The Tuck Class of 2020 has announced this year’s recipients of the annual Teaching Excellence Awards.
For teaching in the core curriculum, students chose Assistant Professor of Business Administration Ramon Lecuona, who co-teaches the Strategy course with Professor Giovanni Gavetti. In the elective curriculum, students selected former New Hampshire Governor John Lynch, a clinical professor who teaches a signature course called The CEO Experience.
The Teaching Excellence Awards were set up by the Class of 2011 to “celebrate the learning environment at Tuck by honoring the faculty who, in the eyes of their students, have made an outstanding contribution to the quality of the educational experience.” Each year, an academic representative from the graduating class surveys his or her classmates about their favorite teachers and meets with a committee to examine the comments and data and select the winners.
Lecuona arrived at Tuck in 2018, the same year as the students of this year’s graduating class. Before he began his teaching career, Lecuona served as a staff member of the Office of the President of Mexico for more than seven years. His academic research is focused on the design of organizational structures that make firms more productive and innovative, and he has specific expertise in the field of mobile communications and the implementation of business strategy in emerging markets.
The core Strategy course Lecuona teaches is an introduction to the principles of business strategy and covers issues such as the dynamics of competition and the conditions that lead firms to outperform their rivals. The topics covered range from the crafting of strategies for specific businesses to the creation of strategies for corporations that manage multiple businesses. The course uses a mix of traditional case-studies, such as the rivalry between Coke and Pepsi, and the most current events, such as how digital commerce is disrupting traditional retailers.
Ramon breathes life into the classroom. Everyone is dialed-in because of the passion and warmth that he brings to each session.
Lacuona and Gavetti’s course revolves around the case method, and the professors work hard to help students uncover the insights behind the facts. “As in real life, case studies are filled with information and data that is not really material to solving the problems at hand,” Lecuona says. “The key for a good case discussion is to have everyone engaged, thinking very hard about what is it that actually matters. We push hard to get students to zoom into the issues that are truly strategic and merit the attention of top managers. I just love it when, after a great case discussion, insights start to emerge and I start seeing the characteristic spark of an ‘aha’ moment in the eyes of the students.”
In their survey responses, students were effusive in their praise of Lecuona and his teaching. As one student said: “Ramon breathes life into the classroom. Everyone is dialed-in because of the passion and warmth that he brings to each session. No other core professor inspired such consistent attention, participation, and preparation during the winter, a time when we were all hyper-focused on recruiting.”
Governor Lynch began teaching at Tuck shortly after his last term in office ended, in 2012. As a recipient of the Perkins Bass Fellowship from Dartmouth College, Lynch was teaching a course at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy when Dean Matthew Slaughter, who was then the associate dean of the faculty, asked Lynch if he would like to offer a spring term mini course at Tuck. That course expanded into Lynch’s full-term course, The CEO Experience, which examines the similarities and differences between being a CEO in the private and public sectors. Drawing on Lynch’s time as president and CEO of Knoll, and as governor of New Hampshire, the course aims to endow students with the skills and confidence to run a company or organization of any size. “It’s not focused on what grade they’re going to get, but the principles they’ll retain hopefully for the rest of their lives,” Lynch says.
One of the most crucial principles Lynch teaches is the importance of people to an organization. Beyond strategy, rates of return, and stock price, it’s the employees who make an organization successful or not. “A good CEO focuses on people at all levels of the organization,” Lynch says, “and it’s good business to do that, because employee satisfaction leads to customer satisfaction, which ends up driving stock price.” Lynch also reminds his students that they should not lose sight of their families and friends, since those are the people they will remember most when their career is over.
Governor Lynch brings so much passion into the classroom. He brings humility, seemingly believing that somehow he has something to learn from his students. This, coupled with his years of experience, high intellect, and carefully honed pedagogical style allows The CEO Experience to be a must-take class at Tuck
An extremely popular course, Lynch usually teaches two sections of The CEO Experience in the fall, and two sections in the spring. It contains approximately zero lectures; instead Lynch leads a discussion with his students and the frequent visiting executives. Over the years, visitors have included the founders of Keurig, former U.S. Senator and former New Hampshire Governor Judd Gregg (a senior fellow at the Tuck Center for Business, Government and Society), and Brian Gallagher, the CEO of United Way Worldwide. This spring, with a global public health crisis raging, Lynch took the opportunity to discuss some good and bad examples of leadership happening in real time, both in the U.S. and internationally. “I teach that great leaders are great communicators,” Lynch says. “I think Governor Andrew Cuomo was very visible, very accessible, and on-message. Meanwhile, there were very inconsistent messages coming out of Washington D.C., and not the kind of leadership we would hope to have in a crisis.”
One of Lynch’s favorite parts of teaching is getting to know his students and developing long-term relationships with them. He gets calls every week from former students who want to talk about professional or personal issues—calls he is happy to take. “They all have my cell phone number and call me regularly,” he says. “They’re the ones who keep me going.”
The feeling is mutual. In their survey responses, students praise the value of his knowledge and experience, and his example as a wise, decisive leader who can also teach. “Governor Lynch brings so much passion into the classroom,” one student wrote. “He brings humility, seemingly believing that somehow he has something to learn from his students. This, coupled with his years of experience, high intellect, and carefully honed pedagogical style allows The CEO Experience to be a must-take class at Tuck.”