Professor Gunsalus, thank you so much for talking with us! First, tell us about your background? What did you do before you decided to become a professor? I'm a lawyer by training, with a background in university administration. Before coming to the College of Business, I worked for years in campus and university administration, serving as an assistant and associate vice chancellor for research, an associate provost, and special counsel in the office of University Counsel. I also taught in the College of Law. I still do a lot of work with dysfunctional work groups, especially academic departments and research groups. I direct the National Center for Professional and Research Ethics, and our centerpiece project, a national online ethics resource center, is funded with a $5M grant from the National Science Foundation. Look for our beta site opening this summer! Teaching Leadership and Ethics in the College of Business, along with Business 101, An Introduction to Professional Responsibility, ties all my interests together.
What is your favorite part of being a professor? I love teaching and interacting with the students, and the way that it fits in so closely with my research interests, illuminating and interacting with the topics I study.
How did you end up at the University of Illinois? Serendipity, as much as anything. I was born in Urbana, went away, came back for undergrad, got a job that led to another job that led to... I wish I could tell you my career had been carefully planned. Instead, it has all been about one thing leading to another.
What made you decide to teach? The chance to interact with students.
What are the two biggest challenges you face? Having enough time! (That's both of them.)
What is your favorite part of your course? Working with students as they grapple with real-world dilemmas and seeing the light bulb go off about how what we study can actually apply to and help prevent or work though the challenges of professional life.
Do you have any advice for young professionals? Pick those with whom you associate your professional reputations for their character, and start as you mean to go on. There never comes a time in your life when you will be able to sit back and say "Ah, now I have enough power to start being ethical." There are always pressures, at every level of life. So if finishing your career with a reputation for being an honorable professional is important to you, know that there will be challenges, prepare for them, and avoid as many of the known pitfalls as you can. For example, research the culture of places you are interviewing for how well they walk their talk about being ethical. Manage your finances so that you are never so dependent on a job that you cannot refuse to take an act that violates your own standards of professional conduct.
Thank you again, Professor, for spending some time talk about the Illinois MBA!