Adam Bixler graduated from the Crosby MBA program in May 2015 with a concentration in finance. He is from Chesterfield, Missouri, and graduated from MU with a bachelor’s degree in finance. He is a Level III CFA Candidate and is currently working at Edward Jones in St. Louis in its leadership training rotational program. He is an Eagle Scout, and his hobbies include swimming and playing golf.
As I near the end of my 18-year, kindergarten-to-MBA educational experience, I want to take a moment and reflect on a chance opportunity that fundamentally defined this final chapter: Teaching.
When I applied to the Crosby MBA program, I was informed of a special opportunity for students with strong financial backgrounds: working as a graduate instructor of either Personal Finance 1000 or Corporate Finance 2000. My initial reaction was, “Absolutely not!” The thought of teaching undergraduate students seemed like an overwhelming amount of work and a responsibility for which I did not feel equipped. As graduate school became an increasing reality, however, I revisited the offer.
I signed up for the challenge and made one of the best decisions I can recall.
The role of graduate instructor transcends the responsibilities of a typical teaching assistant. You’re provided the curriculum for the course and immediately must develop the skills to teach it effectively. The phrase “baptism by fire” has been used to describe the experience, and I found it appropriate to my experience, too.
I remember my first class vividly.
Walking into the room and standing at the front was surreal, entirely foreign compared to my previous 16 years of education. The ten minutes before the start of that first class were absolutely terrifying. Slowly but surely, 60 pairs of eyes entered the room and focused on me. At two minutes past the hour, I took a big gulp and managed to choke out “Good afternoon, everyone! My name is Adam Bixler, and I’ll be your instructor for Personal Finance 1000 this semester.”
Today — a year and a half later — I now confidently lecture in front of my two sections of Corporate Finance 2000 four times a week. The developmental opportunities afforded as a graduate instructor have been second to none. Presenting, explaining concepts, organizing, resolving conflicts, and responding to unexpected questions are just a short list of the skills I strengthen on a daily basis. There’s also an interesting phenomenon that occurs as you become comfortable in the role: Education comes full circle. Teaching causes you to realize and appreciate the techniques and methods employed by current and former professors. Experiencing education from both sides of the classroom has expanded my ability to identify critical points and learn, as well as teach, more effectively. Transitioning from student to teacher and back again multiple times a day mixes up an otherwise traditional experience and challenges conventional thought patterns.
The experience also has been fulfilling. Throughout the semester, I watch students grow, the direct result of my efforts as an instructor. Relationships emerge, facilitating a vested interest in student success. Being partial to classes makes it extremely easy to relate and further enriches the educational experience of everyone involved. Additionally, meeting with students during office hours has challenged me to find other ways of explaining and develop creative solutions as I address different styles of learning. A sense of pride comes from facilitating that performance and development. Although it’s a process I get to see twice a year, it’s been entirely different each time. Classes have varying personalities. In all, teaching has been an incredibly rewarding experience for me, initiating lasting relationships and fostering in me a commitment to the development of others.
When I walk across the stage for the final time, I will have left the Crosby MBA program with a newly defined sense of self. Serving as a graduate instructor has been the single greatest highlight, the capstone of my academic career. I have not only developed my professional skills in ways never imagined, but truly have found passion. Had you asked me when I was younger, never in a million years would I have considered teaching. In fact, I resented the profession. As it stands now, however, I solemnly await my last opportunity to give a lecture before leaving the columns and beginning the next chapter of my life.