Faculty Excellence at UMUC
Finance and Economics
Hear the audio clip on helping students apply learning concepts to their daily lives. (1:48)
Please tell us about yourself—what made you decide to teach at UMUC? What kind of work do you do when you are not teaching at UMUC? Are there any life experiences that have influenced your teaching at UMUC? If so, please share one story.
Over the course of almost twenty years I have been teaching finance and economics at various Universities in Russia, including The State University - Higher School of Economics. After arriving in the US, I started searching for opportunities to apply my knowledge and teaching experience.
I applied for a job at University of Maryland University College, and after one year I received a call inviting me for an interview “if I was still interested.” In spring 2003, I started my first face-to-face course. It was fantastic! I was teaching the same course at UMUC as I was teaching for many years in Russia, but with another American textbook.
Beyond full time teaching for the UMUC, I am a full time mom. My children’s homework and their afterschool activities take a great portion of my time when I am not teaching. I also enjoy gardening. Every year I plant a lot of flowers, and I really enjoy seeing how they are growing. I am also busy completing home improvement projects with my husband. We are a 99% do-it-yourself family.
How would you describe your teaching style or philosophy? What experiences or person(s) have influenced your style or philosophy?
I find it very rewarding to see how students progress and work up to their full potential in order to achieve their career goals. I observed that the hardest task for my students is to be able to apply their knowledge of algebra and statistics to finance and economics. The understanding of finance is crucial to operate private businesses. The most rewarding feedback for me is to hear from my students that, after taking my class, they understand the purpose of tasks that they do on their job.
I always try to answer all the questions that my students raise. I believe that there are no stupid questions - even if they are about basic information. I try to give the best possible explanations without going off on tangents that would confuse my student. I also believe that asking questions that come up a while after the lecture is very important because time is often needed to let the material settle.
I try to create individual teaching plans for my students according to their learning processes and their levels of comprehension. I believe that highlighting my students’ progress is very important as well, because that encourages students to learn more and succeed. As a result, students understand that they are progressing.
I try to bring real life examples to financial formulas in order to combine the acquired knowledge with its everyday use. I believe that these examples bring more understanding to the subject. I try to encourage as many types of learning tools in research projects as possible.
The most amazing thing that I have seen in my classes is my students’ willingness to study! Our students are working adults. Most of them have children, some are experiencing hardship in their lives, and others are coping with family problems. Nevertheless, they still invest time and effort to come to class at night and study. For most of them it is really difficult because long time has passed since they attended school. It is obvious how they struggle with getting back in the flow of things. In Russia I taught daytime students as well as working adults, which allows me to draw a comparison between what I had experienced in the two different academic environments. The willingness of working adults in America to study hard is amazing!
What do you think it is about your teaching style that appeals to students?
I put great effort in preparing and posting supplemental materials for students, such as detailed solutions for the homework problems, mini-lectures, additional slides, and additional study problems.
For my FINC 330 (Business Finance), FINC 440 (Security Analysis and Valuation), FINC 430 (Financial Management), and ECON 430 (Money and Banking) classes, I created additional problems with step-by-step solutions that give students more practice before the exam. These supplemental materials are designed to teach students different methods of solving problems.
Also, I design supplemental slide shows for each week’s study in my face-to-face classes. These mini-lectures contain additional information that helps students understand the material and be more prepared for the final exam. I believe that it is very important for the students to understand the material instead of memorizing formulas for the final exams. Those mini-lectures are aimed to present the student with additional explanations of the lecture material.
I try to grade my students on their overall understanding of the course material and not just on the final exam grade. I believe that not all students are good test takers, and that should not stop them from succeeding in their career.
Do you teach face-to-face, online, or both? Do you have a preference between teaching face-to-face and online? If so, please explain.
I have twenty years of experience in teaching various subjects such as economics, business finance, financial analyses, and business statistics. Before coming to the US, I worked for two State Universities in Moscow. I worked with both undergraduate and graduate level students and also taught numerous courses in adult education programs.
I teach in both face-to-face and on-line classes. I have been working for the UMUC since 2003. Throughout these years I have taught ten different face-to-face and on-line courses in Economics and Finance.
I prefer face-to-face classes. I like coming to class, talking to students, and seeing how they comprehend the material. The expression in my students’ eyes gives me the answer whether they understand the material or not. I like to see how they ask questions to follow the discussion.
Please tell us about your chosen discipline-i.e., what made you interested in the area initially? What do you do to stay current in your discipline? What do you like best about teaching in your discipline?
I was interested in Economics since 1978, when I became a student of Moscow State University. I hold a Ph D in Economics from Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia. The studying approach in Moscow State University is 5 years of study, 14 courses per semester with the face-to-face exam after the end of each. We study absolutely everything related to economics: accounting, finance, international economy, and philosophy. This background gives me a great opportunity to teach various courses.
It is hard work to stay current in finance and economics. Following the news, reviewing new textbooks, and reading new research publications takes a lot of time and energy. The constantly changing global political climate fuels the dynamism of global economics, which in turn reshapes the political landscape. To understand the impact of these changes on future economic outlook, it is paramount that I sustain the effort to remain up-to-date on the information-flow.
I try to encourage students to apply concepts from the textbook to real life. I post questions for students’ discussions about the lecture materials. These questions are usually very general and broad in their nature, but they encourage students’ discussions. I give a separate grade for the students’ participation, which creates more interest for the students in the discussion. This portion of the work is designed to make the student aware of how the lecture material is applied to the real life and how the knowledge will benefit him in the future.
What is the most challenging to you in teaching in this area? What teaching strategy do you use when you encounter the challenge? Are there any special challenges in teaching this subject matter online? If yes, please explain what could be done to meet the challenges.
One of the most important challenges for me was to understand the varying level of math skills of my students and to prepare my lectures accordingly so that no one would be left behind due to the lack of understanding of algebraic formulas. I found myself in a predicament trying to prepare my lectures in plain math language. The course materials require students to be proficient in math, but it is not possible to require a student to understand challenging formulas in finance without first grasping the concept basic math. After dealing with this difficulty for several semesters, I developed my own teaching style which, I believe, reduces the student’s frustration that occurs due to the lack of exposure to high-level math courses. This approach is aimed to give all students equal opportunities to succeed in my course. If there is a void in the mathematical knowledge, I try to teach the student needed skills without adding material that is not fully relevant. This creates a clear line of thought without any distractions.
My main teaching strategy is to make the online lectures as informative as face-to-face classes. I encourage students to advance in their computer skills, such as web training and professional development while taking my course.
It seems to me that this century will be very fruitful in creating new learning technologies that would not require students to be physically present in the classroom while leaning the material. Distance education opens new opportunities for students with online lectures, seminars, discussions, and study groups. With Web-based courses, students can participate in class discussions while being in the comfort of their own homes and with their families.
Many online courses are aimed to provide the same opportunities for students as my face-to-face courses would. I encourage students to participate in class discussions through posting online notes, sending each other emails, and reading responses to their questions later.
I believe that the strategies I use in face-to-face courses can be executed just as effectively in online courses. I try to achieve that goal by encouraging my students to participate in public postings, online conferences, homework responses, and other forms of online communication.
In your opinion, what makes UMUC the college of choice for students?
UMUC provides the convenience of mixing distance education with face-to-face interactions while ensuring high standards of scholastic performance. UMUC graduates are recognized through fast promotion in their respective employments for their academic and practical aptitude in performing their work.
In your opinion, what makes UMUC the employer of choice for future faculty members?
In addition to becoming an institution that continues to emphasize academic excellence, UMUC is well-positioned for strong financial performance that allows the organization to attract and retain quality professors.
What suggestion would you give to new faculty who are interested in teaching in your discipline at UMUC?
Teaching requires continuing effort to remain current in the subject-area, as well as providing opportunities to shape the thinking of the future generation. We face a constant challenge to figure out what compels students to learn. Finding the key to students’ changing needs allows us to successfully impart our knowledge on our students. New faculty should accept the fact that their effort to become an outstanding educator is one of the rewards of their profession.