Faculty Profile: Avi Atholi

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

For Midland MBA professor Avi Atholi, teaching comes naturally.

“I like influencing people and I like seeing people’s potential being maximized,” he says. “I’ve always looked at myself as a maximizer of potential, so if I can influence minds and shape their thought process that has always been something I have looked out for.”

As Vice President of Data at First National Bank of Omaha, Professor Atholi spends a great deal of his time maximizing the potential of the bank. Before being promoted from Senior Director of Data Management, he spent eight years building stress testing programs for the bank and analyzed macroeconomic scenarios to help prepare the bank should another financial crisis strike, among other responsibilities.

At Midland, Professor Atholi teaches Managerial Economics, one of the foundational core courses. He is in a unique position to see the potential in each student at the start of the program and finds it energizing to begin each term with the multitude of backgrounds and the fresh ideas and perspectives each student brings.

“Nobody’s coming in with the perfect background. Some are deep down into sales, finance, or marketing,” he says.

Professor Atholi noticed soon after beginning to teach in the inaugural term of the program that many students use the lack of a perfect background as an excuse not to pursue their MBA.

“There’s a sense of ‘is this too big of a commitment for me?’” he says of first term students. “They only feel half assured that they’re the right fit, that they can gain anything from it.”

After spending his first course influencing and maximizing students’ way of thinking, Professor Atholi has to wait nearly a year to see them again. By the time he begins teaching Financial Strategy for Value Creation, one of the electives, students’ mindsets have changed significantly.

“I see the progression, their ability to synthesize beyond what they’re looking at. I see them at the end as a confident, competent businessperson who’s ready to solve the next problem.”

The Financial Strategy for Value Creation course allows students to work in a team running a company as decision makers in a simulation. The environment is similar to the real world. Teams have to consider data points such as macroeconomic scenarios, competitor decisions, and many more. Depending on the team’s decisions and those of competitors each period, the firm’s sales, income, and stock prices change.

Professor Atholi explains, “It’s what brings everything together. The course greatly enhances the student’s ability to excel in all aspects required from a modern business leader – to forge a vision, build a strategy, execute the strategy, and then be nimble and adaptive as the environment changes.”

For Professor Atholi, teaching doesn’t end with the classroom. He stays in touch with alumni. He finds it incredibly gratifying to see their success.

“I recently had coffee with an alumnus who is the CFO of a small bank,” he says. “He was good when he came in, but maybe not ready for the next big step. By the end of the program, he was ready and able to get to that next level and maximize his potential.”

Students have recognized Professor Atholi’s passion to the tune of two Excellence in Teaching Awards, an honor voted on by the class as they prepare for graduation.

Professor Atholi remains humble however, saying about the award, ““Teaching is a challenge and a gift all wrapped into the same thing. The challenge is combining complex concepts into practical real world applications in an ever changing business world context. The gift is the enormous impact and influence I can have on eager minds and the transformation I see in them throughout the program. It makes it even sweeter, and is motivational, that the award is chosen by the students themselves!”

To learn more about how you can maximize your own potential with faculty like Professor Atholi, get in touch with Admissions, either by calling (402) 941-6226 or sending an email to Admissions@MBA.MidlandU.Edu.

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