This semester, two new professors joined Trinity University’s department of business administration. Paige Fields and Michael Wilkins, a married couple, will be filling two previously vacant endowed chairs in the department.
Fields, now the Dick and Peggy Prassel professor of business administration, will be teaching courses in corporate finance as well as taking the reins of the Student Managed Fund, once held by the now-retired Philip Cooley.
Wilkins, named the Jesse H. Jones professor of business administration, will be teaching courses in accounting as well as classes in business ethics and accounting theory for the master’s program.
Prior to coming to Trinity, both Fields and Wilkins were professors at Texas A&M College Station, where they taught for 18 years. Both taught courses similar to those they will teach at Trinity. However, they have already begun to note similarities and differences between the environments at A&M and Trinity.
“It’s kind of like the same setup, but you just shrink it a bit. It’s the same kinds of coursework and all that, [which] we’re accustomed to,” Fields said.
However, it was the differences that prompted change for the couple. While these professors possess nothing but gratitude, respect and admiration for their previous institution, the growing disparity between the priorities of research and teaching at A&M prompted thoughts of change.
“We were hoping for a little bit more balance where you are emphasizing research [at Trinity] but there is more emphasis on teaching, and that’s what we were really looking for,” Wilkins said.
Fields agreed that curriculum should be a balance of teaching and research.
“We think there should be a much more balanced approach towards the career,” Fields said.
When it came to the matter of hiring, there were few questions in regards to the qualifications of these professors.
Both Fields and Wilkins have received a number of teaching awards. Richard Butler, chair of the business administration department, painted the picture of their hiring as a matter of rare fortune.
“We needed another accountant anyway, and all of a sudden we had the possibility of hiring this very distinguished accountant, and filling this chair that had been vacant since 2006,” Butler said. “So Dr. Wilkins came here, and we thought he was wonderful. And Dr. Fields was our leading candidate in the search to replace Dr. Cooley, so it’s really this wonderful serendipity that our top person for that position happened to offer us another opportunity.”
For the teaching couple, the dual employment opportunities that became available at Trinity were the best of both worlds: arriving at an advantageous time, and supplemented by the chance to exercise their distinct and overt passion for teaching in a setting that strives for passionate learning. Thus, when these positions became available, there was little hesitation.
“Suddenly, the opportunities here arose, and that was like: ‘why wait?’ If you find something that looks like a perfect fit for you, why wait longer?” Fields said.
After arriving and settling into life and work at Trinity, the professors are looking forward to fulfilling their reasons for coming to Trinity: guiding students through the realms of business administration via courses that engage both standard teaching methods and a more research-based approach.
For the pair, Trinity represents an occasion to engage students in a closer capacity, as well expand and experiment with their respective teaching missions.
“Here it seems like the environment’s different; there’s more obvious interaction with students; it’s more natural here. I like the newness of it, and I really like how everybody seems to be working towards a common goal,” Wilkins said.
Between the two, there seems to be no remorse in coming to Trinity.
“I did ask my husband ‘Is there anything that you don’t like as much?’ and he sat there for a minute and he said, ‘Well, I don’t have a place to let the dogs just go run and get some exercise, but no, nothing other than that.’ So I think we’re doing pretty well if that’s all we can say that’s negative.”