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Professor Perspectives: Kellogg Professor Paul Christensen

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Class size, rankings, career placement statistics, location…these are all factors that inevitably play a part in where you decide to attend business school. And with good reason. But another vital consideration should be the professors with whom you’ll study. The right business school professor can have enormous impact not only on what you learn during your MBA but also on the future course of your career.

To help introduce you to some of the leading professors at the world’s best business schools, we’re launching this new series called Professor Perspectives. In it, we’ll showcase leading instructors from a range of MBA programs, their groundbreaking work, their unique teaching styles and more. To kick things off, we’d like to introduce you to Paul Christensen, a clinical professor of finance at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

Christensen teaches courses in microfinance and international business at Kellogg and also serves as the academic director for the school’s Global Study Programs, immersion experiences that introduce Kellogg MBA students to international business and markets. Prior to joining Kellogg in 2008, he was founder and president of ShoreCap International Ltd., a $28 million London-based private equity company that invests in financial institutions in developing countries throughout Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe.

In a post today on the Inside Perspective, Kellogg’s full-time MBA blog, Christensen answered questions about what he teaches, why he teaches and what he hopes students glean from his courses. He also provides some specific advice for prospective applicants considering the Kellogg MBA.

What Christensen Teaches
“Microfinance is the reason I am at Kellogg,” he writes, noting that he was first invited to teach this course as an adjunct professor before taking on a full-time role at the school. In his microfinance course, he leads students through an examination of the role that development financial institutions play in emerging markets, including helping people access credit, savings and other basic financial services that can improve their lives.

Christensen also teaches Kellogg’s Global Initiatives in Management (GIM) classes, as well as an experiential learning course called Global Lab, in which MBA student teams complete project work with overseas organizations, generally involving strategy or marketing. “I haven’t taught that class recently, but someday I hope to return to it because it’s fun to work with students and help them apply what they are learning here at Kellogg,” he writes.

“I like to provide students with new insights and understandings into the way that business and capital markets are truly global these days,” Christensen shares. For example, in his microfinance course he demonstrates the role that national banks and capital markets play by providing capital to support microfinance loans.

He also likes for his students to develop an appreciation of how business can be a force for social good, he writes, noting that most microfinance organizations have transformed from NGOs or non-profits to socially motivated, for-profit institutions. But examples extend beyond microfinance, he continues. “China, for example, has lifted more people out of poverty through industrialization and business expansion that any other country in history,” he writes.

Finally, he wants to prepare his students to be managers in overseas settings. “Managers need to pay close attention to the local culture and customs, the difference in working styles and personalities, because without that sensitivity, even the best managers can wind up falling prey to ugly prejudices or simply be ineffective,” he writes. To this end, as academic director of Kellogg’s Global Programs, Christensen has been working with students and staff to identify online cultural awareness/intelligence tools that let students test their awareness of a given local culture before they go, as well as how business practices differ between countries. His goal is to see such tools implemented school-wide one day.