June 7, 2001
Vol. 20 No. 18

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    James Schrager, Clinical Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategic Management in the Graduate School of Business

    By Soo Ji Min
    Graduate School of Business

    James Schrager, Clinical Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategic Management in the Graduate School of Business, first won the Emory Williams Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1996.

    As the 2001 Williams award winner, Schrager said his teaching style hasn’t changed much in five years.

    “It’s stayed very much the same––strange,” said Schrager. “Each assignment takes students in a new direction. We continually push into new territory that students are not prepared for.”

    Chicago GSB students seem to appreciate Schrager’s unconventional style. A student committee solicited nominations from classmates across the school’s campus, evening, weekend and executive M.B.A. programs. The award recognizes a junior faculty member for communication, accessibility, enthusiasm and innovation in teaching.

    Schrager has developed all of his own course materials and there is very little reading. Each year, he teaches approximately 300 students how to make predictions for companies without any available data. In fact, the companies he uses for the courses do not exist. “It’s like corporate anthropology,” said Schrager. “I teach students how to read symbols and make observations from ordinary events.”

    His teaching methods, however, are appropriate to his subject matter. “I want students to get used to the challenge of trying to figure out where they are with no signposts,” said Schrager. “They have to develop their own signposts for when things are looking good for a company and when things are looking bad.”

    Schrager likens his course to walking through a cave with your eyes closed, trying not to bump into too many walls. “Students are often bewildered for the first several weeks,” said Schrager. “I get a lot of e-mails and visits. I tell them to persevere. The more work we do in class, the signposts mysteriously appear. In the end, I think it works.”

    In 1984, Emory Williams, former chairman and chief executive officer of the Sears Bank & Trust Company and the Chicago Milwaukee Corp., established the award in his name. Although Williams is not a graduate of the GSB, he has a long and supportive relationship with the school.

    Schrager received his B.A. in economics from Oakland University in 1971 and earned his M.B.A. in accounting from the University of Colorado in 1975. He also received his Certified Public Accountant certificate in 1975. He earned a J.D. from DePaul College of Law in 1979, and a Ph.D. in Behavioral Science and Policy from the University in 1993.