GPI - Ken Grunes, Professor of Management and Business & IT Faculty
By Reba Doty, Editorial Staff
What is your professional and educational background?
I went to a state school myself as a student - I went to UMass Amherst. I majored in both marketing as well as management, and then I went on to get an MBA graduate degree at Boston College. … It’s interesting. This semester, I’m teaching the exact same courses that I took as a student some - what was it, now - 45 years ago? A long time ago. So, professionally, I had a 35-year career in sales and marketing - mostly international high-tech companies, some of the largest companies in the world like IBM and Hewlett Packard. And believe it or not, my first teaching experience was 40 years ago at Bentley College where I taught business courses, and I’ve noticed, as I’m teaching this semester, not a whole lot has changed in 40 years, which is strange. You would think, anything after 40 years, it would be radically different - but at the end of the day, students still want an engaging, enriching learning experience. So when I say nothing’s changed, that seems to remain the constant over all those years.
What interested you the most in the field of business and marketing?
I think what I found in my personal career growth was being close to the customers - customer interaction, being able to understand what their hopes and dreams and desires and needs were. Very similar to my students, right? Every student is an individual and to be able to understand their own personal motivation I think is the key to engagement.
What do you think students can get out of learning about business and marketing?
I think it’s partly the collaboration of working together as classmates - and soon, it’ll be colleagues within the workplace. I like to workshop a lot of new ideas within the class session. So most of my business students come back at the end of the semester saying, “It was great learning X, Y, and Z, but the most valuable skill I took away is my ability to work effectively in teams - is to trust my teammates and achieve a high level of team cohesion so that we’re both productive and we’re producing quality output.” It is post-pandemic - I think one of the most important things we can do is provide a laboratory environment, where students can practice working together in groups.
Do you have any advice for students?
No. I never give advice. I find unsolicited advice comes off as being judgmental and nagging. At least, that’s what my grandkids and my own kids tell me. But where I am for my students, because I have about 50 advisees, and certainly on a good semester, over 100 students in my classes, rather than give them advice, I listen and I’m there for them. I’m present and I’m attentive to what their needs are. So they’ll come to me with specific problems, challenges, and questions, and to the extent that I can I give them the benefit of my experience once they’ve asked for it, then I think it works a lot better.
What are your hobbies?
Can you call teaching at FSU a hobby? I retired early - about 15 years ago - and as I started teaching, I found that this is really my passion project. This is something I do because I really enjoy it. So I suppose in the strict definition of a hobby, it’s a whole lot less frustrating than my golf game.
What do you enjoy the most about FSU?
I find it’s a very progressive learning environment where we professors are free … to really structure our classes any way we want, teach in whatever learning style is best for the student. You know, there’s nobody looking over our shoulders, making sure that we give so many writing assignments or tests or exams. So the thing I like most about FSU is we’re free to experiment with our classes and our students - to really provide the most engaging experience with them.
What is something students would be surprised to know about you?
In the nice weather, I bike to school - to campus. I know, it doesn’t seem possible. It’s uphill both ways with my laptop bag and whatever books I have. I’m fortunate where I’m close enough to campus that I can just hop on the bicycle and pedal.