Bonita Austin is an Professor (Lecturer) for the Entrepreneurship & Strategy Department in the David Eccles School of Business. Since joining the DESB in August 2008, Ms. Austin has received 4 teaching awards. The awards included the Brady Award for Superior Teaching and the Marvin J. Ashton Award for Teaching Excellence. In addition, she received two awards for leadership in ethics education. The courses she teaches include the capstone Strategic Management course for undergraduates, Advanced Strategic Management (Honors), Competitive Strategy (MBA/PMBA), Principles of Management, International Business, Business Scholars, and Managing Organizational Change. Ms. Austin has a particular interest in turnarounds and teaches a graduate strategy elective in business turnarounds as well as several seminars on the topic for Executive Education. In addition to teaching, she has published 5 strategy cases and accompanying teaching notes. Her cases include 3 cases on True Religion Jeans and the premium jeans industry, Starbucks, and SodaStream International. Her most recent cases appear in Strategic Management and Competitive Advantage 5ed Barney & Hesterly (Pearson).
Prior to 2008, Ms. Austin was an equity analyst consultant for several hedge funds. She also was a Sr. Vice President for Lehman Brothers, served on the Investment Committee for Prudential Securities, and was an Institutional Investor All-Star All-American Analyst. Ms. Austin was recognized by the Wall Street Journal for earnings estimate accuracy and frequently appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Business Week, and other prominent business publications as well as CNBC and NPR. She was a special guest on Wall $treet Week with Louis Rukeyser and appeared in the annual Wall Street Transcript Round Table for many years.
Ms. Austin has two children, 7 dogs, 1 cat and 2 horses. She serves as both board member and president of the Vizsla Club of Utah. Ms. Austin is an avid competitor in field trials.
B.S. 1984, Mathematics; Business Administration – Economics, Troy University
MBA 1986, Finance Specialization, University of Alabama
Marvin J. Ashton Award for Excellence in Teaching. David Eccles School of Business, 05/2015
Brady Award for Superior Teaching. David Eccles School of Business, 05/2014
Leadership in Ethics Education Bronze Medal Award given for writing an ethics case and incorporating a new ethics component into MGT 6750. Daniels Ethics Fund, 12/2013
Leadership in Ethics Education Silver Medal Given for organizing, hosting, coaching, case selection and analysis DESB Daniels Ethics Undergraduate Case Competition in 2012 & 2013. Daniels Ethics Fund, 12/2013
Most Accurate Earnings Estimates – Household products & Cosmetics Groups. Wall Street Journal, 1994
Special Guest – Cosmetics Industry. Wall $treet Week , 1994
All-Star Analyst Cosmetics Household Products. Institutional Investor All American Research Team, 1993
All-Star Analyst Cosmetics. Institutional Investor All American Research Team, 1992
Bloomberg News: Interview with Mike Mayo. 12/2011.
Chasing Stars: The Myth of Talent and the Portability of Performance by Boris Groysberg, Princeton University Press. 2010.
I believe that the most important aspect of teaching lies in creating a natural critical learning environment in the classroom that fosters deep learning. To that end, it is the professor’s responsibility to arouse curiosity in students and help them learn how to ask meaningful questions about the academic discipline so that they discover important issues in theory and practice. Moreover, I believe strongly that students learn and retain learning by applying tools, frameworks, and analysis to situations that they are likely to encounter outside the classroom. I feel it is my responsibility to keep my classes current, strive to improve them every term, learn from my colleagues both in the DESB and from other colleges and universities, and allow my students to teach me and give me insights I could not get on my own. It is not my responsibility to know everything about everything nor do I want to pretend that I do.
In order to create a critical learning environment, I do the following. First, I explicitly connect all the of course material to a central question that transcends the classroom. For example, the central question in MGT 5710 Managing Organizational Change and STRAT 6750 Business Turnarounds is “Why can managers turnaround some organizations and not others?” The complementary question for these courses is “How can I increase the likelihood that I can turnaround my organization?” These questions transcend the classroom through team consulting projects. Students have an opportunity to help a local non-profit or for-profit business improve their operations. The consulting projects allow students to derive a great deal of meaning from the central question in the class and result in a high degree of personal satisfaction for nearly every student. The personal satisfaction that comes from helping an organization cements in place the knowledge students have gained in the course. Moreover, students have a chance to uncover the key questions for the organizations, diagnose organizational problems, and formulate solutions to improve organizational performance.
Second, my classes are all very organized and highly structured. Note that the strategy challenges students address in my courses are open-ended and unstructured. The course structure helps students become more comfortable with the messy nature of real-world business problems. I connect all of the course content to the central question for the course. In addition, I break the the course content into related components or “chunks” of material that allow students to progress through the discipline in a logical and meaningful way. Students are very concerned about course structure and grading. Unfortunately, students’ high levels of grade anxiety and focus on grading act like “snow” on an old TV set. These factors obscure the “picture” and interfere with students’ ability to move beyond strategic learning to deep learning.
I combat these factors in several key ways — namely, by using many different types of assignments, publishing grading rubrics, allowing students some “no harm, no foul” opportunities to drop their lowest grades, and minimizing “high stakes” assignments. Students also give and receive peer feedback on projects using an evaluation process that encourages thoughtful reflection. In addition, once the term begins, I do not change the course calendar or assignments so that students can plan their approach to the course assignments.
Third, I use a wide variety of tools to help students think about and apply course content. My courses employ video clips, practice exercises in small groups, role play, short simulations, cases, company analyses, movies, building and team building exercises, comparative company financial analysis, peer evaluations, readings, and games. The class games are built using three different formats – college quiz bowl, Jeopardy, and one I invented which is modeled after the popular book and move series, The Hunger Games. All of these tools engage students and get them interested in the course content and curious about how it applies to the central question for the course. Curiosity is one key to engagement and deep learning, in my view.
Finally, I strive to create a respectful and positive environment in the classroom. My students can express their opinions, discuss issues, and make recommendations without being embarrassed or humiliated. I think it is important to allow students to disagree with one another and with my opinions both in class and on written assignments. Moreover, I have an amazing opportunity to learn from my students’ experiences and gain insights on subjects I know little about that come up in class discussion. I encourage students with deeper knowledge than I have on a topic to share their knowledge and experiences with the class.