There are some teachers you just don’t forget. Nominated by alumni, these professors are among the best and most inspiring on the Forty Acres. Meet this year’s Texas 10.
Professor, Information, Risk, and Operations Management
With a math-professor father and a business-professor mother, Reuben McDaniel practically grew up on a college campus—but he had no intention of following in his parents’ footsteps.
“I could observe with my own two eyes how hard professors worked,” says McDaniel, who spent 10 years as a mechanical engineer.
But McDaniel didn’t stay away from education for long. He went back to school intending to go into higher education administration, but as a graduate student, he fell in love with teaching.
Now the Charles and Elizabeth Prothro Regents Chair in Health Care Management, McDaniel has been teaching on the Forty Acres for 40 years. From the Civitatis Award to the Heman Marion Sweatt Legacy Award, he’s racked up a number of accolades.
But he says awards are less exciting than the thrill he feels when a student masters a concept. To get there, he believes in pushing students to go beyond expectations.
“The students deserve more credit than we give them,” McDaniel says. “Sometimes my colleagues look at my syllabus and they say, ‘You know MBA students will not read that stuff you assigned.’ My response is always the same: ‘I’m positive they will not read it if it’s not assigned.’”
Although he watched his parents teach for many years—and they never pressured him to become a professor—McDaniel’s decision to venture into academia had a different outcome than he expected.
“They worked really hard,” McDaniel says. “I work really hard also. It just turns out that it really isn’t work but fun—lots of fun. I just didn’t recognize that they were having fun, too.“
Growing up in a small town in Southern Illinois, Lisa Koonce never thought she would attend college, let alone become a professor. She assumed she would be a secretary.
“It’s surprising to me still, at this point in my life, that I’m actually a university professor,” Koonce says. “People from my town didn’t do that sort of thing.”
Today, Koonce is the Deloitte and Touche Chair in Accounting at UT, where she has taught for 22 years and she’s earned a number of awards, including The University of Texas System Regents’ Teaching Award.
Teaching mostly seniors on their way to becoming certified public accountants, Koonce’s goal is to show her students that there’s more to accounting than just right or wrong answers.
“It’s not just black and white,” Koonce says. “There are a lot of financial situations that require judgment. I hope they realize that’s what they’re going to spend most of their professional lives doing.”
Koonce’s classroom also doubles as her research lab. While researching how accountants measure assets and liabilities at fair value, she often uses her students as test subjects.
“A lot of the projects I work on are related to ideas that students bring up in class,” she says. “If I really listen to them, I understand how they’re messing up their reasoning process.”
Ultimately, the research ideas Koonce gets from her students come full circle, helping her to teach more effectively.
“I view it as a pretty big privilege to work here,” she says, “and I feel very responsible for how they turn out.”
Meet our other Texas 10 professors here.
Photo by Matt Wright-Steel.