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Professorially Speaking

In the classroom, classic professorial style has notched itself a wonderfully familiar outfit of brown tweed, elbow patches, and rounded spectacles. Perpetuated by real-life professors and Hollywood stylists alike (see: Dr. Jones), the traditional look toes the line between classic menswear masculinity and collegiate costume. But regardless of one’s affection or antipathy toward classic professorial dress, one must admit to the innate romanticism of the man that has traditionally worn it.

Beyond the lectern (and tweed suit) is a man of pedagogical mystery. A man with a distinct predilection toward leather journals and pondering melancholic poetry. Notably demonstrated by the late Robin William’s Professor Keating, it is such practices that, while appearing eccentric on the surface, are often directly responsible for the unique giftedness that serves their noble task: the task of challenging the minds of the world’s future.

Though today’s professor may spend more time time grading papers submitted via Google Docs than reciting stanzas penned by Mr. Walt Whitman, their goal is no less significant — that their students would grow and stretch and carpé diem the shit out of their futures — and in doing so, make the world a better place. While we have a firm hold on the professor’s uniform while in the classroom, what does such a man wear while in confines of his study?

We recruited friend and real-life professor Joel Marshall to help us envision a sartorial selection of the eccentric professor when he’s not in the classroom.

And, like any good teacher, he gave us a few lessons beyond that.

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What do you teach?
“Well technically, I teach marketing, but marketing is really about life. Life is the highest consumer benefit. If you keep asking the word “why?”, you get life. Marketing is about communication and direction and what is most beneficial to life. To me, it’s getting up to asking the highest question. Not just any question – the highest question. My students go into the class expecting business and marketing, but they probably leave with philosophy more than anything.”

Why teaching?
“I want to see positive societal change. Every major movement in this country in the last century and a half has arguably started with young people on college campuses. If you can put a fire under them, they can change the world. The joy is that I can extend my impact. Getting older, it’s hard to do all of the world-changing things left to be done, but I can inspire others to do them.”

What is your philosophy behind teaching?
“When I think of teaching, I think of the word inspire, which literally means ‘to breathe life into’. Students today don’t need me to teach them information — today’s students have all the information they need at their fingertips. I don’t teach them how to use the current tools in marketing — these will change before they get out of my class. I teach students the process of finding the most relevant information and the process and practice of communicating it in the most resonant way. When I teach, I’m looking for the connection between the information I am teaching and the passion point of person that is listening. This is when insight happens. So for me, teaching is not about information. It’s about inspiration.”

What happens when planning or designing a class?
“I stole this from the film Objectified: “good design removes that which is not necessary”. It’s the same in writing, art, and numerous other design-oriented practices. So much of what we do is not necessary.”

“Therefore, in teaching, I remove the things that aren’t beneficial. Cutting away the bottom 10% of the syllabus and then leveraging that which is most beneficial to the students is always going to be better for them. It’s certainly easier to NOT change things, but if I’m here to make them think those higher questions, it’s necessary.”

Favorite article of clothing?
“My favorite article of clothing is without question my Mountain Hardware Elkommando Kilt. What will you do with your freedom? I’m going to wear a feckin’ kilt. I’ve never felt more free.”

Favorite book?
“The two most life-changing books I’ve read lately are both by Richard Rohr: The Naked Now and Falling Upward. The Naked Now taught me to completely change how I think and pursue truth. As Richard says, ‘if you spend your whole life trying to prove to others that you are right and they are wrong, you will never get any better. You will be stuck inside a boxed world of smallness’.”

“So now I’m purposely and actively trying to prove myself wrong. The great news is…it’s easy to find people who will help me with that.”