Kogod Students Learn by Doing

Kogod School of Business professor Tom Kohn uses his entrepreneurial background to provide students with hands-on learning experiences.

Tom Kohn

Kogod professor of management Tom Kohn.


 

An education from the Kogod School of Business involves learning about a degree field and turning that knowledge into real, relevant experience. Professor of management Tom Kohn prepares his students for the business world by challenging them, emphasizing experiential learning in the classroom, and allowing students to learn from professionals in the field—as well as each other.

“I use the Socratic method of teaching rather than just lecturing,” Professor Kohn explained. “I think students pay more attention when they’re having a conversation and listening to each other instead of hearing me drone on.” The Socratic method promotes a continuous dialogue between classmates, and Kohn believes it simulates a business environment by encouraging students to hold discussions as they would in professional meetings. Every class is different, and students have to come prepared with their own ideas rather than simply expecting a lecture. 

From what Kohn’s seen during his time at Kogod, opening his classroom up for consistent discussions leaves everyone feeling more connected to the material.

I’ve had students say that they feel like my classes are like conversations. I’d be bored if I didn’t have an experiential project in every one of my classes, so I hope to keep my students engaged too.”

Tom Kohn

Tom Kohn

Kogod Professor of Management

Professor Kohn knows well what a business environment looks like, considering his extensive background. He cofounded both the electronic billing company Transactis and educational equity organization CONNECTdmv, and has other companies like ABC Sports, Ogilvy, and AOL on his resume. Kohn brings two CEO stints, decades of experience, and an entrepreneurial mind to Kogod. “My understanding of the business world is helpful since I have a wide breadth of exposure that allows me to be this utility man for the department,” he said. “I’ve taught the courses Social Entrepreneurship and Organizational Behavior, and I’ve prepped fourteen new courses in seven years—I like trying new things, and I'm willing to help out the department.” Kohn recently accepted the position of course coordinator for Kogod’s Introduction to Business course and is the experiential coordinator for the senior capstone strategy class—allowing him to work with Kogod students at every stage of their academic careers.

Kohn’s professional background and contacts enable him to connect his students directly to the business world. Seniors in his courses work on semester-long consulting projects with companies ranging from appliance startups to major automobile manufacturers. They collaborate with company leaders to develop marketing strategies. “I choose to work with companies that I believe will give us the commitment we need for an entire semester,” Kohn explained. “Someone in the company needs to be available to answer questions each week, and they need to come to both semester presentations—engagement with the students is key.” These partnerships have been successful—Kohn has brought in 40 companies to work with Kogod students so far, and he plans to continue adding to the list.

Kohn also frequently hosts guest speakers to share professional lessons from their careers. These speakers are often Kogod alumni who meet with first- and fourth-year students to discuss job opportunities that align with their degrees. “In the capstone course, we talk about private equity, so I bring in a guest speaker from the private equity world,” he said. “Even though I’m an entrepreneur myself, I try to have other entrepreneurs join the class when discussing the topic."

"I think it's important for students to hear from people in the outside world who are doing these things right now." 

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Tom Kohn

Kogod Professor of Management

Beyond bringing these experiences into the classroom, Kogod also brings students out into the real world. Kohn has headed several immersion programs for Kogod, allowing students to apply their knowledge on local and international levels. “We went out into the rainforest in Brazil to visit a factory. We went to an incubator in Jerusalem because there’s a big emphasis on entrepreneurship in Israel,” he recalled. “It’s another example of experiential learning—getting students out of the classroom and exposing them to what business is like for different cultures.”

Kohn believes it is critical to equip students with skills beyond their degree subject. Though he is known as a tough grader and a challenging professor, his methods seem to be appreciated by students, who leave his courses equipped with knowledge in business writing, communication skills, and case study evaluation.  

I’m trying to bring the real world into the classroom as much as possible because our students will be in it very soon.”

Tom Kohn

Tom Kohn

Kogod Professor of Management

“I feel strongly that we have to teach our students the things in class that will help them once they get out in the world,” he explained. Through the hands-on opportunities provided in Professor Kohn’s courses, students learn to apply their business skills in ways that drive results.