For a special series, BusinessWeek asked business undergrads to tell us about their favorite professors. Here is an installment:
Dacia St. Angelo took her usual seat at the front of the lecture hall, filled to capacity with about 450 Texas A&M students. She had signed up for the course because it fulfilled a requirement for marketing, but the class became more than an item on her to-do list. Her professor, Duane DeWald, who received his MS in marketing as an Aggie, turned on the projector, and three frat boys showed up on the screen: "Wasssaaap."
DeWald explained to his class how prominent commercials—like the Budweiser one featuring that famous Wasssaaap tagline—show "how one marketing strategy can actually be intended to polarize the audience based on the target consumer." As he looked around the room for a reaction, he realized he had woken up his own audience, and that got him going, too. "After 17 years of teaching, I still jump out of bed because of the raw excitement in the students," says DeWald.
GENUINE INVESTMENT. Excitement is hard to maintain among notoriously short-on-attention undergraduates. But DeWald has a knack for keeping his students engaged through their 50- or 75-minute classes. That's probably why the majority of Texas A&M students surveyed by BusinessWeek in 2006 named DeWald their favorite professor.
His techniques involve using real-world examples of marketing strategies and relying heavily on global international TV ads, which students rarely have seen and on which they can offer fresh points of view. This secures DeWald's place as an excellent teacher for many. But DeWald also distinguishes himself among popular business professors from other ranked schools in that he has managed to be the exception to a common problem: lack of faculty-student mentorship.
"He appreciates the students at Texas A&M instead of seeking appreciation from the students," says St. Angelo. DeWald continues to develop his relationships with his students, and has generated a common feeling among them that he is genuinely invested in their future.
ON THE JOB. Despite large lectures and a list of 800 students to counsel as the undergraduate adviser for the Marketing Dept., DeWald refuses to split his classes on the basis of a bell curve. He uses test grades "to see if I've been teaching this information well."
DeWald is constantly finetuning his teaching and curriculum. For example, he uses interviews he conducts with recruiters at Texas A&M's career fairs to stay current with industry. From these interviews, he's able to highlight significant and current information in his lectures, which include the undergraduate capstone course, a consumer-behavior class, marketing management, and a marketing-principles course.
He's even able to sometimes offer networking opportunities to students. DeWald reports that an automotive company with which he has had a 10-year relationship has hired 190 Aggies. And an employed student is a happy one—which might account, at least in part, for DeWald's popularity.