Dr. Gail Tom » Stories

The College of Business Administration faculty and staff are talented and dedicated. There is a rich culture at the College of Business Administration. Each member of the faculty and staff has numerous "stories" of memorable events, high points and low points, humorous moments, embarrassing incidents, disappointments and successes at the College of Business. The totality of these stories is the foundation of the culture of the CBA. Below are some of these stories. Hopefully, you will enjoy reading them.

Father-Son Activity

by Dr. John Clark, Professor of Marketing
I recently presented a paper concerning an international comparison of customer satisfaction with discount stores at the Academy of Business Administration in Cancun, Mexico. Presenting papers at conferences is a common place event among academicians, and attending conferences is a worthwhile way to exchange information, meet other people with common research interests, and keep abreast of current events in our discipline. However, what made this conference particularly memorable to me was that it turned out to be a father-son activity. My son, Edward J. Clark (ABD) University of Illinois presented a paper on a new statistical method, "objective measurement," at this same conference.

Incredible Students

by Dr. Jerry Estenson, Professor of Organizational Behavior
My favorite story involves a student I had during my semester as a tenure track faculty member. Lydmilla was a recent immigrant from a part of the former Soviet Union. After the second week in class, she asked me if it would be okay if she stood during part of the class because she was experiencing pain in her lower back. I advised her that it would not be a problem. A couple of weeks later, I noticed she was in the back of the room lying down before class. I asked if she was okay, and she said that lying down helped her deal with the pain and that she would stand up before the class started. This continued until about three weeks before the end of the semester. After the first class of that week, a young man came up to me and told me that Lydmilla was in the hospital with a form of cancer that had attacked her pelvic area and was untreatable. I was fortunate enough to get to the hospital to say goodbye before she passed away.

When I talk to community groups about the dedication of our students to their education, I talk about Lydmilla and how she came to class every day until it was impossible and that she passed every exam and turned every paper in on time until the end. It is stories about students like Lydmilla that need to be shared and help give the community, administration, and the faculty a better understanding of why we are here. I know she helps me focus on trying to be a better teacher.

Great Works Live on & on & on...

by Dr. Joe Kilpatrick, Professor of Marketing
In the middle of evaluating student projects for my advertising class, I came across a report that had an unusual ring of familiarity but I couldn't pin point where I had read it before. Then it hit me, that's my report. I wrote it when I was an undergraduate at CSUS some 15 years ago. I was reading my own report! I gave the student a "C" on the report and wrote: "Excellent report!" Of course, the student then came to me and asked me why he received only a "C" when I thought it was an excellent report. I explained to him that a "C" was the grade I received when I originally wrote the paper. The student offered no argument.


by Dr. Erlinda Clark, Professor of Accounting
In the mornings, as I rushed off to my classes from home, my habit was to wear my more comfortable tennis shoes until I got to my office, where I then changed into my dress shoes. My routine was to grab my dress shoes and throw them into a bag as I headed out the door. This morning as I settled into my office and reached inside my bag, I pulled out a brown shoe and then a blue shoe! Not only that, they were both for my left foot.

I taught in my comfortable tennis shoes that day.


by Dr. Merle Martin, Professor of Accounting
Teaching courses over television requires a lot of preparation. Yet there are certain incidents that occur which defy such preparation. Two such incidents come to mind, both involving staples.

One day, fifteen minutes before the class was to be aired, I discovered that the zipper on my pants was broken. Actually, it was one of my early arriving female students who first discovered then informed me of my dilemma. I rushed to the Men's Room to try to jury-rig the zipper so that it would work. It wouldn't.

I gingerly edged back into the studio and asked that cognizant student if she had a stapler. She did. I returned to the Men's Room and stapled my pants together. Then I rushed to the control room to instruct the operator to set all the cameras so as to view me above my beltline. I rushed back into the studio and sat on the stool where I always began my classes.

I sat with my legs crossed. When I was ready to deliver my lecture, I stood behind the computer monitor. It worked. Only my early arriving, staple bearing, female student knew. Her knowing smile almost unnerved me.

The second incident occurred another day after we already were on the air. I had brought in my laptop computer and hooked it to the studio's computer system. My computer system, however, had a more advanced operating system than that of the studio computer. As a result, the television screens of my students viewing at home were filled with wavy lines there was no decent picture of the class as it should have been broadcast.

Two technicians rushed into the room and knelt down behind the workstation where they couldn't be seen by my students. They worked furiously to try to correct the problem while I continued with my PowerPoint lecture. I put pages of printed PowerPoint slides (six per page) on the studio's overhead projector, zoomed each printed slide to full screen, and lectured on that static version of the slide.

The pages containing the printed slides were stapled together. When I needed to display a slide on the second page, I merely ripped off the first page and let it drop to my feet. The staple holding the pages together flew into the air and struck the forehead of a student in the first row. He shouted, "Hey!" and wiped a spot of blood off his forehead. I continued on with my patched together lecture, but visions of lawsuits danced in my head.

The student didn't sue. Yet, I keep expecting that, when I enter the television studio the next time, there will be a sign on the door that says, "No food, drinks or staples allowed in the classroom."

The Shining

by Dr. Merle Martin, Professor of Accounting
I was teaching a graduate technology class from 9 - 12 A.M. each Saturday morning. It was aired over cable TV to the greater Sacramento area. My wife Dotty would watch the entire three-hour session at home and tape it. She became an integral part of the course, because I occasionally would kid her over the air.

One day, I made a reference to her being a descendent of the famous Donner party that got trapped in the Sierra Nevada Mountains during their 19th century crossing; they had resorted to cannibalism. I said over the air that, "Dinners around our house were very interesting." From then on, in this and subsequent classes, Dotty became known as Mrs. Dangerfield because, "She don't get no respect."

Mrs. Dangerfield would watch my entire three-hour class. Then, after I had returned home, she would treat me to lunch at one of our favorite eating places. I'd return home tired, stuffed, and sleepy I just wanted to doze for the remainder of the weekend. But, Mrs. Dangerfield would have none of that. She insisted that we watch my taped session all three hours of it to "debrief" my successes, mistakes, and areas for future improvement. I was so tired, but I meekly complied although that instructor on TV (me) tended to put me to sleep. After all, Mrs. Dangerfield would be watching six hours of me that day!

Those sessions worked! We'd always find areas of improvement and I'd make those improvements during the next televised session. After two years of this routine, I had become a relatively polished television instructor. At that point, I said to Mrs. Dangerfield, "We're going to change our routine. We'll no longer watch the tape every time after we return from lunch. If you spot anything that I did wrong, then we'll rewind to that portion of the session and review it. Otherwise, I'll just relax Saturday afternoon."

Mrs. Dangerfield, an avid perfectionist, reluctantly agreed. I became comfortable with our new routine. Then one day, after I had returned home, Mrs. Dangerfield said to me, "I want you to look at something on the tape after we eat lunch." I agreed, curious as to what I had done wrong. After lunch, Mrs. Dangerfield rewound the session tape to the spot that she had marked in her mind.

I conduct my three-hour televised courses according to a certain formula. I'll lecture for about 45 minutes to an hour. Then, I'll sit on a chair and start a class discussion on some topic such as, "Do companies have a right to inspect employee e-mail?" In-class students who wish to contribute will turn on their microphone and talk. Students who are viewing from home can dial a specific telephone number, and their voices then will be broadcast in the classroom and throughout the viewing area much like an Oprah or Phil Donahue show.

Mrs. Dangerfield had rewound the tape to one of those discussion sessions. When an in-class student begins talking, the camera focuses on that student; he or she now in on TV. But, when a student phones in from home, there is nothing for the camera to focus on; therefore, the camera focuses on me sitting in my discussion chair. There I was, listening carefully to what the student caller was saying. My head was facing downward as I mulled my beard. Then I saw the reason that Mrs. Dangerfield was making me watch the tape.

As I listened to the student caller, with my head facing downward, the camera was focusing on my head my bald head. And that bald head actually was creating a huge glare that was being viewed throughout the entire Sacramento area. How embarrassing! Since that time, I sit with my head turned upward when I listen to callers. My televised course no longer is degraded by "the shining."

The Stalker

by Dr. Merle Martin, Professor of Accounting
I noticed her staring at me as I approached Tahoe Hall. She was a young, tall Asian-American student, standing off to the side of the northeast entrance to the building. She kept staring at me stoically as I neared the entrance. Finally, as I was about to enter the building, she asked, "Don't you remember me?" I didn't, but I tried to allay our embarrassment by replying. "I'm sorry. I remember your face but I can't recall your name." She told me her name, but I didn't remember it. She said, "You wouldn't let me drop a class last semester." Then, suddenly I remembered her and I thought to myself, "Oh my God! It's starting again!"

The Drop Decision
I find that the most stressful task for a department chair is to have to say "no" to students. The most difficult "no" is telling a student that he or she can't enroll in a class because it is full. The next most difficult "no" is telling a student that he or she can't drop a class with which that student is dissatisfied or having problems. The university has rules as to when a student can drop a class and what justification is needed. The further into the semester that a drop request is submitted, the more extensive must be the student's justification. The drop rules for the College of Business Administration are stricter than are the university rules; the drop rules for the Accounting Department, so I've been told, are stricter still. You try to be consistent and thus fair in judging the many drop petitions.

I have a hoard of grandchildren. So, by habit, I try to explain to each student as a "life lesson" why I have made the decision not to honor his or her drop request. I explain the concept of contracts, how a student's enrollment is a contract, and how contracts must be honored in the business world. I tell students that they shouldn't give up that they have to develop the tenacity to work through difficult situations. Of course, each student is immersed in his or her individual, traumatic young world, so rarely, if ever, does my ancient advice penetrate the moment. Most students just leave my office angry or in tears. Yet, I still try to impart my "life lessons." I like to hear myself talk.

The Confrontation
Last semester, however, I had one student who refused to accept my decision not to honor her drop request. Yes, it was the same young lady now waiting for me at the entrance to Tahoe Hall. She made an appointment to see me. I met with her and imparted my totally wise "life lessons." She was unimpressed and left my office in tears. She then sent me an emotional e-mail telling me that she had to drop that accounting class even if she didn't meet the drop justification criteria. I answered her by citing that I was obligated to treat all such petitions in a consistent manner and by explaining again why her petition didn't meet the established criteria. She sent another e-mail; I answered it in the same manner. She sent three more e-mails; I didn't respond to these.

The next Saturday, I was returning from the library television studio where I had just completed my three hour class. She was waiting for me outside the library. She said, "I need you to drop me from this class." I explained to her once more why I wouldn't do so and stated that she shouldn't be tracking me down outside the accountancy department and outside of normal office hours. But she persisted, following me down the walkway and droning, "Professor, I really need you to drop me from that class." Perhaps I shouldn't have, but I started to feel uneasy, I didn't want her following me to the parking lot, so I stopped and said to her, "I'm going in there," pointing to Tahoe Hall, "You must walk in another direction," pointing toward the parking lot. To my great relief, she walked towards the parking lot and left me alone.

That night, I received another e-mail from her stating that her life now was ruined and that her family was very upset that I had to drop her. I replied that she was bordering on harassment and that I would have to report to the university the continued persistence on her part. I did not hear from her again that is, until now when she confronted me outside of Tahoe Hall.

"Don't you remember me?" she asked. "You wouldn't let me drop that class." I tensed, wondering what was going to happen now. Then her face lit up in a wide smile, and she gushed, "And I passed that class I got a "C+." Thank you! Thank you so much for not dropping me in that class." Then, she hugged me as the multitude of milling students looked on in wonder. Then she hugged me again, saying, "I passed! I passed! Thank you so much for not dropping me from that class!"

Then she hugged me again, and again, and again each time almost shouting, "I passed! Thank you so much!" Finally, in total wonder and embarrassment, I pulled away, wished her a successful semester, and hastily escaped inside of Tahoe Hall.

Maybe, every now and then, "life lessons" do have a positive effect upon students. Now, if they only would work on my grandchildren, I could die happy.

This Is Why I Love This Job

by Linda Brufladt, Professor of Accounting
My first week working here was the week of summer finals, and I received a phone call from someone who claimed to be Dr. Beirne's daughter. She said that there was a death in the family, that Tom Beirne would not be in to give the final today, and that someone needed to put a sign on his door stating he would not be in. I called Dr. Crow to let him know the information (acting Chair that week) and he said "I don't think Tom has a daughter." Come to find out, Tom Beirne does not have a daughter and more than likely it was a student trying to get out of taking a final. Dr. Beirne quite frequently explains to me he has not recently adopted a daughter, "just to let me know." It was very funny for everyone, a student trying to be clever, and a lesson I learned my very first week.

Students are the Greatest

by Steve Kyriakis, Degree Program Center
I frequently give students my business card when they meet with me for academic counseling appointments. Because my e-mail address appears on my card, it is not uncommon to receive follow-up emails from students who have "quick questions" that relate to our appointment together. In January 2003, a student e-mailed me with a question that arose as a result of our December 2002 appointment. I replied to his e-mail with one clear and concise statement that I felt answered each part of his question.

The student promptly emailed me back with the following...compliment: "Steve, your words are like Yoda from Star Wars. Great advice once again. I want to say thank you for the individual time and extra help. It made a big difference in my attitude toward my college career. The educational plan that we developed with all the dates and classes is permanently mounted to my wall so I don't think I will miss any dates (thanks to you)."

After I read his email, I couldn't help but think to myself, "Yoda? But everyone tells me that my ears are small!"

Students are the Greatest

by Steve Kyriakis, Degree Program Center
During the twelfth week of classes, a student came to the Degree Programs Center asking for a drop form. I explained to her that students wishing to drop classes in the twelfth week must have serious and compelling reasons beyond their control, and must be verified in writing by a doctor or employer. I showed the student the written policy on the back of the drop form, and asked her if she met the criteria to qualify for a late drop. Her answer was...charming.

"Well, I'm failing all of my business courses, so I decided to change my major. So I don't need these classes anymore."

I remarked, "Unfortunately, that is not a valid reason to drop classes this late in the semester. You need your instructor's signature, the department chair's signature and the associate dean's signature to drop courses in the 12th week...and I can assure you that they would not approve such a request."

"But you don't understand...I can't drop the business courses even if I'm changing my major?"

"Especially if you are changing your major," I replied.

That's life in the big city.

The Absent-Minded Professor

by Dr. John Corless, Professor of Accounting
I often lose my car in a parking lot, but the worst case of my absent-mindedness was when I lost the whole parking lot. As I wandered around Los Angeles, I wondered how I would tell a policeman that I forgot what parking lot my car was in. Instead of being one of the first to get on the road home, I kept walking around until my car was the last one in one of the parking lots.