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Dr. A. Wade Boykin

Dr. Darian Unger
November 2005

Creativity is the wellspring of good teaching.  No one understands this truism better than Dr. Darian Unger, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Information Systems and Decision Sciences in the School of Business.  As his student evaluations confirm, Dr. Unger is known for his creative methods of teaching business management and ethics.

For Dr. Unger, creative teaching requires little more than creative thinking.  For instance, when Dr. Unger wanted students to comprehend the different meanings of price, cost, and actual value, he asked them to jot down the value of their pants.  Then, joking, he offered to buy their pants on the spot.  However, as he negotiated a price, most students realized that they had simply jotted down the cost of their pants (i.e., what they had paid) without considering factors such as availability and time that could determine the actual value.  Thus, the foundation was laid for a lesson about price, cost, and value. 

Another simple but innovative Unger lesson focused on forecasting, a critical business skill.  Since forecasters project prices, rates, and other trends from historical data, Dr. Unger wanted students to understand that forecasting was analogous to “trying to drive forward while looking only through the rear view mirror.”  Unable to bring a car to class to teach such a lesson, Dr. Unger brought a long string instead.  After laying the string in a zigzag pattern on the classroom floor, he dared his students to try a new type of tightrope walking:  Each volunteer had to walk along the string—going backwards.  Students attempted to accomplish this feat using a variety of methods, including holding up a mirror.  Afterward, Dr. Unger helped the class “translate” each of these methods into the quantitative methods that business managers employ for forecasting.

Dr. A. Wade BoykinWhile Dr. Unger can work wonders with a piece of string, he does not hesitate to use technology such as Blackboard, PowerPoint, or videos to drive home a point.  For example, Dr. Unger once played a video file from a Ford Mustang commercial to illustrate the difficulty of scheduling product releases.  In the video, a policeman approaches an idle Ford Mustang convertible, only to discover that the driver is frozen stiff.  A “voiceover” announces the moral of the story:  “You just don’t introduce a convertible this irresistible in the middle of winter.”

Student evaluations confirm that Dr. Unger’s students appreciate such efforts to make lessons entertaining as well as informative.  One student stated:  “I enjoyed your class a lot, and I liked how you used examples from our areas of concentration as well as real life to make it more meaningful. . . . I was never bored in your class and looked forward to your classes.”  Another remarked, “The instructor is very thorough and makes sure to explain a subject as illustratively as possible for all students to be able to grasp the subject matter.”  Yet another observed, “It is rare to find a teacher who cares this much about student learning.” Perhaps the following quote sums up Dr. Unger’s courses best:  “Great professor, great class, and great teaching methods.”  Clearly, a little creativity goes a long way.

 

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