Christina Ting Fong, an assistant professor of management and organization at the Foster School of Business, has won this year’s University of Washington Distinguished Teaching Award. Only seven UW educators received the award this year.
Fong joined the Foster School faculty in 2003, after earning a BA in psychology at Williams College, and a MA in sociology and PhD in organizational behavior at Stanford University.
Since settling in at Foster, she has taught the core management course to full-time and evening MBAs, international students in the Global Executive MBA Program and, currently, undergraduates.
“There is no other teacher that made the classroom connect to my life as Christina did—and all in an introductory class,” says recent Foster School graduate Carson Locke.
Bringing theory to practice
Building this crucial connection between theory and practice is the hallmark of Fong’s teaching. It derives from her influential early research on the limitations of traditional management education. “The End of Business Schools? Less Success than Meets the Eye,” with Jeffrey Pfeffer, won the Academy of Management Learning and Education 2004 Best Paper Award. Moreover, this work has impacted business school curriculum around the country and contributed to an increased focus on “softer” skills such as communication, negotiation and leadership.
To develop these leadership skills in her students, Fong has enacted a classroom style that can best be described with the word action.
“The only way to learn how to lead is to lead,” she says. “In every one of my class sessions, my students are up out of their seats, engaging in the skills—teamwork, leadership, influence, decision making—that are going to help them in their careers. As I tell them time and again, practice makes perfect.”
Serious lessons. But the delivery is fun. Fong employs some lively methods to bring topics alive. To understand teamwork and innovation, her students compete to erect the tallest freestanding “Marshmallow Tower,” constructed of uncooked spaghetti, tape and a length of string. To experience a “deep dive” prototyping session, student teams brainstorm the perfect smart-phone app for UW students. To compute the effects of personality on teams, they incorporate paper airplane companies under very different management styles.
But these are no flights of fancy. Fong’s classroom activities are grounded in empirical research that demonstrates indelible learning. A prolific researcher and frequent reviewer for a range of academic journals, Fong strives to make theory immediately useful to her students so that they can become better teammates, better managers, better leaders today.
“Christina takes her teaching very seriously and works very hard to design a course that is engaging, educating, and meaningful for students’ life in and outside of the classroom,” says Xiao-Ping Chen, chair of the Department of Management and Organization. “Her class is rigorous, challenging, but also fun.”
“While I do take management education very seriously, I also find my job to be incredibly fun and rewarding,” Fong adds. “My students continue to amaze me with their dedication, insight, and humor. I am lucky to have the opportunity to play a role in the lives of so many amazing students and leaders.”
UW Distinguished Teaching Award
Foster School of Business Recipients
Christina Fong is the 11th member of the Foster School faculty to have received the UW Distinguished Teaching Award since its inception in 1970.
Robert Higgins, Professor of Finance
David Hart, Professor in Business Administration
Alan Hess, Professor of Finance and Business Economics
Gerhard Mueller, Professor of Accounting
Sharon Gailbraith, Professor of Marketing & International Business
Nicholas Binedell, Lecturer in Business Administration
Emer Dooley, Lecturer in Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship
Frank Rothaermel, Lecturer in Business Administration
June Morita, Senior Lecturer in Management Science
William Wells, Senior Lecturer in Accounting
Christina Ting Fong, Assistant Professor of Management