Faculty Spotlight: Prof. Dale Lehman, PhD., Loras College

Prof. Dale Lehman

Today in conversation with Prof. Dale Lehman, PhD., Loras College and faculty member of the Professional MBA Program Automotive Industry.

What do you think is special about the master program?
This program is unique in its focus on a single industry.  The automotive industry is complex enough to include virtually all aspects of business, but the singular focus on one industry permits my to explore how analysis tools (modeling, data analysis, etc.) can improve decision making in concrete ways.  Participants come from all parts of the automotive business, so there is a rich mixture of job descriptions and educational backgrounds.  In this way, each course is a microcosm of business in general, but all focused on how this particular industry is evolving.

To what extent do you think distinguishes the postgraduate studies at TU Vienna from other programs?
Other programs have more diverse students in terms of their work environments (industries) and educational backgrounds and experience.  This makes it more difficult to obtain a common focus during a compressed course.  The automotive MBA has a built-in common understanding of industry issues, but still has a diverse student body in terms of where they work, both geographically and their place in the automotive value chain.

Which learning content do you provide students?
My focus is on modeling as an aid to decision making.  I have chosen to use a spreadsheet based approach due to its flexibility to handle a wide variety of business problems and its prevalence in the business world.  We explore a number of different business issues facing the industry – such as project risks, demand forecasting, exchange rate volatility, profitability of warranties, etc. – and build models that can be used to better understand the impact of different decisions on business operations.

What is the special challenge of teaching in a postgraduate program?
Working professionals are busy people, so their time is valuable.  They demand that material is relevant to their work.  This requires me to not only have academic expertise, but to be able to translate that to practical settings where it can have a positive impact.  

Do you also somehow benefit from teaching postgraduate students?
While it is demanding to provide accurate and current content, it is rewarding to see its relevance to practical problems.  I learn from participants about the challenges faced by their industry and in their particular jobs.  This helps me ensure that my material is of practical use.

How is the contact with the students? And what are the differences to students of regular study programs?
All of the students are experts in their own right.  So, they bring as much to the courses as I do, but in different dimensions.  Few of them have jobs as analysts, so what I am teaching is new to them.  But their particular work challenges are new to me.  So, there is a rich exchange of information, hopefully leading to broader and deeper understanding by all of us.

An economic education at a technical university - what do you think?
Professionals with technical backgrounds and technical jobs generally have a common base of quantitative reasoning skills that facilitate highly compressed analysis courses.  Economic and business courses are often too abstract to be meaningfully applied to practical decision-making, but the technical orientation of students at a technical university allows such courses to be grounded in realistic business problems.  Practical application of decision making tools is a much better way to learn than abstract principles that lack such a focus.