Emmy-Winning TV Journalist, Online MBA Student Interviews Her Michigan Ross Professor
“In our country, businesses run America to a large extent, and there is this battle between democracy and oligarchy,” Russell said. “To understand America and to report in America, having a good knowledge of business helps you to better report on our country and our communities.”
This sentiment came to fruition quicker than even Russell anticipated.
In May, Russell was assigned to cover a group of protestors gathering outside a McDonald’s on Detroit’s east side. The protestors, many of whom were current and former McDonald’s employees, were seeking a higher minimum wage from the fast-food giant.
From her coursework at Michigan Ross, Russell knew that there were many sides to such a hotly debated topic. She kept recalling discussions from her microeconomics course with Professor Ari Shwayder as she prepared for the story.
She realized that her professor was actually an ideal source for the story. So she emailed Shwayder, who agreed to the interview.
“The things he taught us in class are a bit more complex than typically are explained,” Russell said. “I thought that it would be great if I could try to bring it to our viewers, and my boss let me do that. It was a great opportunity to try to help people understand the complexities of the world.”
Real-world experience applied to the classroom
Russell’s experience also highlights a common characteristic among her accomplished Michigan Ross professors. In addition to being experts on the topics they teach, they bring real-world experience to classroom lectures and discussions that make the lessons applicable to everyday life.
“All the faculty that I’ve encountered have really impressive resumes that allow them to not just teach us what they know, but to make what they’re teaching us relatable,” Russell said. “Professor Shwayder worked in the U.S. Senate as an economist to the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. So he’s the perfect person to interview when you're doing a story on minimum wage.”
In the interview, Shwayder enjoyed sharing his expertise with residents of the greater Detroit area. But the biggest reward was partaking in a nuanced business conversation with one of his students outside of the classroom.
“Those are fun discussions to have because we can apply our thinking and it's much more informal,” Shwayder said. “Without the formality of ‘am I going to be graded?,’ the discussion can be more nuanced and fun.”
In addition to his work with the federal government, Shwayder also spent the better part of four years with McKinsey & Co. There he worked as an associate and an engagement manager, developing strategic initiatives in a variety of sectors, from financial service industries to education.
This period of his work experiences proved to be invaluable once he transitioned to Michigan Ross.
“I think that that gave me a lot of perspective about what people in the business world are actually doing on a day-to day-basis,” Shwayder said. “What are the decisions that they're actually making? I think if I had just gone straight through and did my undergrad degree, got a PhD, and came to academia, I wouldn’t have that perspective. You can read about business decisions, but unless you're actually in the room, trying to make those decisions, it's hard to know what's actually happening.”
As a result, Shwayder often receives unsolicited calls or emails from students who were excited after they applied a lesson from a class lecture in real-time at their jobs. This always makes him proud, as there is no better proof that a student grasped the subject matter.
Learning from the Michigan Ross experts, Russell said her abilities improved as a reporter in a matter of months. And, the benefits of pursuing her Online MBA also extend beyond her career as a journalist.
“I feel like it’s made me a better decision maker, which is something that’s going to be applicable in anybody’s life, no matter what field they’re in,” she said. “You’re going to learn how to analyze the numbers, analyze the facts, and figure out what the best course of action is more effectively than you were able to before.”