Meet Your Neighbor: Christopher Neck named to top 6 for Cherry Award

Editor’s Note: Baylor University awards The Robert Foster Cherry Award every two years to a collegiate teacher for their teaching abilities. Paradise Valley resident Christopher Neck finished in the top 6 for the award.

Name: Christopher Neck

Occupation: Professor WP Carey Business School at ASU

Christopher Neck 

What does it mean to you to be nominated and finish in the top 6 for the Cherry Award? I’m a professor at a major research institution and most of the rewards in higher education come from doing research. I have published 22 books and over 100 scholarly research articles in my career yet I’m most proud of the time and efforts I put into teaching and trying to connect with and help the over 50,000 students I’ve taught in my career. Being a semi finalist for the Cherry award validates the priority I put on teaching and the unique teaching style I exhibit in the classroom.

This style involves high energy and involves a class culture where learning can be fun. This top six finish is also very humbling. To be recognized as one of the best teachers in the world fills me with much gratitude. I’m very fortunate to have had so many students who have encouraged me to be innovative in the classroom over the years.

Why you did you choose to work in your occupation? My profession chose me I think rather than me choosing it. Oprah Winfrey once said, “No one stumbled across something sitting down.” I stumbled across the career of being a professor. After a short stint of being an accountant after my undergraduate degree at Louisiana State University (Geaux Tigers!), I went back to LSU to get my MBA basically to ascertain what I wanted to do. I figured getting an MBA would buy me some time to learn more and determine my life’s path at the same time.

During my MBA, I was a teaching assistant for a professor. One afternoon he called me and said, “Chris, I’m very sick, I need you to teach my undergraduate class tonight.” I had never taught a single class in my life. I was scared and uncertain but as soon as I was in front of that class, I knew I was “home!” After that event, I talked to other Professors at LSU and they encouraged me to pursue my PHD (which I did at Arizona State) and the rest is history.

What I like most about what I do: I love to figure out how to connect with my students. For example, if I’m teaching “leadership” in the classroom, I love figuring out how to prepare that class period so that the material “grabs the students” and inspires them to want to learn more about the subject. I also get excited when I can help students. Often students come to me to help them figure out the best major for them and/or for help finding a job. At this point in my career, helping others is more rewarding than almost anything. I also enjoy writing textbooks and other books. Both activities (teaching and writing) involve creativity and being creative fires me up.

Where did you come from: Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I bleed purple and gold so I have to shout out again “Geaux Tigers!”

If I had picked a different occupation it might have been: Medical Doctor or Psychologist

What is a challenging aspect of your occupation? I teach nearly 1000 students every semester. The challenge is two fold: 1) to create an intimate setting within the classroom so that the students don’t feel like a large class is a negative thing; 2) being able to be there for my students when they need me. All students in my classes have my cell phone so when they need something they can text or call me and not have to wait in line for office hours. Another challenge is writing textbooks. It takes 3 to 5 years from start to finish for a textbook and a lot of determination.

People who inspired me (and how): Muhammad Ali. He inspired me via his commitment to beliefs. It is easy to believe something when there are not any consequences to that belief. Ali was willing to sacrifice his freedom and career for his beliefs. Most of all my wife, Jen, has inspired me. She has taught me unconditional love and selflessness.

One thing I want people to know about me: I’m painfully shy in social situations. I’m anal about diet and nutrition. I eat for fuel and I don’t eat by the clock. I guess those are two things!

My advice to today’s youth: Two things. 1) Don’t be afraid to fail and, 2) ignore the critics. In terms of failure, I believe Mike Tyson said, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” My advice to today’s youth is that unless you are lucky in your life, you are going to get punched in the mouth. You are going to get a bad grade in a class, rejected for admission into a college, rejected for a particular job. When you fail, just get back up and keep fighting. Everyone fails. Successful people get up after failing.

Second, I find that a lot of today’s youth find criticism difficult to handle. My advice to them is that not everyone is going to like you or your idea. If you are expecting 100 percent acceptance of you and your thoughts, then you are setting yourself up for a stressful life. So, ignore the critics and go after what you belief in and want to achieve. This advice may sound like an infomercial but it comes from the heart and I really believe it.

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