McCalla professor fans the academic fire within
Alberta School of Business Professor Jennifer Jennings knows a little something about being inspired as an undergraduate by research.
While completing her bachelor of commerce degree at Carleton University, Jennings was approached by her professor to work as his research assistant, a stint that required her to undertake an analytical assessment of a statistical technique to determine whether it would be applicable to the research he was conducting.
“I had to read all the papers and come up with annotations for him,” she said. “That was a pretty cool research project to be involved in as a BComm student. It was very different from the typical case studies that we would normally be doing.”
And so it is that Jennings, as a winner of the 2011 McCalla Professor Award, makes a good on a promise to herself to create similar opportunities for her students, especially her female students. The McCalla professorship provides recipients, considered by their faculties to be outstanding academics who have made significant contributions to their field of research and to teaching and learning, and who explore and implement strategies that integrate their research and teaching. Jennings feels the award is an affirmation of her dedication to her classes and her students, but she is grateful that for the opportunity to engage and inspire her students through the research element.
“It’s rewarding to have my work recognized by my peers—that is very meaningful,” she said.
Jennings notes that her undergraduate and graduate students will be involved in a number of research-based initiatives, including tabling data collected from an online survey of the effects of a family business background on the cognitive and affective perceptions of entrepreneurship. Jennings also hopes to engage a student for an article she will be writing on the effects of business ownership on families. She sees opportunities for undergraduates to work with one of her doctoral students who will be comparing the experiences of non-family managers working within family-owned firms.
Jennings says she has also changed her mind on how she will approach one of the original plans she had with the professorship, and it’s a move that will affect a couple of her students significantly. “Two of my female doctoral students are off to Australia next January to present at a women’s entrepreneurship conference,” she said. “I thought to myself this summer, ‘they should be the ones having this experience.’”
Jennings willingly plays the academic devil’s advocate, providing her students with the requisite skills and knowledge for their degrees but also amping up the learning by guiding them on a deeper and more critical understanding of the subjects, using research-based materials. Reflecting on the academic awakening she had as an undergraduate, she feels obligated to give her students a balanced view of the opportunities that are open to them, especially those who hearts and ambitions lie in a domain that others may not appreciate.
“That incident (at Carleton), in retrospect, meant so much to me that I don’t think it would be responsible of me to not provide that for others,” said Jennings. “I’d hate to not ignite the fire in those handful who are here and maybe want to see the subject matter from a different standpoint.”