professor
Aaron Wallen

Feb 2015

In short, this is a bad class. For more specific information about the class, you can look at the directory, the course site, request a syllabus, and so forth. The class itself was a bore, and everyone in the class knew it. It was worthwhile in the sense that it covered material that is tangentially relevant to leadership however not necessarily applicable to organizations. Think of it as a cursory psych class, if you will. Unfortunately, there are too many downsides to this course. If you're looking for a good intro course to MBA material, I hope to high hell this isn't it. Wallen is passive aggressive, in that he appears to always understand contingencies and make allowances (as will inevitable come up for many people, since the class is run differently from a typical undergrad structure; for example, there may be zero tolerance for any absence. Not my experience, but a warning.), but always will leave you feeling like he's jotting it down with his other hand. Maybe this is typical MBA, maybe this is Wallen. The course evaluation revolves around group papers, some quantum of participation, a final paper you're allegedly working towards all semester long, and the final. As far as group papers, it's really the luck of the draw as far as collective ability is concerned. Worse, it's quite the luck of the draw what your final grade might be. Wallen clearly has trouble recruiting TAs to his silly class, and the TAs scandalously neglected replying to emails, requests for office hours, and so forth. So much so, in fact, that Wallen personally involved himself in turning the TA ship around mid-semester (to little effect). As far as participation, the class content is so superficial that you would get more from the material by reading through all the relevant Harvard Business Review articles online; to that end, participation usually involved the 3-6 people who did not shy away from discussing "correspondence bias" for 5 minutes while the rest of the class waited for Wallen's concurring. As far as the final paper, oh boy, you're in for a ride. He gives you extremely specific instructions, a formula most certainly, for how to synthesize it. On the face of it, it sounds interesting and worthwhile. The manner in which he grades the papers is, ironically, degrading. He leaves a disclaimer on his feedback that the grade and his response is his 'professional' judgement of your ability to follow the instructions for writing the paper. Please note, this paper is supposed to be your "Personal Development Plan [for life and other endeavors]." Essentially, what this means is that there is absolutely no latitude for expressing yourself. Is that enough to describe the quandary? It seems quite futile to develop a personal development plan, only to have it austerely evaluated by an arbitrary rubric. So it became kind of like a 9th grade essay from high school. Bottom line is, if you have the tolerance to be blatantly fake (in a "oh so honest" manner, obviously), go for it; otherwise, your personal development plan may be subject to harsh criticism. This leads to the greater issue with the class, that due to its superficiality, you have to make a pained effort to bother with it, rather than delve into it. Finally, the way that he ensures a complete grade distribution for the class (the resulting satisfaction of which he didn't fail to mention in the followup email to the final) is to ask arbitrary questions about readings from any corner of the syllabus. i think this is what one might call "professorial guerilla tactics," and it is painful and very difficult to contend with. It also is a very poor approach to evaluating the material one might've learned over the course of the entire semester. Questions that appeared were even as unapologetic as, "Author X discussed the concept of Y. Specifically in his discussion of Z, what were the 3 points?" If you're the kind of student who memorizes all the details for a psych exam, this course is for you. If you're actually interested in leadership... well, you'd probably not be spending your time trying to memorize different lists from the literature. Overall, sure, this is just another 'easy' course offered by the B school to undergrads. people will continue to fight for a spot. But ask yourself, is this really worth your while?