Today@Sam Article

Business Prof Wins Faculty ACE Award By Marketing 'Service'

Aug. 10, 2016
SHSU Media Contact: Tyler Pointer

Sanjay Mehta with students
Marketing professor Sanjay Mehta, this year's Faculty Excellence Award winner for academic community engagement, teaches his students business strategies within the classroom and then lets them apply those concepts in the real world. —Photo by Brian Blalock

Aristotle once said, “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”

What Aristotle may have meant by this is that the beginning of the journey to become educated may seem like a long and tedious one, but the outcome that waits at the end is worthwhile. 

Sam Houston State University marketing professor Sanjay S. Mehta has blended the fruits of teaching and service into one, much like the principle SHSU was founded on, to create educational opportunities for his students that extend beyond the classroom. 

These ideas are personal for Mehta, whose pursuit of education have been part of a long and tedious journey through which he has learned that education itself is so much more than receiving a diploma. 

Mehta was born in India, where he would spend most of his adolescence. He moved to the U.S. permanently at age 19 to begin higher education. After he received his first degree in 1987, he went on to receive two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. in majors ranging from mathematics to marketing.

“I love to learn. The more I learn, the more I want to learn. Honestly, if someone would pay me even half of what I get paid today, I would quit my job and go back to learn some more,” Mehta said. “My disparate educational background helps me look at business problems from many different and unique perspectives.”

While teaching for over two decades, Mehta has seen the value of engaging classes with the community in a multitude of Academic Community Engagement marketing courses in which he and his students serve the community directly.

The ACE initiative allows students to use the skills and knowledge learned in the classroom to make a difference and improve life in the community, while encouraging students to understand their roles as community members, according to the ACE at SHSU website.

Mehta has had more than 100 clients from the communities he has lived or worked in during his career, including churches, swimming clubs, bookstores, credit card companies, storage facilities, restaurants, and parking garages.

Sanjay Mehta in the classroom

“In a chemistry class, you may learn about the different elements on the periodic table; then in the lab, you get the opportunity to mix different chemicals and observe the chemical reaction. I believe the best way to teach students marketing is to give them the opportunity to apply the theoretical concepts they learn in class to practice,” Mehta said.

When he first began teaching, Mehta felt that the assignments he gave his students were not adequate in order for them to prepare for real-world situations, so he introduced ACE components into his curriculum.

“I started engaging the community. Using this approach, students not only help a client, (but) they also learn the uncertainties that accompany real-world projects, while solving real-world problems,” Mehta said. 

Among the projects Mehta’s students have undertaken have been creating marketing plans for local businesses and conducting marketing research to better understand the needs of customers.

Taking on ACE courses has totally changed Mehta’s philosophy on teaching.

“I believe too many faculties spend a lifetime trying to improve their teaching style and methods,” he said. “What I believe educators should spend more energy on is determining how student learn.”

According to Mehta, the difference is that the former is faculty-centric and the latter is student-centric.

“I believe that students learn in many different ways; therefore, faculty should teach the course based on how students learn,” Mehta said. “I also believe that students retain information longer if they apply the concepts rather than memorize the definitions.”

Because Mehta’s students work with real clients, they may run into problems with their projects, much like in the real world.

“Do not expect everything to go according to plan or according to your course outline,” Mehta said. “I had a client divorce, sell their business, and move out of town, all during the same semester when my class was developing a marketing plan to help grown their business.” 

Mehta expects that since these are real-world occurrences, they can prepare his students and influence their chances in being successful business leaders, which will reflect on how SHSU alumni are perceived by the business community. 

Because of his continuous commitment to the ACE pedagogy, this year, Mehta received the David Payne Award for Academic Community Engagement, one of four faculty excellence awards SHSU annually presents.

“I am elated to receive my second ‘Excellence Award’ from SHSU. Previously, I received the ‘Excellence in Research’ award in 2004,” Mehta said. “I believe that the greatest honor in academia is to receive recognition from your peers.”

For those who nominated him, the recognition is a result of Mehta’s love of learning and service, which can be attributed to the many important lessons he has learned along the way.

“As an educator and scholar, I have realized that there is a lot more I do not know than what I do know,” Mehta said. “I love doing what I am doing and would not trade it for anything. I feel I am making a difference in the lives of future generations. In my opinion, being an educator is a ‘noble’ profession.”

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