Professor facilitates knowledge for multiple generations

Robert Yawson poses for a photo.

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he ability to identify worker strengths and cultivate in them the confidence to achieve are signs of a great business leader. Management professor Robert Yawson’s commitment to doing the same for his students every semester is one of the reasons he will receive the 2018 Quinnipiac Center for Excellence Award in Teaching on October 18.

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“We all need someone to recognize our latent potential and help us bring it out,” Yawson said. “That’s how I see teaching.”

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From business ethics and leadership consulting to performance management, Yawson has taught almost all of the courses in the online MS in Organizational Leadership, and developed several others for the online Bachelor of Business Administration. Despite taking on 3 to 4 courses at a time with roughly 35 students per course, he strives to provide a highly individualized experience.

“I was awestruck by Dr. Yawson’s interaction with me and my classmates,” said Heidi Erickson, MS `16.

Erickson, Quinnipiac’s senior associate director of admissions and director of events, was nearly 26 years removed from college when she enrolled in the MS in Organizational Leadership program. Her apprehension about returning after so long was assuaged by Yawson’s accessibility and infectious enthusiasm for what he does.

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“I felt as though Professor Yawson had really invested in me,” Erickson said. “That kind of encouragement does wonders for your self-esteem.”

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Like Erickson, many of Yawson’s students are professionals returning to higher education after many years away, and helping them transition is something he genuinely enjoys. Throughout that process, Yawson does not view himself as an authoritative professor who “knows it all,” but rather as a facilitator of knowledge for multiple generations.

“I learn as much from my students as they learn from me,” Yawson said. “I’m here to direct, and give them the resources they need to co-create.”

The co-creation of knowledge is a major component of Yawson’s student-centered teaching philosophy. In addition to bringing decades of his own experience, he draws out the combined perspectives and knowledge of his students and relates it to contemporary business theory. This pooling of knowledge collectively enhances the learning experience and strengthens student scholarship.

“I teach them to think like consultants in order to solve internal problems,” Yawson said. “Everything we do has practical importance.”

Almost every semester, Yawson has students who present at professional conferences and get their work published in peer-reviewed journals. Many are able to apply what they’ve learned in their consulting capstone to address real issues they’ve been facing in their workplace.

“Being part of that process is what excites me and allows me to enjoy my work,” he said. “It gives me renewed energy for this calling of teaching.”