EMBA Faculty Focus: Theory to Practice

The first time Myles Shaver taught MBA students, he quickly came to a conclusion that the experience would forever affect his teaching.

“I looked at the class and realized I could well be the youngest person in the room,” says Shaver, Pond Family Chair and professor of strategic management and entrepreneurship at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management. “If this was a game about telling war stories, I lose, and I don’t like to lose.”

Instead, Shaver decided to shift his teaching strategy and leverage his research expertise for the benefit of students.

“I knew what I could bring was a deeper understanding of strategy,” he says. “I could use the knowledge that we have from research to help challenge students and help them understand more about the issues. I thought that was where my focus would need to be if I was to be successful.”

That choice turned out well for Shaver: He has received Carlson’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, Outstanding Faculty Dedication Award, and the Elective Teacher of the Year, as well as the Academy of Management Business Policy and Strategy Division’s Irwin Outstanding Educator Award for Contributions to MBA and Executive Education.

His research explores corporate strategy choices and their impact on performance, including the management and economics of international expansion and corporate expansion through diversification and mergers and acquisitions.

Beyond Content to Connections and Engagement

While research insights and theories serve as the foundation for the content of his EMBA corporate strategy course, he knew they also must connect with his students to hit a home run.

“I’m a big believer that people will engage when they think it’s important,” he says. “I ask them questions. I want them to share their experiences. I want them to tell me what they are thinking.”

Shaver’s highly intentional approach to combining theory and student experience makes classroom discussions rich – and interesting.

“In many ways, the theory is powerful because it provides a way to think about problems,” says Shaver. The real issues and experiences help test the theory. “The way I see it, theory is just theory until students can apply it,” he says. “Class sessions allow us to work through these issues as a group.”

From Intuition to Insights

The back-and-forth also leads to rewarding moments for a teacher: It allows his students to translate and apply what they learn in class to their real-world challenges and opportunities, and see those challenges and opportunities in a new light.

“What inspires me is seeing students come to an understanding that was different than their intuition or understand the basis of their intuition,” he says. “Then they can take their experiences and see them in a different way or take their intuition to another level.”

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