I just came home from an 8 hour marathon session with my Capstone team, to work on our first case.  But the truth is that I do care about providing useful information to my fellow classmates and those that might take these classes down the road.  So I’ll spend a bit of time now writing…

I started the program almost 3 years ago – March of 2007.  I am now in Capstone, which is, as you can imagine from the title, the final course in the program.  During the past years, I have had trouble finding good, expansive reviews of faculty and/or courses.  So I started writing these.   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.

The facts

I took MGMT 713 in Fall Quarter, 2009.  The course, “Introduction to Sustainable Development,” started off, I believe, as an undergraduate class that was proposed to the MBA program.  Professor White has been with the school, apparently, for some time now – she is not a new hire.

This is a 1-unit course that the school was evaluating for possibility of conversion to a full 3 unit one.  It is offered again this quarter, Winter 2010, as  1 unit.

To be clear, this course is about environmental sustainability in business management.  I was worried that it would be about how to keep a company going (sustainable…), but was glad when my fears were allayed.  Now, it did take about 3 very confusing e-mails to figure that out, but at least I got the facts straight in the end.

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

I am very lucky in that several classmates with whom I started the program – literally in Management 501 in Spring 2007 – all converged, programmatically, to be taking Capstone in Winter 2010.  I was well ahead of this schedule so I decided to slow down and take a few different courses and electives.

This 1-unit course met 3 times in, all in October (one of the few times you have 5 Saturdays in one month).  We received the syllabus and our pre-work a few weeks before the first session (that we had even that much notice is rare with 1 unit courses).  We had an assignment for the 2nd class as well, along with a “conversation starter.”  The final was due when the last class met.  The “starter” is a tid-bit from our readings that we want to run with during a small group discussion.

The reading isn’t too heavy, but the assignments are a bit confusing.  The 2nd one is to use the Natural Step model for evaluating a firm’s environmental impact (carbon emissions, reliance on chemicals, etc).  Based on how much we knew about the final assignment and what the Natural Step model required far more information than we could possibly have found by that time.  Therefore, it seemed as if we had a very difficult assignment for the second class.  It turned out, however, that this was prep work for our final paper.  In fact, nothing formal was even due.

Not that we knew that.

This ended up being a common theme.  Confusion about what was due, about how much work was required, and how detailed we needed to be in our work.

For instance, the final assignment was to propose one change we could do at work that would decrease our company’s “footprint” on the planet’s environment.  The explanation of what this paper entailed was to look at every element that went into a product, how we might change the use of that product, and what impact that change would have.  Now, when I say what “went into a product,” Professor White suggested everything from whether the cardboard used for a box was recycled, whether it had a certain type of gloss coating, if that coating was recyclable, and even whether the clue used to hold the fibers of the cardboard together was petroleum-based or not.  And how much energy it would take to recycle it via different systems, etc.  Oh, and tons of research, fully documented in APA format.  With specific reminders to use APA.

If you think about it, that’s a HUGE amount of work.

What ended up being needed, however, was a paper with whatever information we could find, with some rough information on amount of energy saved, etc.  Nothing nearly as complex as what it sounded like.

This was by far the most frustrating part of the class – I didn’t know what to expect from session to session, and I only had 3 classes over the course of 1 month to figure things out.

Mechanically, the class was very discussion-oriented.  We broke out into small 4-5 person groups for about 15 or so minutes during the 3-4 hour sessions to talk about our “conversation starters.”

The Person

Professor White seems well-intentioned enough, and she is certainly passionate about the topic.  She understand the tools that one can use to help figure out one’s carbon footprint, how we might change our practices, and on what time table.  She did not throw a lot of personal research at us, which is nice.  She also was pretty engaging and the discussions in class were involved and energized.  I think that the class lends itself to energetic conversation, but I would have to think that Professor White had a lot to do with it.

I did have one little “tiff” with her, I fully admit.  During the first class, Professor White asked each of us in class to indicate over what time horizon we felt it was critical for us to resolve the world’s environmental issues.  Given the option of “for our grandchildren, for our children, ” I said that we needed to act right now.

What I meant was that I did not feel we should be thinking about saving the world for our children.  We needed to be thinking about saving the world, period.  It’s not about generations, about deadlines. The deadline is now.  Perhaps a bit rigid of a perspective, but borne from a conviction that we needed to act now.

During break, I asked Professor White why she seemed displeased with my response.  She said that it was fine if I wanted to think of things as “black and white” with a “binary” perspective, either “dead or alive.”  I was offended by this, to be honest.  I do not think of myself as someone who thinks in absolute terms, without understanding the shades of grey in between.  Quite the contrary, if I may allow my ego a bit of room.  And I plead my case, but only to the furtherance of what felt like was a losing cause.  I felt Professor White had already judged me as a certain type of person.  And, while I may have been just being paranoid, it seemed that she did not call on me very often during the other classes, and was cool, at best, in response to my opinions.

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 final paper
Once I found out that the other assignments weren’t nearly as complicated as the syllabus made them seem, the workload was not that heavy.  But for the final assignment, I did a lot of research, had to find all kind of calculators and conversion tools for figuring out how much energy I would or would not save, how much power the recycling process took, etc.  It was quite a bit, to be honest.

Teaching Style:  Discussion

Interest in students:  High

Relevance to outside world:  Very high

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