Let Us Introduce You: Dr. Michael Shaner

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Let Us Introduce You: Dr. Michael Shaner

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Management professor Dr. Michael Shaner said that failure is his favorite subject to teach.

Why would someone enjoy teaching about failure? Oddly enough, failure is what led Shaner to teach at Saint Louis University.

“I failed undergraduate school, eventually got my degree, then master’s, and then my Ph.D. I came back to St. Louis, and St. Louis was the only place to hire me,” Shaner said. “I know what it’s like to flunk classes, to do poorly. When people call me a teacher, it grates me a little. I haven’t taken one class on teaching. Everything I do has been seat of the pants. And I love it here.”

Shaner’s career as a professor has taken him all over the globe, teaching in places such as Malaysia and Australia. For Shaner, anywhere he can engage with students and friends is his favorite place to be.

While discussing countries he has visited, Shaner points to a photo of him and previous students in Malaysia. They are around a table, eating together and enjoying the time they are spending with each other. For Shaner, traveling is not just viewing famous landmarks – it is actually being around people with whom he can have intimate conversations and together find enjoyment of life.

“Any place I’ve sat down with students or friends during a meal is my favorite place,” Shaner said “I’ve had meals with students in Hong Kong and Finland and all over the world. That’s my favorite place and those are the things I remember.”

Shaner’s engaging and interactive teaching style has led to him becoming one of the most beloved professors on campus.

“My style is maybe different from other folks,” Shaner said. “Mine is non-lecture. I want to ask questions, move around the room, get in people’s faces.”

Displaying a model brain in his office, Shaner said that his goal is to go beyond the normal expectations of a classroom and have students reflect on the class material.

“I want people to think. I want them to have ideas and feelings. I want energy and interaction,” Shaner said. “I’ll learn names and make it personal by talking to them. I’m not going to sit behind a podium and write lists on a board. I want to have fun. I want to make the class pop and be exciting.”

Shaner may teach management, but at the same time, he teaches about life. Shaner was selected to present at the Last Lecture Series in 2009, and he gave his insights as to what is really important in life.

“Life is what’s important, not just business stuff,” Shaner said.

Shaner heeds his own advice, living day-to-day and enjoying every minute of it.

“I can make my own days. You’re in control of your attitudes. If I lose in handball, which I didn’t, I could say the whole day is a bummer. When I do get bummed, I get mad at myself,” Shaner said. “I joke a lot about being on the back nine of life. Life is just a thread and a thread can be cut. You have to live for the day and put things in perspective.”

Always putting his students’ best interests at heart, Shaner said he makes sure that his students are caffeinated and ready to go for early classes.

“I provide coffee for my students in the morning. I have class at 8:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. People pay good money, so I can at least provide them coffee,” Shaner said. “I have to make it interesting, and Thursday mornings, after Pennies at Cheaters, I need my students to be excited