Is Lonnie Strickland UA's toughest professor?
Professor Lonnie Strickland doesn’t have students. He has customers. “It costs about $250,000 to get to 21, and if you take that and divide it against 30 classes, that’s about $3,800 a class. It comes out to be $133 a minute that you’re paying me to teach you,” Strickland said. “So it ought to be good, and besides that, it ought to be beneficial.” Strickland teaches General Business Administration 490, a strategic management class for graduating seniors at The University of Alabama, on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8, 9:30 and 11 a.m. GBA 490 has a reputation for being one of the hardest classes at the University. The course is known for its heavy workload and Strickland addresses this part of the “local folklore” to be true in his 14-page syllabus. The requirements for customers entail preparing for class discussion about cases, or business stories, playing a management simulation game known as The Business Strategy Game and other assignments. The minimum time spent on the work requirements should be no less than 11 hours, Strickland says in his syllabus, not counting reading the course textbook and preparing for exams and quizzes.
He begins each class with iPad in hand, checking off attendance through Blackboard Learn and uses it for managing participation throughout the class.
“To me the workload is not what I’m imposing on them, it’s what they’re imposing on themselves, and it’s demanding,” Strickland said. “We have a no excuse policy for being absent – absent is you come in one second late and you’re [marked] absent. That iPad, I’m checking that, and there’s no such thing as tardy. No excuses are accepted for anything, so there’s a lot of discipline to it.”
Taking pride in the reputation of his class, Strickland is aware of the demands. He knows he’s teaching “the best of the best” and his customers come to class ready to hear what he has to say.
Strickland sends out Podcasts after class critiquing how the class went and giving helpful tips. In his first Podcast he describes his “sweet spot,” a beneficial place in class to sit in order to soak in all the material he covers.
“The sweet spot is the middle to my right. And the reason is I’m right-handed, and because I’m right-handed, I tend to look to the right,” Strickland said. “If you sit in the back, you may not be disengaged, but you get the signal that you’re disengaged. And I’ll tell you it’s worth a half-letter grade, maybe more.”
(See also "Students seated for success")
Strickland’s class may be time-consuming but for many he makes up for it by his enthusiastic teaching. Brian Park, a senior majoring in accounting and management, explained how Strickland makes GBA 490 so captivating.
“The metaphors that he uses in class stick in your head. Instead of just reading endless PowerPoints, he goes around different teaching strategies and really figures out how to teach it to students, which I love,” Park said. “He cares about us learning the material and he goes out of his way to involve students in class, like asking them questions, or using them as part of a way of picturing different scenarios.”
To make sure he reaches every student, Strickland also requires his customers to create nameplates that play a subtle but important role in every class. By using the nameplates as references, he notoriously addresses students throughout his lecture.
“Personally, it scares me to death. Every time I talk or get asked a question I’m nervous and afraid he’s going to call me out,” Leslee Griggers, a senior majoring in business and restaurant hospitality management, said. “At the same time it makes you be more assertive and confident. He wants us to say things with confidence.”
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