Why I teach

Alex Bolinger

assistant professor management
College of Business

What inspired you to be a university professor?
My parents, Ron and Patty Bolinger. They are terrific role models - they not only say that education is important, but they live that belief out in their daily lives. Both of my parents earned graduate degrees and have spent their careers in education. They have each taught classes at Idaho State University. Most importantly, they nourished my ambitions to get my doctorate and they were incredibly supportive when I encountered obstacles in my education.

Why teach in a university setting?
The job itself is a good fit for someone who likes to research and write and is comfortable speaking in front of groups of students. Teaching in a university is appealing to me because of its flexibility and the variety of tasks. On any given day, I will engage in activities that require lots of interaction, such as teaching classes and participating in meetings, and also spend time alone in my office researching and writing. A university campus is also a stimulating work environment because of the energy of the students, the ongoing activities and events, and many opportunities to talk to smart people about interesting topics.

I think that the most important reason to teach in a university setting, however, is to have an opportunity to help people at a key juncture in their lives. I firmly believe that getting a college degree is one of the most important things individuals can do to further their careers and improve the opportunities available to them. Our world will face significant challenges in the coming decades and I would like to play even a small role in educating the next generation of managers to meet those challenges creatively and effectively.

If you weren't a university professor what do you think you would be doing?
At one time, I took the LSAT and I was admitted to law school, so I probably would have become an attorney. I also would have been interested in pursuing a career in exercise physiology.

What has teaching taught you about yourself?
Teaching has taught me how much I still have to learn about management. One of the exciting parts of my job is that I am constantly learning from my students' experiences and insights.

What is the most difficult aspect of teaching?
The most difficult aspect of teaching is consistently communicating course concepts in an accessible, interesting way. Students come to class from a variety of backgrounds - some have worked for many years and have managerial experience, others have little work experience and no managerial experience. I enjoy the challenge of finding different ways to demonstrate the direct relevance of the course material to students, no matter their background.

What inspired you to enter higher education?
When I was in elementary school, my dad went back to school to get his doctorate. He took our family to Bozeman, Montana for several summers while he was earning his degree. Those summers spent on a college campus with my parents and siblings made a distinct impression on me. I saw how hard my dad worked and how much fulfillment he got from earning his doctorate and I always had it in the back of my mind that I would like to do the same someday.

What career/life messages do you try to impart upon your students?
One of the messages that I convey to students is the importance of perspective-taking. Perspective-taking is a career and life skill that involves recognizing that others may perceive a situation differently than you and trying to imagine how they are interpreting it. The ability to see the world through the eyes of others, whether or not you agree with their interpretation, is a primary component of emotional intelligence and valuable in motivating employees, leading change, managing conflict, and negotiating successfully.

What do you want students to take from their ISU educational experience?
I would like students to build a "toolkit" of knowledge, skills, and abilities during their educational experience at Idaho State that they can apply flexibly to meet the demands of their careers. For example, in my classes I tell students that there is no single "correct" way to motivate employees, but if they know a variety of theories and learn several different tactics for motivating others, they can selectively apply that knowledge to meet the demands of each situation.

I also hope that students leave Idaho State University with a desire to continue to learn and improve. In a global economy that is changing rapidly, it is becoming even more necessary to continuously learn and update one's knowledge and skills.