Big Orange. Big Ideas. They’re fueling UT Knoxville on its journey to become a Top 25 public research university. Here are three faculty members who are bringing big ideas to life in the classroom, through their research and through community service.
Melissa Bowers has always loved math, biology, and chemistry.
She thought about being a doctor or pharmacist.
“I decided that wasn’t for me,” she said.
She toyed with the idea of majoring in engineering or math.
“But I didn’t want to sit in an office and develop theory all day,” she said. “I wanted to see it at work.”
With an undergraduate degree in biochemistry from the University of Georgia, Bowers went on to earn her doctorate in management science from Clemson University. Soon after, she joined UT’s College of Business Administration faculty.
Now an associate professor in management science, Bowers teaches in the business analytics graduate program, the full-time MBA, Aerospace and Defense MBA, and Professional MBA programs. She also teaches several short courses in the Center for Executive Education. She’s served as a consultant for the Defense Logistics Agency, Milliken, ALCOA, Phillips Petroleum, Oxford Industries, the US Air Force, UT Medical Center, Cherry Point Naval Air Base, Boeing, and Tanner Companies.
“I really enjoy teaching both graduate students and working professionals,” she said. “Collaborating with the professional MBA students on real-world projects helps me stay current and that enriches the learning experience I provide for my other students.”
For instance, Bowers worked with one of her professional MBA students, an employee of Delta Airlines, on a project to decrease the turnaround time on repairing a specific type of jet engine. She worked with another Delta employee on a project to improve the airline’s cargo shipping operation. Not only did the students learn the fine points of “business analytics”—the field that merges management science with statistics—they saved Delta money through their projects.
Jan Williams, dean of the College of Business Administration, said Bowers excels in teaching and in developing new academic programs.
“She was chosen as the outstanding teacher by the MBA class that graduated in December 2011,” Williams said. “She served on the team that developed the new business analytics program, and is one of the developers of the Lean MRO one-week executive program. She is also a principal investigator on a research grant with the US Air Force and is working with Air Force bases in streamlining the maintenance, repair, and overhaul of aircraft.
In her spare time, Bowers enjoys spending time with her husband, who is an engineer, and her two sons, ages 18 and 16, who—like their parents—love math and science.
She volunteers at her church and loves to travel, especially to the beach and to US National Parks.
As a boy, Terry Esper was captivated by a picture of Venice on the wall of his fourth-grade classroom in inner city Detroit. He pumped his teacher with questions about Venice and told her that he planned to visit the Italian city when he grew up.
Although he can’t remember her exact words, he remembers the essence of her response—she doubted if he’d ever make it there.
When Esper and his wife visited Venice a few years ago, that fourth-grade moment came rushing back to him.
Today, it helps fuel his desire to inspire his students to achieve and succeed.
“That’s what makes me commit to teaching,” he said.
Esper has a bachelor’s degree in math from Philander Smith College in Little Rock and a master’s degree in transportation and logistics management form the University of Arkansas.
After college, Esper went to work as a senior traffic administrator and logistics solutions strategic planner for Hallmark Cards, Inc.
One day, a business colleague posed an intriguing question: What would he do if he won the lottery?
“I said, ‘If I didn’t have to work I would love to teach and learn and write,'” Esper recalled.
Then he realized he didn’t need to win the lottery to live that dream.
Within a week, Esper had applied for the doctoral program in marketing, logistics, and supply chain management at the University of Arkansas. When he finished, he came to UT where he’s now associate professor. He teaches an undergraduate logistics strategy course and a supply chain management class for company executives through UT’s Center for Executive Education.
“Coming to UT was the beginning of my career,” he said. “Everything else I’d done—my education, government work, and corporate work—was preparing me for the work at UT.”
Williams said Esper “is a prolific researcher, publishing high-impact work in both the marketing and the supply chain management literatures. He is also a superb teacher and has been the recipient of numerous teaching awards at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.”
Esper—who considers himself “a storyteller, a comedian, and cut-up”—knows he’s honed his teaching skills since arriving at UT.
“When I first got here, I was very heavy-handed,” he said, recalling how he tried to distance himself from his students, even though he wasn’t much older than they were. “I tried to be very eloquent. I almost ran the risk of being a bit stoic.”
In the middle of the semester, he asked his students to evaluate him.
“There was someone who left me a note that said, ‘You have the potential to be one of the best teachers I’ve ever had …if you would just be yourself.’ I thought, this is probably the best feedback I’ll ever receive.”
Dan Flint recalls being in the checkout line at a store and getting perturbed as he watched a clerk scan the price tag of one shirt and then hit “2” for the second shirt, which happened to be identical—except for the color.
“I know the implications of that, so I got on her for messing up the inventory ordering system,” said Flint, who directs UT’s Shopper Marketing Forum, which he helped form in 2009. The forum explores contemporary shopper marketing strategies and shares that knowledge with students and the many industries involved.
Flint, the Proffitt’s, Inc. Professor of Marketing, admits he can’t go shopping without critiquing brands, shelf placement, displays, and more.
“It is the kind of thing I live and breathe,” he said. “It makes my wife crazy at times.”
But it’s his dedication to the subject that makes him crazy good at his job, college officials say.
“As much as any faculty member in the College of Business Administration, Dan embodies the ideal of ‘full portfolio professor,'” Williams said. “Dan’s research, especially in the area of shopper marketing, is ground-breaking, and has resulted in numerous publications in top-level academic and professional journals. His teaching is exemplary, as shown by his selection, for the fourth time, as the ‘Outstanding Second Year Faculty Member’ in UT’s full-time MBA program.
“His service to the department, college, and discipline is also outstanding,” Williams said. “Dan has led the Shopper Marketing Forum initiative, which has brought resources, and notoriety, to UT.”
His full-portfolio contributions were noted in 2011 when he was the recipient of the Jefferson Prize, one of the most prestigious faculty awards granted by UT.
The Shopper Marketing Forum brings together companies, scholars, and students. Companies share information about what they need to improve their marketing and sales. That information guides scholars in doing relevant research. The input and the research allow faculty to train students so they’re better prepared for jobs in the field.
Flint is helping to rework the undergraduate marketing program so it includes more about shopper marketing. He’s also making plans to take students out to visit companies and bring company executives to campus to be “professors for a day.”
Prior to coming to UT, Flint was an assistant professor at Florida State University and worked as an account manager at ALCOA. He served in the US Navy as a flight officer for seven years.
Flint earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy, his master’s degree in business administration from Central Michigan University, and his doctorate is in marketing and logistics from UT.
C O N T A C T :
Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, firstname.lastname@example.org)