Friday, September 4, 2009

If ye are prepared...

One of my teachers is amazing. He has an Elder Holland-esque presence about him. He is a short, barrel-chested man with a fiery, energetic personality. He also comes across as one of the smartest people I’ve ever known and has a very commanding presence. I’m really excited about his class.

It was actually during the first day of his class that I had a funny experience. The class is advanced corporate finance and is made up of about 30% MAcc students and 70% MBA students.

Dr. Heaton walked in and started passing around cardstock and markers for each of us to make name tags, because he calls on whoever he feels should know the answer, not students with raised hands. As I was writing my name on my name tag, he started talking to a kid sitting in front of me. The class went something like this, but keep in mind that the questions and responses were lightening fast:

Dr. Heaton: Ryan, what was Dave Bitter’s undergraduate major?

Ryan: Computer science

Dr. Heaton: Kind of a strange degree, don’t you think?

I assumed they were talking about a mutual friend, perhaps someone in the MBA program.

Dr. Heaton: Heidi, what was Dave Bitter’s post-graduate degree?

Heidi: An MBA in finance

"Wow," I thought. "They all seem to know this Dave Bitter guy. Dave Bitter must be an MBA professor or a storied alumnus."

As my professor continued to grill students for more unique information about Dave Bitter, I realized that the students’ knowledge of Dave Bitter was a little too uniquethe entire class seemed to know something I didn't. And then, when I saw how Professor Heaton was appalled when a student couldn’t answer a question about Dave Bitter’s job description of his first job at Ford Motor company, I knew I was in trouble.

I turned to the girl sitting next to me and said, “What is he talking about? Were we supposed to read something before class?”

“Yeah,” she said. “He emailed us a 20-page case study a couple of weeks ago and we were supposed to read it and answer questions about the case.”

Gulp. I had read no such case. I started panicking a little bit. I hurried and downloaded the case and started skimming ahead to shield against the shower of Dave Bitter bullets Dr. Heaton was shelling out at random victims like a howitzer.

Luckily, I was spared from answering a case-specific question and was fielded a general question about the risk of US Treasury bonds. It was still frightening, though, because even if you give the right answer, Dr. Heaton challenges you and makes you defend yourself. In his class you have to be sure because if you're sitting on the fence, he'll push you off.

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