Levy Teaches Business Values

Levy Teaches Business Values

The Georgia State University professor offers practical advice regarding career choices and preparation for a world of meritocracy.

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GSU professor Jerry Levy advises parents to prepare teenagers by increasing their understanding of real-world situations and basic finances.
GSU professor Jerry Levy advises parents to prepare teenagers by increasing their understanding of real-world situations and basic finances.

How many students head off to college adequately prepared to face the competitive financial and business world? Georgia State University professor Jerry Levy knows the answer better than most. That’s why he’s taken on the challenge of preparing his students with “Business Values & You,” a prerequisite course for business majors that focuses on two areas. Levy starts with basic principles to ensure that his students understand the interdependency of all areas of business and can explore the aspects that interest them most. Then he asks them to concentrate on professional growth in preparation for their career search.

“I have had students tell me that after taking the course, they will change their major,” Levy said. But the bigger lesson has been generational. “Students today are less able to think critically than our generation,” he explained. “They seem to want to memorize facts and are comfortable with the subjective tests such as true/false or multiple choice versus discussion or case study tests. Some ask less questions and want to judge an issue as good or bad, right and wrong; but there are many ‘gray areas’ in business. I stress that they use business terms and facts to draw conclusions and develop solutions, as business challenges are rarely black or white.”

Levy’s experience has taken him from the University of Georgia, where he studied marketing, to a graduate degree in business and a successful, 35-year career that spans marketing, e-commerce, and international supply chain management. Along the way, he’s worked for GE, DHL, BAX Global, and OIA Global Logistics. Before retiring, Levy taught supply chain management at Portland State University.

When asked about his students’ business acumen, Levy said, “Some parents haven’t taken the initiative to teach some basic skills. Especially in the area of personal finance and current events. Students are just like adults; some are spoiled and entitled, and some are eager to learn, with attitudes all over the map. Some enjoy being challenged, or ask me to support my assertions and conclusions, and those have a successful future ahead. Others are not engaged, and I point out the urgency in today’s competitive business environment to stay informed and build their knowledge base. Today’s students are well equipped to use technology to make their day-to-day lives easier. Some are hooked on their devices. I find myself working to keep up with their abilities to use new apps.”

In the courses he teaches, Levy focuses on everything from finance and accounting to marketing theory, digital marketing, international business, human resources, entrepreneurship, operations, personal finance, and business law. His professional growth instruction includes having students create a LinkedIn profile and traditional resume, refine their elevator speech, and work on personal branding and interviewing strategy.

He doesn’t believe in pass/fail grading. “I point out that the business world is a meritocracy,” Levy says. “The best employees are usually the ones that are promoted, not the ones doing the minimum to get by. So I never give pass/fail [grades], I give A-F grades on most assignments. 85-90% pass, but there are always one or two who fail every quarter, and it’s almost always due to lack of class attendance or failure to do the assignments. Rarely is it due to an inability to understand.”

So what does Levy suggest parents do to prepare their kids for independence?

Part-time jobs: “All kids should experience the basics of holding a job,” Levy says. “It teaches personal responsibility, compromise, people skills, and dealing with difficult situations. No one should head to college without work experience.”

Checking/savings account: “A personal account teaches money management at a young age. It’s critical that, by their senior year in high school, students have an ATM card and bank account.”

Real majors: “When a student says they can’t decide between majoring in gender studies or drama, they may want to consider taking a gap year to assess if their major will result in a career. I know kids who majored in something ending in the word ‘studies.’ Some are bartenders, baristas, or are working in warehouses with four years of college debt.”

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