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Associate Prof. John Becker Blease teaches corporate finance in the MBA program, and he spends the first session of class engaging his students in a lengthy discussion based around a simple query:
“You as an MBA graduate have had a great day at work – tell me what you’ve done on your great day.”
The answers, he notes, usually begin with things like, “I maximized market share” or “I minimized costs.”
“They like to revert to terminology,” he says with a chuckle, adding, “whenever one of them talks about minimizing costs, the first thing I do is walk over and turn out the lights. ‘There,’ I tell them. ‘I’ve just minimized costs.’”
Becker Blease is the head of the COB’s graduate programs committee, which oversees the MBA curricula.
“I see all the syllabi, which are aligned to the goal of our MBA program, what we’re trying to accomplish, the specific visions and skill sets and abilities in our students that we’d like to nurture,” he said. “In essence what all of the training should be about is getting them ready to have that great day, which should be defined as helping to enhance the long-term value of their company through conscious, conscientious interactions with stakeholders, using care and diligence while aiming toward this goal of societal welfare.”
Born and raised in Tampa, Fla., Becker Blease earned bachelor’s degrees at the University of New Hampshire and University of Florida and a Ph.D. at the University of Oregon. He joined the College of Business as an assistant professor of finance in 2009.
The corporate finance course he teaches to MBA students is modeled after one he was commissioned to develop by the Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies group based in Washington, D.C. The course’s objective is to communicate why it’s important “to take this very long-term, stakeholder-focused view based around long-term value creation.”
“We decided over a period of 120 years to give corporations the power they have,” Becker Blease said. “Nobody decreed it – we chose this. Why did we choose this? The general agreement is that we made this investment because we think corporations will help society as a whole.”
Corporate social responsibility is among Becker Blease’s favorite research interests, with recent work focusing on whether investors respond favorably to companies that practice it. Married to an OSU psychology professor, Kathryn, and describing himself as a feminist, Becker Blease is also interested in a variety of gender-related topics. Women, he notes, are twice as likely as men to leave the executive work force.
“Understanding better why that is the case is important,” he said. “A very high proportion of executives are men and it still seems difficult for women to have long-term roles in corporate leadership.
“I’m a big believer in the corporate role, but I want them to be responsible actors, to be trusted members of society,” he said. “Right now, by and large, most people would say they aren’t. I want students to start thinking about the importance of responsibility. It’s about making informed decisions based upon principles.”