It’s not unusual to find Hao Zhang hanging around career fairs – despite the fact that he’s been a member of the Saunders College of Business faculty for nearly nine years. But Zhang, one of the recipients of the Eisenhart Award for Outstanding Teaching, believes it’s within his professorial duties to prepare his students for careers after graduation. And those duties include talking to employers himself to be sure that his coursework is helping to deliver well-trained graduates who can hit the ground running.
Zhang, who earned his doctoral degree from SUNY Buffalo, came to Saunders College in 2010. He teaches both undergraduate and graduate students studying finance, and his teaching focuses on investment, financial management, corporate finance, and fixed-income and derivative securities. After teaching his first course in graduate school, he realized how much he loved being in the classroom and how his efforts can positively influence a student’s career path.
“Teaching is the foremost activity of the RIT faculty,” he said. “As an instructor, I strive to provide a nurturing environment that enables my students to learn the fundamentals, apply that knowledge to real-life problem solving, and develop a creative mindset that can help guide them in their lifelong learning and critical thinking.”
Zhang says that his students would consider his classes to be rigorous, but he likes it that way. “If I work hard, they work hard,” he says. “I like to maintain high standards because our finance graduates are competing for jobs against graduates from so many other great schools around the country. I spend a lot of time on course preparation and developing content because I believe that this is the key to teaching effectiveness. I hope that my hard work rubs off on my students and influences their work ethic.”
As an example, Zhang integrates technology into his teaching with the use of Bloomberg terminals, a computer system that allows financial professionals to access the Bloomberg data service, which provides real-time financial data and news feeds.
He also looks closely at what his students ultimately learned and whether the students were engaged by his use of real-life examples, articles, videos and traditional lectures. He also offers support to struggling students by carefully structuring essential information that reaches those with varying learning styles, providing help outside of instructional time to students having trouble grasping key concepts, and carefully monitoring individual student performance through biweekly quizzes and homework assignments. He also encourages his students to provide feedback so that he can better understand their needs and modify his teaching to enhance student-instructor rapport.
“I view teaching as a student-centered activity,” he said. “Our students are bright and inquisitive, and they yearn for valuable content. It’s my job to encourage deep thinking and cultivate active learners.”
In addition to his work in the classroom, Zhang’s research has been published in top-tier journals including the Journal of Financial Economics, Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Journal of Accounting Research, The Accounting Review, Contemporary Accounting Research, and Review of Finance. He also worked full-time as a financial economist at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and he is an expert in corporate governance, executive compensation, financial markets, financial analytics, corporate social responsibility, and corporate tax avoidance and what influences those behaviors. He also advises the Financial Management Association Student Club and is a member of several college and university committees including the RIT Academic Affairs committee, Promotion and Tenure Committee for Saunders College, Ph.D. Exploratory Committee, and the Finance Faculty Search Committee.
“I think it is wonderful that such an outstanding researcher is also being recognized for excellence in teaching,” said Jacqueline Mozrall, dean, Saunders College of Business. “Hao Zhang is an exceptional teacher-scholar and truly embodies this ideal.”
To see the full list of award recipients, go to https://www.rit.edu/academicaffairs/celebration-teaching-and-scholarship.
Each Friday, we’re highlighting an RIT faculty member on Instagram Stories with our Faculty Friday series. For the next three weeks, we’re highlighting the three Eisenhart Award Winners. See Hao Zhang's Instagram Story.