Thanks to DePaul University’s vast network of business alumni, prime location in downtown Chicago and strong faculty professional relationships, DePaul business students experience learning in a practical way. This experiential learning includes a key component—business executives in the classroom. 

Business leaders’ interactions with DePaul students go beyond guest lectures and networking dinners. Executives, many of whom are DePaul alumni, participate in the curriculum by providing students real-world examples of what they read about in textbooks. In fact, many students focus their class activities on actual business issues faced by some of the nation’s top companies.

In a series of stories, we’ll take a look at the different ways DePaul business students benefit from this unique approach that puts executives in the classroom. 

Chicago executives bring business case studies to life

Elizabeth Hernandez was convinced that the executives at Burke Beverage Inc., should take out a loan. Hernandez, an undergraduate finance major, based her decision on a review of the case study on Burke in her money and banking class. The case focused on Burke, a Chicago-based beverage distributor, which was looking to expand its operations. The question was simple—take out a commercial bank loan or gather the funds internally to pay for the expansion?

Just like thousands of business students around the country who review case studies, Hernandez went through all she’d learned in class about interest rates, LIBOR, line of credit, loan terms and other important factors to make a decision. Yet, Hernandez had a resource that many business students do not—face-to-face access to all the parties involved.

Hernandez and her classmates received the opportunity to meet Tim Nolan, the CFO of Burke Beverages, as well as Mark Hoppe, CEO of MB Financial Bank, the commercial bank that could make the loan, and Mike Smith, the loan officer involved.

The executives came at the behest of Hernandez’s teacher, Lamont Black, assistant professor of finance at DePaul’s Driehaus College of Business.

The experience, Hernandez says, deepened her understanding of commercial banking and changed her career path.

This was my favorite part of the class,” Hernandez says of the executives’ presentation. “If you read something from a book or you go over it in a case study, it’s not the same as when the people involved actually explain their decision-making process. You learn much more. It got me interested in commercial banking.”


Chicago executives added real-world advice to a case study in a Money and Banking finance class at DePaul. Participating in the class were (pictured left to right): Tim Nolan, CFO of Burke's Beverage Inc.; Seth Heape, senior vice president, MB Financial Bank Leadership Development Program; Mark Hoppe, CEO of MB Financial Bank; Mike Smith, commerical loan officer at MB Financial; and Lamont Black, assistant professor of finance at DePaul's Driehaus College of Business. 

Chicago executives stream into DePaul

Hernandez’s experience is not unique among DePaul students. DePaul’s location in downtown Chicago puts it within a stone’s throw of many of the nation’s topFortune 500 companies. But it’s the relationships forged by DePaul faculty and alumni that get many of those top executives to come to campus.

Mark Hoppe, CEO of MB Financial Bank, said his classroom participation started three years ago when he was approached by William Obenshain, executive director of the Center for Financial Services at DePaul, to join a committee with other bank executives.

After working with the committee, Hoppe says he met Lamont Black, assistant professor of finance at DePaul's Driehaus College of Business. The two had lunch and talked about ways to incorporate real-world learning in the classroom. The relationship built from there and soon Hoppe was preparing lecture notes and getting ready to present in front of students.

“I loved it,” Hoppe says. “I was really impressed by the insightful questions and comments the students had. It was a great experience and I can’t wait to do it again.”

Another executive, Harry M. Kraemer, former chairman and CEO of Baxter International, gave a business ethics lecture to finance students this year. Why did Kraemer come to speak to students?

“I do whatever Maureen Meyer tells me to do,” Kraemer says, jokingly. DePaul alumna Meyer (B.S. Finance ’90) worked at Baxter and knows Vahap Uysal, associate professor of finance at DePaul.

“When Professor Uysal approached me about someone to help him teach students about business ethics, I instantly thought of Harold,” Meyer says. “He was gracious enough to agree.”

Executives offer life lessons beyond the classroom

Having executives involved in classes has a profound impact on students that can’t be replicated by textbook learning and traditional lectures alone, says Professor Black.

“Executives can answer questions in ways that I can’t ” Black says, “and they can give students insights that I don’t have. They’re the experts—they work in these careers and make these decisions everyday.”

Before the executive encounter, Hernandez was convinced that she would go into corporate finance. But after meeting Mike Smith, the M.B. Financial loan officer who worked on the Burke case, she now knows that she wants to do what he does.

“The best part was talking with him after class and learning what he did on a daily basis,” Hernandez says. “Then he gave me his e-mail and we talked more about MB Financial and my career after I graduate.”

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