Clinical Assistant Professor Puts Students to Work as Consultants
Sept. 17, 2013
Dr. Vance Johnson Lewis teaches an organizational behavior class in which students conduct consulting projects for local businesses.
Dr. Vance Johnson Lewis runs his classes like a business.
Take what he calls “unpaid leave” – missing more than three classes – and he will deduct 2 percent from your final grade. No mobile devices are allowed on “company time,” according to his syllabus.
Lewis also puts the undergraduate students in his organizational behavior classes to work, as they take on consulting projects for local businesses. Student teams must file reports offering ideas to either solve problems or make improvements.
“They have to observe the people; they pick up on what goes on,” said Lewis, who joined the faculty last year as clinical assistant professor and director of the undergraduate business administration program at the Naveen Jindal School of Management. He teaches management and professional development courses in addition to organizational behavior.
James Hunter, who took Lewis’ class in the spring, said he will never forget his project at Executive Press in Richardson.
“It gave me the ability to view business on the inside, which helped to relate the course material back to the real world as well as the project,” Hunter said. “Also, it gave us good experience and it helped to improve our confidence in a real-world setting.”
Dr. Vance Johnson Lewis
TITLE: Clinical assistant professor and director of the undergraduate program in business administration, organizations, strategy and international management.
RESEARCH INTERESTS: Conflict resolution, job satisfaction, organizational practices within education, bullying, business communications, leadership skills and development.
PREVIOUSLY: Lecturer, Oklahoma State University Spears School of Business.
Traci Stafford, another student, said Lewis set high expectations.
“It really was a great learning process having to work with an actual company,” Stafford said.
The staff at Executive Press enjoyed working with the students, said Jennifer Beaty, vice president of business development/owner.
“We had a blast. The kids were great,” Beaty said. “I think it’s awesome that he [Dr. Lewis] gave the students that kind of project.”
Lewis encourages students to put the experience on their resumes. The lesson also is a way for Lewis to incorporate his main research interest: behavior, the nature of teams and conflict management.
“While organizations and businesses often are looked at as their own entities, in truth, they are just a homologation of people and the actions of those people,” Lewis said. “I like knowing why people do what they do.”
Dr. Hasan Pirkul, Jindal School dean and Caruth Chair of Management, said that the consulting projects that Lewis assigns make students better prepared for the business world.
“Dr. Lewis works closely with students to give them the practical skills they need to be competitive,” Pirkul said “He is giving students the type of valuable experience that will help them succeed.”