Though a college's board of trustees is undoubtedly an essential element to a school's governance, no one would argue that they spend a lot of time with students. A unique graduate level course in Nazareth's School of Management, however, brings trustees and other leaders directly into the classroom, providing real-life examples of management in action.
The Executive Lecture Series (MGT 610) has been offered to graduate students in the School of Management for the past 12 years. It brings in 10 senior-level executives, representing a variety of organizations, to present their thoughts on the state of their industry and their organization, their own career path and reasons for their success, as well as leadership, management principles, and career advice.
"The course really works, and we're very proud of it," says Gerard Zappia, dean of the School of Management. It differs from similar courses at other schools, he says, both because it brings in so many speakers and because the speakers are the course's focus, not a mere supplement to the professor's lectures.
Zappia strives not to repeat any speakers, a goal he has found very easy to meet. "There's a rich source of executive talent out there in Rochester," he says. "Most of them are thrilled to be asked."
More than 120 different speakers have addressed classes since the course's inception, and the board of trustees has provided a ready pool of guest speakers over the years. So far, guest lecturers have included Susan Acker, Lauren Dixon, Steve Dubnick, Sergio Esteban, Jane Glazer, Tom Ioele, Richard Kaplan, John Purcell, and Patricia Schoelles, SSJ. Brian Hickey, executive vice president at M & T Bank, came in first as a speaker, but the fit was such a good one that Hickey has taught the course for the past two years. "An experienced executive like Brian running the class brought it to a different level and made it a better course," Zappia says.
Hickey believes that, as someone with years of management and leadership experience with large organizations, big budgets, and lots of people, he has something to share with the class. But he agreed to teach the class for a broader reason than that.
"I view Nazareth College as a transformative experience, and that's one reason I'm so engaged in it," Hickey says. "It changes students' perspectives, and I admire that."
Watching that transformation in his students is "tremendously satisfying" for Hickey. "When I see students at the beginning of the term and compare their views with those in the papers I read at the end, I get the sensation that I've participated in giving them a new, reshaped frame of reference," he says. "They'll look at leadership, their workplace, and their careers differently as a result of having taken the course."
Student response to the course has been overwhelmingly positive. Course evaluations commonly use terms such as enlightening, inspired, and influential. Others go into more detail, saying the class helped shape where they wanted to go next and how—even if they have discovered that management is not for them.
Clearly, Nazareth's trustees have become part of the College's transformative experience for its students. The real-life examples they provide help students learn first-hand the difference between management and leadership.