Dave Collins, a popular lecturer in the marketing department in the Tippie College of Business, spent more than 20 years as a marketing professional before taking a teaching position at Iowa. He’s earned multiple teaching awards in his 11 years on campus, including Students’ Choice for Faculty of the Year and a Dean’s Teaching Award in 2007. He teaches Introduction to Marketing, Direct Marketing, and Retail Strategies, and supervises field studies.
You’re an Iowa grad, but you earned your degree in recreational education and sociology. How did you come to teach business courses?
Here’s a little secret: you don’t need a business degree to work in business. In fact, most of the CEOs in this country do not have business degrees, but liberal arts degrees. And most of them don’t have MBAs either. Some of them don’t have any college degrees.
My first job after college was working for a park district in the Chicago area, but I didn’t want to raise kids there, so I took a job working for Amana Refrigeration. I spent 17 years in their marketing department. I was working in the utility business when I was approached about teaching a class here in direct marketing. I gave it a try and it just kind of worked out. I know I have a different teaching style than a lot of people, but it seems to work.
So what is your teaching style?
I try to make the material as relevant as possible and tie it back to how things are going to be for students when they get into the working world. I try to understand their world and what they’re interested in. For example, one of my tasks for tomorrow morning is reading the latest Rolling Stone magazine to figure out what’s going on. And then I try to mix my teaching with humor.
I’ve got a cadence in the way I teach. You start out by introducing the concept, you tell a story to support it, you tie the story back to the concept, and then you move on.
You spent more than 20 years in the marketing world. Do you use examples from your business experience in the classroom?
You know, those stories have aged over 10 years. There are still some classic stories you use, but students are pretty savvy consumers. And if you’re using old stories, they think that you’re not relevant. Capturing anyone’s attention in marketing is about relevancy. So, I’m constantly reading stuff and talking to people to figure out what’s going on in different markets so I can bring current, fresh examples to class.
Your classes range in size from 12 students to 375 students. What does it take to capture students’ attention in big classes?
Relevancy, moving around a lot, asking them questions.
The real secret is, if you care about them, and they know you have their best interest at heart, they’ll follow you anywhere. It’s a tough time for students. Get to know them. Learn their names. Learn what’s of interest to them. Talk to them. Engage them, inside and outside of class.
What do you like most about teaching undergrads?
They’re fun to be around. They provide constant entertainment. For example, they’ll say to me, ‘Are you going to say anything important in class today?’ The other thing is, it’s a challenge to get the light to come on, but when it does come on, it’s like, ‘Wow, they’re getting it.’
And it’s really an opportunity to talk about the positive aspect of marketing. I’m a marketing guy, but I’ll be the first to admit that there’s so much bad marketing out there. We’re bombarded by commercials and products. We’ve got all kinds of product safety issues and people getting us to overconsume. On the other hand, there are a lot of companies out there doing great things, doing socially responsible marketing. Patagonia and the Body Shop are great examples. I can hope I’m teaching about the positive aspects.
by Madelaine Jerousek-Smith