Recent De Werd Fellowship Recipients Inform Students with Research and Professional Experience

Professor Pratish Patel offers a presentation to peers.

Pratish Patel has taught at Cal POly since 2013, specializing in futures and options and real estate investments. (Photo: Pat Pemberton)

Written by June 30, 2023

When teaching his business courses at Cal Poly, Jim Burleson incorporates his own professional experiences into lectures, including his work on the analysis and design of a multi-million dollar software development project for the City of Houston. “The most common question I get from students is some version of, ‘What is it like to do this in the real world?’” Burleson said. “My consulting experience has been very helpful in answering those inquiries. We strive to help our students become ‘career ready.’ To me that means they not only understand important concepts but also how to apply those concepts practically in their careers.”

Jim Burleson, in the classroom. Burleson has taught at the Orfalea College of Business since 2014. (Photo: Jahan Ramezani)

Burleson, an associate professor of Management, Human Resources and Information Systems, is one of two faculty members most recently presented with de Werd Fellowship awards. The other recipient was Pratish Patel, an associate professor of finance.

The fellowship is sponsored by Jourdi de Werd, a Cal Poly alumnus and president of de Werd Capital Partners. Each recipient, nominated by student ambassador leaders, is awarded $10,000.

De Werd created the fellowship in 2018 to support faculty who have a strong impact on students.

Patel said he attempts to connect with students early by learning their first names and seeking their input in class.

“I also ask them to fill out a survey that asks their hobbies,” he said.

Patel joined the Orfalea College of Business faculty in 2013 and has experience in trading power, natural gas and coal. He previously founded OptiOpt Inc., which offered advice on how to manage a retirement portfolio.

“It turns out that people do not check their retirement portfolio allocation all that often.” Patel said. “This raises a few questions and is a good starting point during the asset allocation module.”

Both faculty members incorporate recent research, including their own, into their instruction.

College professor shares teaching tips in presentation to peers.

Pratish Patel shares some of his teaching methods with peers. (Photo: Pat Pemberton)

“Finding opportunities to contextualize research into course material is both a challenge and a joy,” said Burleson, who joined Cal Poly in 2014. “Research, of course, informs much of what we teach, but every once in a while I’ve found it’s important to highlight a particular paper or theory to help students understands where the concepts come from.”

While Burleson has conducted research on how organizations use social media, more recently he has become involved in pedagogical research, trying to understand and expand the world of information systems.

Patel’s research, meanwhile, includes real estate, finance, asset pricing and real options, and he has researched the economics of skyscrapers.

“I talk about my research in the last two days of the course,” Patel said.

De Werd recipients share some of their teaching methods with fellow faculty during presentations. Both Burleson and Patel have given their presentations this year – and have observed past recipients give their own.

“The variety in pedagogical approaches is mind boggling, and I think that faculty can benefit from talking to each other,” Patel said.

Hearing others discuss their teaching methods has been motivating, Burleson said.

“It’s difficult to see what our colleagues are doing in the classroom, so for me, one major benefit of fellowships like this is that they illuminate the hard work being done in our college,” he said. “It’s an honor to work alongside a group of faculty committed to helping our students grow.”

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