Goodman Teaching Excellence award recipient encourages grads to advocate for themselves and others

Eric Dolansky recognizes he is a privileged person.

It’s something he wants graduating students from the Goodman School of Business to recognize in themselves so they can advocate for others.

Dolansky, an Associate Professor in the Department of Marketing, recently gave a Spring Convocation speech during the virtual ceremony as the 2020 recipient of the Goodman Faculty Teaching Excellence award.

When he learned Convocation was going to be an online portal this year due to gathering limitations resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, Dolansky did not want to miss the opportunity to represent the School and share words of wisdom and advice.

In his address, Dolansky referenced three quotes from the writings of Jewish scholar Hillel: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?,” “If I am only for myself, what am I?,” and “If not now, when?”

“I wanted to speak to the moment, and there’s a lot going on in this moment,” Dolansky said.

He spoke about his own privileges as a white male “in a society that overvalues these traits” and how success stories like his own are often the result of circumstances, shared resources and privileges in an unjust world.

Dolansky also advised students to advocate for themselves, but not at the expense of others.

“We all have a responsibility to others to help them excel,” he said. “Pushing yourself up should never mean pushing someone else down. If you’re advantaged like me, use that advantage to help those that are less advantaged.”

Dolansky was awarded the Goodman Faculty Teaching Excellence award in part because of his innovative approach to classroom teaching.  He uses case studies as a way for students to practise decision-making skills in a low risk environment, he said.

“It’s like exercise reps. Students practise using their analysis, decision-making and communication skills over and over again.”

When Dolansky was an undergraduate student, the large classroom setting he experienced with long lectures and professors reading from textbooks didn’t appeal to him. In fact, he disliked his courses so much, continuing his education wasn’t a part of his graduation plan.

After several years in the working world, however, he found his career wasn’t advancing quickly enough, so he enrolled in a graduate business school that focused solely on teaching through case studies. It was then that he found enjoyment in learning and in leading discussions.

“Getting the opportunity to take courses that were more interactive, where there were more discussions and contributions from everyone, really opened my eyes to what university education could be,” he said. “I try to use that in the courses I teach at Goodman.”

In addition to using cases written by others, Dolansky enjoys writing his own cases.

“Usually, there’s something I want to talk about in class, but I can’t find a good case to use,” he said. “Other times, I read about an interesting situation or experience something firsthand.”

For example, Dolansky has written case studies about a pharmaceutical product and the Union Pearson Express train to teach students about various elements of pricing. He said cases like this are written from news accounts, but most of the cases he writes are from primary research.

When Dolansky noticed that a board game and collectables store where he shopped had lower prices than elsewhere, he interviewed the shop owners and wrote a business case about the decisions that might help the operation expand.

He now uses the case as part of this teaching and published it so other educators could benefit from it.

The case won an award five years ago from the North American Case Research Association (NACRA), an organization in which he has since become co-president. Although Dolansky is happy to have received an award recognizing his work with case studies, he finds greater value in receiving the Goodman Faculty Teaching Excellence Award.

“I enjoy teaching and interacting with students through real-world discussions,” he said. “This teaching award validates how important and effective case-based learning is to my students. Writing and teaching cases allows me to continue to learn from industry, colleagues and students. This award is a milestone for me, but not the end of the journey.”

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