Professor Spotlight: Dr. Shefali Patil (MAN 336H)

For both online and in-person classes, Dr. Shefali Patil takes the Canfield Business Honors management curriculum to the next level. Dr. Patil teaches Organizational Behavior (MAN 336H) where she employs her research on decision making and operating in high-risk environments. Her passion for research stemmed from her own honors program at NYU Stern, where she pursued research in her senior year.

After graduating from Stern, Dr. Patil earned her PhD at Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Patil said she wanted to continue her work at a research-driven university. 

“I wanted to start off my junior faculty years at a very strong research-based institution,” she said. “UT was definitely on my list and, luckily for me, they offered me a job.”

Throughout her six years at UT, Dr. Patil has examined various behavioral questions by working with over 15 U.S. law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Army, and emergency medical rescue/healthcare organizations. For the past three years, she has been a professor for Canfield BHP. While introductory management courses are often critiqued for being overly theory-driven, Dr. Patil goes above and beyond in her curriculum development.

“I’ve designed my entire course mostly on cognition and thinking skills and I challenge them to see always the opposite viewpoint– to see both angles and complexify the problem,” she said. (The class) is very much geared towards practicality, whereas I think a lot of research-based professors stick more to research in theory. For me, I just feel that undergrads are going onto different career paths, not necessarily research, so (pure research) is not what they need right now.” 

Dr. Patil said that she often implements significant group work and in-class activities to accomplish this application-based learning. As such, one would imagine that the recent pandemic would complicate things for her. Not one to be discouraged, Dr. Patil has actually used the pandemic to enhance her class. 

“I was actually pleasantly surprised because Zoom has amazing capabilities, especially it’s breakout groups. I have centralized my sheets and activities for students to download and then I’ve pre-assigned their breakout groups for (Zoom) classes,” she said. “Despite (everything) that’s going on with coronavirus, the exciting part is that students are relating everything that I’ve taught them in class to what’s going on in the real world.”

Professor Spotlight: Jared Murray

As a statistician, Dr. Jared Murray is no stranger to uncertainty. In fact, he teaches STA 371H, which focuses on using probability, statistics, and data science to learn about the world and make decisions in the presence of uncertainty. In today’s climate, in which uncertainty seems to be a major theme, Dr. Murray emphasizes that he and his students must look for solutions, rather than problems, in the classroom and beyond. 

“The biggest thing, given everything that’s going on, is trying to have the attitude that we’re going to look for solutions, not problems, in this new format,” he said. “There are some things that I want to do that are just not going to be possible. There are some sort of modes of instruction that just don’t work anymore.”

For the past three years, Dr. Murray has been an assistant professor in the Department of Information, Risk, and Operations Management. Prior to teaching at UT, he worked in the Department of Statistics at Carnegie Mellon University and earned his Ph.D. and M.S. in Statistical Science at Duke University.

“One of the things that brought me here was the people’s potential for the collaboration in the (Information, Risk, and Operations Management) group. In fact, there are some folks here that I had already been working with and since I got here, I’ve explored even more collaboration,” he said. “One of the really nice things about UT is that it is enormous. Whatever you’re interested in, you can find it going on here at UT. That’s been a really good experience for me.”

This year, Dr. Murray is teaching three sections of Canfield Business Honors courses. Traditionally, his class is discussion and activity-based, with lots of student collaboration. With classes now online, he has altered his teaching style to fit the needs of his students. 

“It’s so important to try to remain adaptive and flexible and give ourselves and everybody else a break. I’ve really leaned into this model of having videos that students can watch before class and then really dedicating class time to conversation– group work and labs and things like that,” he said. “(Canfield BHP students) all learn really well from each other and it’s a really good way for them to see each other and interact with each other and get a little bit of that social contact that may be limited for a lot of folks right now.”

One challenge in particular that often comes with online classes is attendance, but Dr. Murray has been particularly impressed by his Canfield BHP students. Despite many extenuating circumstances, students have continued to show up and actively participate in his classes.

“There are some folks that I know are in dramatically different time zones or their living situations are difficult. It’s hard to have a lot of siblings at home when everybody is trying to learn online on a limited wifi connection. I’ve got a lot of folks that are way out in the middle of Texas and they’re like driving to places so they can sit next to a cell tower and you can get online,” he said. “It means so much to me that my students are going through all that just so they can get to class. I’ve been really impressed with their resilience.”

Professor Spotlight: Eric Chan (ACC 312H)

Dr. Eric Chan spent the majority of his academic life in the northeast. He earned his undergraduate degrees in Accounting and Finance at the University of Maryland, College Park, his Ph.D. in Accounting from the University of Pittsburgh, and has family roots in Washington, D.C. Soon after graduating Pittsburgh with his Ph. D., however, his journey brought him to the south. Upon being hired, Dr. Chan was offered a position to teach either MBA or honors students– for the past five years he’s taught Managerial Accounting (ACC 312H) to Canfield BHP students.

“I remember when I first came, they asked me to either teach a masters level class or the undergraduate honors students. To me, it was a no brainer. I think I connect better with younger students and an intro class is very important for whether (students) enjoy and end up pursuing accounting,” Dr. Chan said.

Aside from being able to teach honors students, Dr. Chan felt that the University of Texas was the best choice for him because of the research opportunities as well. The faculty and McCombs resources, including the McCombs Behavioral Lab, both played a major part in his decision. 

“I study people’s decision making– how they respond to certain interventions, whether there’s an incentive or rewards scheme that we implement, or how they react to certain feedback. Without the lab we wouldn’t be able to do our research, so that’s an important resource,” he said. “I also have four other colleagues who do experimental research and all of them are just fantastic. Many of them are doing top research in their respective fields. Being able to learn from them is very important for me.”

Dr. Chan applies his academic and personal learnings to the classes he teaches by linking case studies with recent research studies to inform his students. 

“The case studies help (students) apply their knowledge and techniques, but the research is also important to see, ‘Hey, there’s actually more to this than just applying the techniques,’” Dr. Chan said. “It’s actually a lot of tradeoffs and understanding of how people think and respond to actions. Bringing in research can help students see the bigger picture and also help see the cutting edge or new frontier in terms of accounting. For a lot of people, it’s hard to imagine what that might be, so I want to expose students to that”

In addition to connecting research studies to traditional case studies, Dr. Chan accelerates the lecture aspects of his class to ensure time for discussion. Dr. Chan said Canfield BHP students tend to be engaged and willing to speak up and share ideas. He said it’s one of his favorite things about Canfield BHP students because the discussion helps people connect the class to real life. Dr. Chan said that the conversation Canfield BHP students generate allow him to learn as well.

“(Canfield BHP) students are willing to ask questions that are not just about a specific idea or a process or a learning objective. They ask, ‘How does this apply to the big picture of what’s going on outside the room?,’” Dr. Chan said. “On the first day of class I got (a question) about how accounting applies to the real world where AI and machine learning are taking over many jobs. I appreciate students being able to ask those big picture questions, because I learn something from hearing those questions and thinking through them.”

Professor Spotlight: Dr. Robert Prentice (LEB 323H)

After teaching at The University of Texas at Austin for over 40 years, Dr. Robert Prentice continues to enjoy his work. From teaching classes on ethics to leading UT departments, Dr. Prentice has a host of experience and knowledge to share with Canfield Business Honors Students. 

Dr. Prentice came to UT to take on a teaching job, but has embarked on much more since then. Currently, he is the Chair of the Business, Government, and Society department, Faculty Director of Ethics Unwrapped (an ethics educational video project), and former Faculty Director of the Canfield Business Honors Program. Throughout all of his endeavors, Dr. Prentice strives to facilitate the long-term happiness of UT and Canfield BHP students. 

“The more ethically you’ve acted, the more you can look back on your life and be able to credibly tell yourself, ‘I made a difference. I helped people, I made the world a better place,’” Dr. Prentice said. “That (reflection) is going to be the most important thing in terms of individual happiness, so that’s something I try to stress to my students.”

With the pressures of college, internships, and everything else going on in the lives of students, Dr. Prentice works to keep students on track where both education and moral standards are concerned. He said even the best students struggle with being the people they want to be throughout their lives, so he works to ensure they aren’t blindsided by the real world once they leave life at UT.  

“It’s hard to be as good a person as you want to be every day. I think it’s true of my business honors students who I’ve taught over time, they’re great kids. They were raised right, they’ve got good families, they’ve got the right values, (and) they want to be good people,” he said.
“But I think oftentimes they kind of get ambushed. They don’t realize how hard it is day to day out in the real world to be the kind of person you want to be, to live up to your own standards every single day. So those are the types of things I try to focus on and help them with.”

Dr. Prentice says he especially loves working with Canfield BHP students. For LEB 323H classes, he includes more rigorous content, more writing assignments, and a capstone project at the end of the semester. 

“If I were to name my favorite 20 classes that I’ve taught in my 40 years here, they’d all be (Canfield) BHP classes,” he said. “I’m a little more aggressive in what I cover, what I assume they can pick up on their own, and in the assignments I give them. I (also) give them a big Supreme court project, which is a fairly major undertaking where I divide the students into teams and they write briefs on a real Supreme court case.”

Throughout the time Dr. Prentice has been at UT, he said Canfield BHP students continue to impress him in both his classes and in the honors program overall. He said what stands out most is the confidence and speaking ability he sees in students. 

“You can put a (Canfield BHP student) up in front of a crowd and they will distinguish themselves. They will impress the crowd. That’s true of pretty much every (Canfield) Business Honors student,” he said. “The alumnus and the parents and whoever it happens to be (in the crowd) will come away saying, ‘You are so lucky to be able to teach students like that.’ And I agree. I am very lucky to be able to teach students like that.”

Faculty Spotlight: Shiva Agarwal, Management Capstone

Written by Megan Tran-Olmsted

Dr. Agarwal teaches the capstone class that all Canfield Business Honors students must complete to graduate. Because the class serves as the final honors class for many students, it is designed to equip students with the necessary skills to become future business leaders. The class heavily emphasizes the importance of business strategy and successful execution. Dr. Agarwal often emphasizes the fact that “good strategies can quickly become bad strategies” if they lack proper implementation techniques. Because of this pitfall, the Management Capstone class seeks to help students become successful by implementing good strategic practices and avoiding common mistakes.

Dr. Agarwal’s background is multifaceted. She first began her career as a software developer for Microsoft after completing her undergraduate degree in computer science. It was here that she had the opportunity to explore a rapidly growing and changing business in the personal computer space. However, after several years with Microsoft, Dr. Agarwal decided to make a pivot into the business strategy space by completing her MBA. From here, she joined the Boston Consulting Group as a business associate. Here, she was able to utilize her analytical problem-solving skills gained from both her prior work experience and her MBA classes.

Ultimately, Dr. Agarwal felt a continued yearning to dive deeper into business analytics over a longer time frame than consulting allowed. Because of this drive, she pursued a Ph.D in Management at the Wharton School of Business. Here, she had the opportunity to build on her experiences at Microsoft by exploring technological innovation, platforms and business ecosystems, and how those concepts related back to strategic management and corporate strategy. After completing her Ph.D in 2017, Dr. Agarwal began her research and teaching career at the University of Texas at Austin. Now Dr. Agarwal focuses on how firms within their larger respective industries interact with each other, rather than focusing on a single firm.

Dr. Agarwal is a strong believer in the case method of teaching. She believes that this is particularly important in fields such as management where class concepts are largely theoretical, as opposed to formulaic. In her classes, students analyze how corporate giants like Apple, Amazon, and Coca-Cola have designed and adapted their strategies over time to remain competitive in a dog-eat-dog world. Furthermore Dr. Agarwal has seen time and time again that there is a common misconception about business strategy. She says that many people believe that there is “one path to success,” when in fact, each business requires a different and adaptable strategy depending on many market forces.

Since Dr. Agarwal has previously spent several years as a software developer, a business consultant, and now a prominent researcher, she can offer a unique perspective to students interested in entering the tech space, the consulting world, or even academia. She recommends that students test the waters prior to diving into a set career path. She tested several avenues before deciding that the academic world was what she desired to pursue. She fondly recalls how she developed strong relationships with her professors and was fascinated by their research and publications, which fueled her interest to join academia.

When she’s not exploring the next big move in the technology space or teaching CBHP students in the classroom, Dr. Agarwal enjoys spending time with her three-year-old daughter. Even at home, her interest in technology still shows as Dr. Agarwal thinks about the impact of technology on the younger generation. While she teaches this class on creating successful business strategies, Dr. Agarwal says that she would love to know what the ultimate successful parenting strategy looks like.