Sophisticated students around the world know they should “take professors, not courses.”

Fundamentally, learners want knowledgeable, competent professors who design and deliver active, participant-centered learning experiences that blend insights from theory and real world practices.
Among this group of select faculty, the most sought after professors consistently care about their students, listen to them, and want to see them succeed in their studies, in their personal lives, and in their careers.

Dear Professional,

Thank you for taking the time to visit the MDI.TOKYO website, and for taking the time to read this letter which tells the story of my learning journey as I have moved from teaching at Vanderbilt University, Drexel University, Waseda University, and now MDI.TOKYO.

Please know that I am deeply committed to taking the best theories and practices from the best business schools in the world and applying them in my classrooms here in Tokyo.

If you have any questions or comments, as noted at the end of this letter, please do not hesitate to contact me.

***

VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY 2001-2005

I began my teaching career in higher education at Vanderbilt University in 2001 while earning my PhD.

My approach to course design and delivery at Vanderbilt was shaped by my experiences and observations in Japan where I had lived, worked and studied from 1992-1998:

First, I bench-marked global competitors. Next, I adopted courses that reflected the best theories and practices in the world and adapted the course designs and materials to the context in which I was working at Vanderbilt University. 

As someone who still had student loans from his undergraduate studies, I had a genuine and profound respect for the financial sacrifices that my students and their parents were making in order to be able to attend a world-class university. When working with students at Vanderbilt, I was guided by two rules:

1) Teach every course as if I were preparing my own children to compete in the global economy.
2) Teach every course in a way that reflected how I always wanted to learn when I was a student.

Despite (or because of) the fact that I was much more demanding than other professors, my courses were very popular. (One student’s mother was so impressed by her daughter’s enthusiasm for my course, that she went to the campus bookstore and bought the textbook so she could read it for herself).

At Vanderbilt University I conducted research on the incubation of new ventures. With funding support from the Kauffman Foundation, I traveled 14,000 miles to collect data for my dissertation; it continues to be one of the most widely cited studies on business incubation ever conducted.

During my time at Vanderbilt, I learned the power of coupling high, global standards for teaching and learning excellence with empathy for the needs of local learners (and sometimes the needs of their parents).

 

DREXEL UNIVERSITY (2005-2011)

After earning my PhD at Vanderbilt University, I worked for six years at Drexel University in Philadelphia.  At Drexel, I learned to take complex topics related to innovation and entrepreneurship and build courses around these topics in ways that challenged highly talented undergraduate and MBA students while remaining accessible for less motivated students.

Drexel University operates on the quarter system, so faculty members need to be able to onboard a class and quickly hit full speed, or they will run out of time before they have covered all course concepts and materials. By listening to feedback given to me by my students, I learned that I could help them achieve more, faster, by providing them with very clear directions and templates for required assignments.

My syllabus for my flagship Entrepreneurship course quickly ballooned to over 40 pages after I added very specific assignment instructions and supplemental tools. According to one Teaching Assistant, the Learning Management System I used to help deliver the course reminded him of a computer program due to the level of specificity I had achieved.

Students responded very enthusiastically, with my classes frequently hitting maximum capacity, despite (or because of the fact that) I had developed a well-earned reputation for requiring students to “work hard, learn a lot, and have (some) fun.

During my time at Drexel, I learned that students do not want to be managed and they do not want to sit passively in large lecture classrooms. Instead they want a knowledgeable guide who can provide tools and scaffolding to accelerate their learning journey so they can take an active role in the classroom and take ownership of their education.

 

WASEDA UNIVERSITY (2011-2017)

In 2011 I moved to Japan and began teaching MBA courses to students at Waseda University. The MBA faculty at Waseda is relatively small, and – to help the faculty deliver a more comprehensive curriculum – I was requested to expand my teaching domain expertise:

FROM

  • Innovation,
  • Entrepreneurship, and
  • Strategy

TO

  • Innovation,
  • Entrepreneurship,
  • Online/Internet Business Strategy,
  • Negotiation,
  • Business Presentations, and
  • Logical Thinking.

As I prepared to double my teaching expertise (and teach some courses in Japanese!), I learned about a policy decision to use a budget surplus to pay – on behalf of the students – for any case study materials that came from Harvard Business School Publishing. So, to the greatest extent possible, I built my courses on top of syllabi from Harvard Business School where the case method is the dominant mode of instruction. (According to one administrator, I used twice as many cases as the next faculty member). The impact of this decision was to “bake” quality into my courses.

With a spirit of kaizen (“continuous improvement”) forged during my first long-term stay in Japan, each time I taught a course I sought ways to improve it, and ways to make the material more accessible so that I could layer on additional features. One year I worked on integrating key concepts across my courses so they complemented one another while remaining modularized, another year I focused on adding Critical Thinking skills-building in my courses, another year I added Ethical Reasoning skills-building in relevant courses. More recently, I worked on enhancing components including Learning Team performance, Leadership, Global Mindsets, and Cultural Awareness.

Once again, despite (or because of) the fact that I was very demanding, my courses were highly popular both with Waseda students and with students from our exchange partner institutions.

During my time at Waseda, I learned how to structure my courses in ways that make people from all over the world excited about learning deeply. I also learned the power of making course materials available at no additional charge to the students; they seemed happier about the required and supplemental reading assignments, and I never had to worry about whether students could afford the “textbook.”

Over time, my quality- and innovation-driven approaches enabled me to improve and calibrate my courses and my teaching methods so that my offerings were aligned with the Science of Learning, and the post-2008 consensus regarding a new trajectory for MBA Programs (as described in Rethinking the MBA: Business Education at a Crossroads).  

***

MDI.TOKYO (2017 – ?)

When done properly, teaching is hard mental work that requires a lot of preparation. But, I very much enjoy working with people who are passionate about learning and who want to make a difference in the world. For me working with professionals and teaching topics in business is a labor of love….

At MDI.TOKYO, I have leveraged everything I learned at Vanderbilt, Drexel, and Waseda in order to design Programs and Courses that take the best bits of the best business schools around the world and optimize them for professional education and lifelong learning.

While traditional business schools often seek breadth and learning at a breakneck pace, MDI.TOKYO offers focused learning at a measured pace… perfect for learning deeply while maintaining a work/life balance.

Professionals who participate in MDI.TOKYO Programs and Courses, will find that learning is hard (but joyful) mental work that requires significant preparation and reflection. But, because you are participating as a member of a Learning Team which is a member of a Section Cohort that is benefiting from carefully crafted learning designs, your learning journey is not lonely; instead, learning at MDI.TOKYO designed to be social, transformative, and fun.

So, if you are the kind of professional who

  • is passionate about lifelong learning;

  • has a deep interest in adding to your leadership toolkit; and

  • has a desire to expand your network so you can leverage new knowledge and networks to create value for your organization and for society, and then advance in your career,

then I encourage you to apply for admission to an MDI.TOKYO Program or Course.

If you have any questions about me or MDI.TOKYO, or if you would just like to say hello, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Best regards,

Sean M. Hackett, PhD

This brief interview was conducted when I was working at Drexel University.