By: Patsy Weiler
One of the leadership principles students learn in the Dale Carnegie course, taught by MTSU lecturer Kenneth George, is the importance of being flexible with a goal to become more open-minded to change — this year his classroom experienced the reality behind the rhetoric.
“This time in our history has certainly given them ample opportunity to put this skill (being flexible) into practice,” said George, a Jones College of Business Department of Management faculty member.
The True Blue alum earned both his undergraduate and master’s degrees in business administration at the university. He brings more than 25 years of experience as a contracts manager and negotiator in the corporate world to his young scholars.
Learning how to negotiate the disruption brought to campus by an invisible adversary initially seemed like an obstacle to overcome for George, but he said “it became an opportunity to look at the ‘why’ I was teaching a certain way and led me to look for positive changes to what was being taught and to try to seek out real and useful knowledge, which would resonate.”
George said the spring semester was certainly a time of transition, but during the summer he and his Jones College colleaguestook their lessons learned and made some great improvements to fit their style of teaching.
“The mantra from our leadership was to make student success the focus of how we planned for our future classes and keep that in mind with every decision we made,” said George.
Although he had previously taught Leadership Theories online, COVID-19 brought a dynamic change to George’s Management and Entrepreneurship classes. The two offerings went to a web-assisted format, which allowed for an in-person component and safe social distancing.
He prerecorded condensed lectures for students to watch online before coming to class. They contained key points from each chapter so students could arrive prepared for discussion. Half of the group attended in-person on Monday and the other half came on Wednesdays. The first part of the class was via Zoom, then for the final segment, George shut down the live feed and focused on offering more in-depth instruction or working on tangibles like interview and goal setting skills with students in-person.
“Our students have been resilient. Their attitude is one of cooperation and understanding. They understood this was an unprecedented moment and rose to the challenge,” said George. “They have embraced the change and their flexibility is enviable.”
Even in the middle of a pandemic, the Lewisburg, Tennessee, native, who loves music and also helps manage his family’s business, Picker’s Creek Winery in the same community, is upbeat about being on campus.
“MTSU is such a wonderful place that it would be very difficult to not be enthusiastic about being here,” he said. “I love teaching and feel fortunate to have had such wonderful students — I received thank-you notes, comments attached to written assignments, emails and brief visits after class, voicing their appreciation for having the opportunity to engage in learning as we have the past few months — our shared experience has brought a special bond. They energize and inspire me every day. Hopefully, I am able to reflect that back to them.”
George looks forward to when days of face coverings and keeping a distance are a thing of the past, walking across campus and stopping for a quick visit when he sees students, but then showing his fun sense of humor he wonders out loud if he will be able to recognize them without their masks.
– Patsy Weiler (Patsy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)