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Faculty Spotlight

Dean Kiefer, PhD

Interviewed by Eddy Wei, MBA GSA

Pictured: Dean Kiefer

What knowledge and skills do you most want the MBA students to develop while they are in class and out in the real world?

"My classes emphasize the technical skills--how to calculate, analyze and interpret the numbers. In the real world, lots of factors can affect the decision-making process. A company may accept a project even if it has a negative net present value. Environmental control is an example. They also need to get a feel for how to approach problems," Kiefer said. It's important for students to learn how to work with people. In previous positions I worked with accounting, manufacturing, sales and marketing people and they all had different personalities, agendas and approaches. Students need to know how to work with diverse groups of people.

What advice do you want to give to the current and prospective MBA students?

Be open to anything. If the boss promotes you to what looks like an absolutely miserable job, take a minute to sit down and think about it. If there is a real problem for the company and he or she asks you to step in and to help solve it, you can gain respect and recognition by solving the problem and performing well in the position.

A little about Dr. Dean Kiefer, Associate Professor of Finance and Marketing Department Chair

Dr. Kiefer earned his PhD degree in financial economics, with a concentration in international derivatives, at the University of New Orleans in 1996. Before coming to Eastern, Dean Kiefer was a professor at Southern Illinois University and Northern Kentucky University.

Dr. Kiefer started his career as a chemical engineer in refinery industry and concurrently worked on his Masters of Arts in Economics at the University of Toledo. After the refinery job, Dr. Kiefer did cost estimation and plant design work in the research lab of an oil company. After several years, he changed companies to become a marketing analyst and then a financial analyst. Eventually, Kiefer moved to New Orleans and took a strategic planning position in a utility company where he worked on system planning and industrial energy demand forecasting. 

"I'm always interested in economics and investing of businesses," Kiefer said. 

Abrahim Soleimani, PhD

Interviewed by Eddy Wei, MBA GSA

Pictured from left to right: Abrahim Soleimani and Eddy Wei

Students are really enjoying your classes. Will you explain more about your class structure and how students may benefit from it?

"Thanks Eddy, I am very happy to hear students enjoy my class structure. For MBA courses, I try to structure the course and classes with 30 percent concepts and knowledge, and 70 percent analysis, application and skill development."

For an MBA degree it is essential to understand concepts. Soleimani, PhD, relayed that understanding concepts and theories are one thing, but being able to use them in analysis, decision-making, implementation and defense of your position is entirely a different thing. This is why Soleimani emphasizes application and skill development.

In the classroom, Soleimani attempts to achieve three goals:

  • Application of games and activities that reinforce and internalize the development of knowledge, concepts and theories;
  • Develop students' critical thinking and problem solving abilities. For example, Soleimani uses case studies, and says, "You read the case, you try to think what the problem is in this case, and why they made this decision, and then you will become more innovative";
  • Allow the students to collaborate and develop interpersonal skills. "When students participate in the activities, they learn how to persuade another person and how to settle an argument effectively," Soleimani said. 

Soleimani considers all of these skills essential for a person to transform in a society of the business world. If students are only focusing on memorizing the concepts and theories, those may be easily forgotten. However, if they are able to actively participate through case studies in the classroom and implement the new learned skills in everyday life, they are more apt to retain their new skills.

As a professor focusing on leadership and international business, how important is it for our students to develop an international perspective?

We are living in a world that is shaped by globalization, integration and interdependence of countries, and numerous economic blocks and trade and investment agreements such as EU, TPP and CETA. All of these factors, combined with technological advancement, boosts business and particularly cross-border opportunities for companies. Technology has significantly reduced costs for companies, and even small companies have an opportunity to participate in international business practices.

"This is the trend that the business world is going. It is not the future, it is right now," Soleimani said. "The growth of FDI, international trade and the growing number of born global companies proves the internationalization trend of business."

During international expansion it is simple for small companies with three or four people to have a website, and to sign a contract with a shipping company.

The opportunities are out there and if a student or recent graduate is looking for a job, having adequate knowledge of international business will be a competitive advantage

What is your advice and suggestions to our MBA students both in and out of the classroom?

MBA students should be as active as possible in the classroom, and share their knowledge and life experiences. The difference between MBA and undergraduate students is that the MBA students come from different backgrounds and industries. A wealth of knowledge is not only shared by the professor, but also by their peers.

Out of the classroom, Soleimani suggests community engagement, doing consulting projects, running student clubs or organizing conferences. "As an MBA student, there is no limit of what you can do," he said.

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