Professor Jeff Kurtz has been involved in the MSTM program from 2005. Before his academic career began, he was a seasoned consultant and key executives in banking sector including Federated Bank, Bank of Alton, the First National Bank of Catlin as well as being the President for the Greenbridge Group, LLC from 1997-2009. With research interest on small business consulting and technology commercialization and coupled with his undying passion for teaching, he was a perfect persona for a professor of MSTM. Recently, Professor Jeff Kurtz was appointed as the Interim Director of MSTM. He shares his journey on coming into the MSTM family and his vision on improving the program.
Can you tell me career journey before you came into the MSTM program?
Prior to my teaching career, I was banker and managed to involve in a few sales positions but mainly my professional interest lies in banking. I did my MBA from ’95 to ’97 and then I started my own business, which was a business brokerage firm helping people buy businesses. Three years later, I had the opportunity to teach a consulting class and that was BA345 back then. Two to three years after that, I was asked to be the faculty advisor for student consulting group on engineering campus called OTCR. In 2005, I was asked to teach practicum class, in which I still teach today. I run it very similar to consulting class.
You have a lot of experiences in corporate business, consulting project and academic teaching. Which one do you like the most and why?
I like the academic environment the best. In the classroom, everything is new every semester: new clients, new students and new problems. The change is invigorating. I like to work in the administration of the university, because the people who work here are really smart and it provides a challenge. Of course, it also gives me an opportunity to touch students’ lives and help making the program the best it can be.
What is your vision in teaching practicum? What knowledge you want to convey?
Practicum is set up in a way that allows students to utilize the knowledge they acquire from the courses in the program. They combine with their experiences and apply them to resources outside university context, while having a safety net in the form of a class to keep them from making career mistakes. Practicum gives them an opportunity to approach problems outside their comfort zone with collaboration amongst peers, form relationships with their clients and prepare them to meet professional standards.
What is your vision towards MSTM? How do you want to improve the program?
My number one objective is to make MSTM program to be widely recognized and highly rated. In order to do that, we need to build strong network with potential recruiters and improve the competitive quality of the program itself to be at the world-class level. In order to do that, I need to collaborate with the administrators, professors and the students. The current students are the best source for new students. Thus, one of my objectives is to market MSTM from students like you.
Is there any special memory that you have in your MSTM career?
I cannot really pick one special memory that really stands out for me. Personally, the deepest impression is during the commencement ceremony where the students are leaving to begin their career journeys. I felt a little choked up a little about that. It was always nice to hear back from the students after they leave. During conversations, they tell me how MSTM helped them realized their ambition and this empowers me to be a better instructor for the new generation to come.