Lubricants & Luminaries

Hi, my name’s Bryan and I’m the Student President of the Graduate School of Business. Part of that job is to promote our MBA program. Now, all politicians are full of hot air, but since I hate sounding like a glossy marketing brochure, here’s the truth: the thing I like best about our program is WD-40. The lubricant. (That’s not in the brochure.)

Let me explain. A few weeks ago my housemate was spraying WD-40 on a squeaky hinge when it suddenly dawned on me that WD-40‘s Chairman of the Board teaches one of my classes! It’s a product I’ve used all my life and here I am learning from the guy that runs the show. And not just that show. He’s also the COO of Sempra Energy and a board member for Murphy Oil Company. And you know what he told us on day one? He said, “Listen, I’ve been doing this for 40 years. Here’s what you really need to know when you get out of here…” He then spent each class session training us with specific and practical examples from his career. Not once did I ask myself, “When am I ever going to use this in the real world?” Classes like this are so hard to find and yet so incredibly valuable. I felt really lucky to have stumbled into one.

But that’s the thing; it’s not the only one! Switch tabs and Google this phrase real fast: “company valuation.” The results will be articles from professors, Powerpoint presentations from business schools all over the world, and even training materials from McKinsey. If you look at them closely, you’ll see this sentence: “According to the Copeland book, […]” They’re talking about Tom Copeland. The guy who literally wrote the book on modern finance. The guy who other finance experts contact when they’re stumped. Or, as I call him, “The professor I have class with on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

Now, any business school will teach you about Modigliani and Miller — the nobel prize winners who basically laid the foundation of corporate finance back in the 50’s. But only in Copeland’s class will you hear, “So Miller and I went to lunch one time, and we had this bet…” And then in the next class it’ll be, “So I was sitting in my office in 1996 when the board of Enron called. They wanted to know if they should oppose the potential listing of natural gas prices on the Chicago Exchange…” Copeland walks you through the answer — it’s yes — and concludes by saying, “So that’s how my partner ended up working at Enron. His name was Jeff Skilling.” (Cue ethics discussion.)

This is what I love best about USD: I’m not learning from some PhD student who got his knowledge from a textbook and a slideshow. I’m learning from the folks that were in the trenches. The people who created the stuff they’re teaching. Experts. Luminaries. And not just the two above. My accounting professor works at the FASB.  The professor who taught my negotiations class was a trial lawyer — he argued and haggled over legal settlements for years. The list just keeps growing.

So while it might sound like something out of a glossy brochure, the simple truth is that the faculty at this program are world-class.[1] In the end, what really matters about a school is who’s doing the teaching. I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have at the front of my classroom than the professors at USD.[2]

-Bryan Jones

Bryan graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and served as the GBSA President in 2011. 

1 — I’m not running for re-election (term limits) and grades are already turned in, so there’s no political bias here!

2 — Possibly Jessica Alba.

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