Name: William D. Rohlf, Jr.
Title: Burlington Northern Professor of Economics
Courses Taught: Basic Economic Theory, Price Theory, International Economics, The Economics of Strategy (MBA)
I received my undergraduate degree in economics from Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas. It’s a liberal arts college (or was then) much like Drury. I went on to get my M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in economics from Kansas State University. I started at Drury right out of graduate school in 1972. I’ve been here ever since.
My Ph.D. dissertation was in a subset of Urban Economics generally called “location theory.” It looks at why businesses locate in particular places. My dissertation focused on what kinds of businesses could thrive in small to middle-sized urban places. At that time, there was a lot of interest in stimulating growth among smaller urban areas as a way to reduce congestion in larger places.
When I started teaching at Drury, any specialization I had in graduate school went by the wayside. My real interest shifted to trying to do a better job of communicating economic principles to undergrads. That’s a far cry from what I was doing in grad school. My basic economics text grew out of that interest. It started with a few chapters and gradually grew into a spiral-bound volume that my students purchased in the bookstore. It took me about ten years to finish the book and find a publisher for it. The first edition came out in 1988, and it’s now in its eighth edition. It’s been an interesting ride.
How does the Breech School of Business prepare students for their professional careers?
I think the Breech curriculum does a great job of providing students with an education that offers both breadth and depth. All of our students (regardless of major) must acquire an understanding of all of the functional areas in business—even accounting (ugh). I think that’s essential in a world where the job you end up with after graduation—or later in your career—may be quite different from the one you are anticipating while in school.
What sets Breech apart from other business schools?
In the Breech School, the management professors actually talk to the economists and the marketing professors, and (even) the accountants. A lot of schools talk about integration, but we really work at it. I hope that pays off for our students. We want them to understand that good business decisions require integrated thinking; that they need to consider all of those perspectives.
Do you have any favorite memories inside the Breech building?
I have lots of them, mostly humorous. When Curt Strube (long-time director of the business school) turned 50, his wife rented a horse for him to ride down Drury Lane—complete with a cowboy hat. That was fun to see. When Jim Murrow (former marketing prof) turned 50; his reward was a belly dancer in his classroom. Fun memories. For me, they illustrate more than anything the kind of place this is. Great place to work and a little nuts.
What advice would you offer to a new student beginning their course of study in the Breech School of Business?
Take some chances; be willing to try things that scare you a bit. Try those courses (inside or outside of Breech) that folks tell you are tough or boring. My frat brothers told me to stay away from philosophy; I loved it. I can name a number of others where I had a similar experience. And get involved. But don’t do it just to build your resume. Do it to develop who you are.