Meet Our Faculty: Avinash Atholi

Thursday, September 3, 2020

For as long as I can remember I have always had an interest in economics. I often joke that I started learning economics from the womb because my mother was an economics professor for 35 years and the principal of the college she taught at in India where I grew up. 

Before coming to Omaha in 2007, I worked at PepsiCo. It was a great learning experience on how individuals make their decisions and choices. I have been working at First National Bank since 2007 and being part of a bank has meant exposure to all aspects of macro economic activities. 

FNBO has been very supportive of me teaching the next generation of leaders and students at Midland University. I started at Midland University in 2013 and I’ve been here ever since. 

I guess you could say I was in the right place at the right time.

Describe the Courses You Teach.

I have the privilege of teaching two courses at Midland University that allow me to interact with students who are just starting the program and others who have almost completed their MBA.

Managerial Economics Course

Midland’s managerial economics course is one of the foundational courses that MBA students take during their first year in the program. At this stage in the program, students are beginning to be molded into business professionals. By the end of the course, I see students begin to grasp what an MBA and economics means for them and their future career.

In my opinion, economics is a key component of what makes a good business person. 

In fact, everything that we do in my class is based from the perspective of a decision maker which means that I use relevant content that will be useful for our MBA students in their careers that they can apply in a practical way. 

For example, our students write a business memo which discusses economic concepts in regards to recent news in the world. The memo is based on their understanding of the articles and how they relate to economic themes they've learned in class.

Our term project is another great example of how students can apply their learning in a practical way by working as a team of consultants to study both the macro and microeconomic themes happening within a company.

For example, let's say Walmart was a company that we picked in class - the students will look at economic themes from the last five years and into the near future. Then, they will determine as a team how Walmart can position themselves to take advantage of those economic themes. 

Leadership and Strategic Value Creation Course

In the Leadership and Strategic Value Creation elective course, I have the opportunity to see students' development as they get closer to completing their degree and take the next big step in their career.  

Students get to experience a simulation where they are running a car company and they have to make practical decisions that will either have a negative, or positive impact on their company and address real-world scenarios.

Overall, the most satisfying part of teaching both of these courses is that I get to see how students are developing and becoming future leaders.

How Do You Help Students Apply Concepts?

The simple answer is I try to make it as practical and as real as possible. I try to be as non-boring as possible because economics is one of those courses that if you go really in-depth on only the technical and theoretical, it can be a drag. 

But if you bring what they’ve seen in the real world into the classroom, then it starts to engage the students and makes a lot more sense. I always enjoy when students come back and say that they’ve started looking at the world differently because that means they’ve learned something. For example, one of the things we discussed in class was what kind of behavior is Starbucks trying to influence when they provide coupons.

We talk about the elasticity of demand and the demand that they're trying to generate for their company and why they might have made those decisions.

After that our students began to think differently about coupons because they are understanding the economic angles of coupons and can see how it works in real life.

Another example would be when we talk about market structure which is an important concept in economics. I bring reliable stories of what I've learned and what I've seen to class. For example, I might use how Apple introduced products that crushed others, such as BlackBerry. BlackBerry didn't see it coming for a variety of economic reasons which begs the questions what would you do if you were in that position? 

That way it's not just theoretical, now they’re thinking from a different perspective because it's something that has actually happened.

What Would You Tell Someone Who is Considering Completing an MBA?

After being in the business world for 17 years, I tell students that just by being here (in Midland University’s MBA program) they’ve taken a step that a majority of the people in the workforce haven't taken which shows their commitment to ongoing learning. 

The second thing I tell them is that our MBA program is very unique in the sense that it allows students to pace themselves, practice, and gives them tools to become a leader.

For those who are ready to take on a new challenge, I encourage you to actively consider the MBA program at Midland University as a stepping stone for your career.

It is a highly valuable experience not just for yourself, but also for your current, or your future employer.

If you want to talk about the value of an MBA, please contact me at atholi@mba.midlandu.edu.

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