Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Facilitator

Today was our last DA (Decision Analysis) class of the quarter. It was also our last class with our DA professor. Although a bunch of us will be taking the DA electives later this year and in the next, my professor’s announcement made me pause to think back to the quarter that sped by.

Over the summer, during days of trying to figure out Accounting from the Pre-Enrolment modules, I often wondered how I would learn the concepts through the case method. In the case method curriculum, the professor acts more like a facilitator than a lecturer. Take for instance my accounting class. My professor would hand out transparencies to randomly selected students in the class to enter each line item of a balance sheet with the corresponding t-account. These would then be put up on the projector and the student would defend his balance sheet entry while the rest of the class was free to debate and discuss his assumptions and logic and even his handwriting if they wanted!

Our DA class was another innovative exercise in teaching you to convince clients of the soundness of your arguments without resorting to the use of complex numbers and terminologies. Our professor would make us role-play the case – convince Mr. X to go with your decision to either invest or get out of a particular venture or convince Mr. G to sell a certain number of t-shirts at a game. Our class would play analyst, supplying the “chosen one” with the numbers and ideas to support his/her hypothesis. In all these instances, our professors would play devil’s advocate, challenging our stands, forcing us to rethink our answers, planting a seed of doubt so that collectively you challenge the very spreadsheet before you that took you the better part of the previous evening to develop.

The professor chooses to play facilitator, but that does not mean we do not get to leverage his immense experience and knowledge in the area. Our marketing professor is one such example. His classes are peppered with instances and examples from his own professional and personal life concerning companies and brands that we are all familiar with, all delivered in his trademark New Yorker’s humor.

The case method itself is unique, but when you factor in the fantastic faculty that teach at Darden, every once in a while you get that feeling of awe for just being here and part of this society, making you sit just that little bit straighter in your seat. Perhaps it’s no surprise then, that the Darden faculty have been ranked at the top of Princeton Review’s business school rankings.

Here’s one sample of the caliber of the faculty at Darden. Take a look at the video footage of the panel discussion of our professors organized a couple weekends ago, discussing the current state of the financial markets and the causes leading up to it. Abbott Auditorium was packed with students sprawling out on the aisles to watch the hour long discussion.

On that note, let me excuse myself as I prepare for the last class of Q1 tomorrow. Time...how it flies!

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