Recognizing Faculty Excellence in the Classroom

Posted by Janae Melvin on October 15, 2015 in Angell, Business, Distinction, Economics, Faculty, of, Ottawa, Synder

Dr. Russ McCullough always knew he wanted to be a teacher. He would sit through classes listening to lectures, thinking of the ways he could improve upon what was being taught. He found the subject of economics easy to understand and knew he could bring it to the masses in a way that would help them love the subject too. McCullough started his teaching career as a graduate student teacher at Iowa State University where he remained as a professor until 2011 when he arrived at Ottawa University.

His success in the classroom is evident with more than 4,500 students choosing to enroll in his classes throughout his career. In 2015, the Kansas Independent Colleges Association honored McCullough with the Faculty of Distinction Award, an award that was created to recognize the high degree of excellence and achievement among faculty of the 18 independent Kansas colleges.

While McCullough has taught a variety of economics and finance classes for the Angell Snyder School of Business, the beginner courses, Principles of Microeconomics and Principles of Macroeconomics, remain his favorites.

“Those classes, those are my babies,” he said. “Those are the bread and butter of economics. Everything I ever needed to know I learned in my principles classes.”

While those classes hold a special place in his heart, he’s also fond of the Entrepreneurial Economics class that is a required class for all business economics majors. It’s a class not normally offered at others colleges, especially small, private universities. Entrepreneurial Economics is not a how-to course but rather a class that looks at the decision making of for-profit and non-profit entrepreneurs and the impact of those decisions on society.

“It’s more philosophical. Is entrepreneurship good, does it fit from a policy standpoint?,” McCullough explained. “We look at what place the government has and whether they should step back and allow entrepreneurs to have more creative freedom or if they should intervene to correct market failure. We explore global entrepreneurship and how different societies approach entrepreneurs.”

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McCullough says economic freedom plays an important role in the global aspect of entrepreneurship. As the class explores and discusses these topics, they often review the data and numbers presented by the Economic Freedom Index of the World, a report co-authored by OU alum James Gwartney ’62, which provides information on the institutions and policies of 141 countries. Gwartney’s work in the world of economics is referenced many times in the context of the class.

McCullough likes to seek out new ways to continue the conversation of business and economics outside the classroom. Looking for ways to further engage his students in the global impact of economics, he started a book club.

“We meet at my house every couple of weeks for dinner and too discuss the assigned book. Last semester we read ‘For the Least of These: A Biblical Answer to Poverty,’ by Anne R. Bradley and Arthur W. Lindsley. As a result of the discussions our group had on this particular book, we created our own index, the Relief to Opportunity Ratio Index. It was a great experience for the students who participated in the group.”

This fall, the book club is reading “Money, Greed and God – Why Capitalism is the Solution and Not the Problem” by Jay W. Richards. McCullough is particularly interested in the topic of poverty right now and the impact it is having on our society and saw this as a great opportunity to have a discussion with his group on the issue.

McCullough doesn’t just teach economics and business, he has personal experience in the field. Taking an early interest in real estate, he purchased his first duplex at age 18. He originally saw it as a vehicle to get rich, but instead it turned into a valuable learning experience. Since that initial purchase, he has co-owned or developed a multiple of business ventures including a restaurant, boutique hotel and a construction company.

He’s not the only one in the family with the entrepreneurial spirit. His wife Dana has a successful business as a horse-riding instructor, teaching dressage and event riding. McCullough said he and his wife work together on budget and horse purchases, but when it comes to the operation side of the business, she runs the show. Together, they are teaching all they can to their son, Carter, a junior in high school who enjoys playing the saxophone and the violin.