MTSU business professor is finalist at national te...

MTSU business professor is finalist at national teaching competition

MTSU business professor Sandra Benson’s innovative way of getting her business law students more engaged in the classroom has gained her a spot in a national competition for business law professors.

Benson is among four finalists in the 2013 Charles M. Hewitt Master Teacher Competition this week at the 2013 Academy of Legal Studies in Business. The 88th annual ALSB Conference is being held through Aug. 11 in Boston, Mass.

Dr. Sandra Benson

Four judges, all distinguished ALSB members, selected the master teacher finalists via a blind review of the finalists’ entry submissions. The finalists are presenting their class proposals Thursday, Aug. 8, at the Master Teacher Symposium, and the winner will be announced Saturday, Aug. 10.

Benson, who teaches business law in the Jennings A. Jones College of Business, will present “The Legal Beagle News Show,” which outlines her use of a news program scenario in teaching her undergraduate classes.

“Getting students engaged in cases was a challenge,” Benson said, explaining what prompted the idea. “I knew that most students were not training to be lawyers, but law cases are extremely important, not only for the foundation of business … . I let students know that they are going to be making ‘cases’ someday in some fashion. They may be arguing a business case for a new product to their board of directors, for example.”

For “The Legal Beagle News Show,” Benson assigns some of her students to pose as attorneys in court cases, including some that may be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court during the semester. Students can then go online to listen to the oral arguments of the real attorneys.

“The students listen to those arguments, then they take up the case for their assigned party,” she said, adding that the cases often involve third parties affected by the case in addition to the two parties in the lawsuit.

Benson announces the case in class. Students not assigned as attorneys then become “reporters” covering the case for a news show, such as a panel discussion or a news conference. The student reporters are responsible for listening to the arguments, then asking the necessary questions to get the “story.”

“They have an incentive because they know I’m going to ask questions about it on the exam,” Benson said.

The other finalists for the 2013 Charles M. Hewitt Master Teacher Competition are:

  • John McArdle from Centenary College and County College of Morris in Randolph, N.J. His presentation is entitled “What’s So Funny about Peace, Love, Understanding and Pasta?”
  • Robert Prentice from the University of Texas-Austin’s McCombs School of Business. His presentation is entitled “Teaching Behavioral Ethics.”
  • Mark DeAngelis from the University of Connecticut’s School of Business in Storrs, Conn., whose presentation is entitled “Jury, Jury, Hallelujah.”

The winning teacher’s class proposal will be published in the Journal of Legal Studies Education, and she or he will oversee next year’s competition.

“I just want to do well for MTSU,” Benson said. “I’ve had really good support.”

— Jimmy Hart (