Clarksville, TN – After receiving his doctorate from Mississippi State University in 1992, Austin Peay State University Professor of Finance Dr. Michael Phillips found himself in the right place at the right time for an opportunity that would change both his life and a department interested in a fresh perspective.
A California native, Phillips was prepared to look west for a teaching opportunity when a friend suggested Austin Peay contact him for an open teaching position in the College of Business.
“One of my best friends was unable to take a position with Austin Peay, but the department chair at the time asked him if he knew anyone like him and he said ‘yeah, call Phillips’,” Phillips joked. “I met with the chair and his wife and immediately fell in love with Austin Peay because it made me feel the most at home of any university I had visited.”
Phillips has made Austin Peay his home for over 28 years, growing as a professor while also growing the finance department into one of the most competitive in the region. His success reaching students and raising the department’s profile has earned Phillips numerous awards in his career, including most recently the inaugural A.J. Taylor Distinguished Professorship.
Named for the long-time College of Business professor, Dr. A.J. Taylor, the Professorship is awarded to a College of Business faculty member who has demonstrated exceptional scholarly work or innovative teaching practices. The faculty member will receive the award in the form of faculty development funds and may use the funds for research, teaching enhancements (software, supplies, etc.) or for attendance at teaching conferences or training to improve their craft.
The A.J. Taylor Distinguished Professorship was made possible with the support of Austin Peay alumnus – and College of Business graduate – Larry Carroll. President and CEO of Carroll Financial Associates, Inc., Carroll created the Professorship to honor College of Business professors like Taylor, who gave him the skills to succeed in the business world.
Phillips said the Professorship is among the highest honors of his career, as it both serves as a recognition of his leadership from his peers, but also is a reminder of Taylor, who Phillips said he considers both a friend and similarly minded educator.
“A.J. was a practitioner as well as a teacher, and he brought practice into the classroom,” Phillips said. “Students loved him because his teaching style was to tell stories and connect what you learn in the classroom to real world stories, and that’s what I try to do as well. He was a master of that style.”
One of the most appealing things Austin Peay offered Phillips as a young professor was the chance to truly create a program that allowed him to prepare students for the real world of finance.
“I didn’t want to be at a bigger school where I’m one of 20 teachers and stuck teaching one class,” Phillips said. “At Austin Peay, I could both build this program and have a career and that wasn’t offered to me at bigger institutions.”
Austin Peay students, under Phillips’ guidance, compete against other schools to develop long-term investment strategies, place trades and provide performance reports of real funds for groups including the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), as well as the CFA Institute Research Challenge.
Austin Peay regularly competes with – and often outpaces – larger institutions at these events, a fact Phillips says serves to encourage and prove to Austin Peay students that their education puts them on par with any of their competition in the job market.
“A lot of our students are first-generation, which requires a learning environment that recognizes the unique needs for student success. “Our students are capable and smart. They just need an appropriate learning environment and opportunities that allow them to achieve their potential and be competitive. The greater the options we can present to them, the better our brand gets, the better for them.” I, as well as many of my colleagues, were first generation college students as well. I try to make a positive difference in student success every day.”
Phillips said he has evolved as a professor and teacher during his time at Austin Peay in a number of ways, but the chance to prove to students their own capabilities outside of the classroom is where he has found purpose.
“The way I’ve evolved as a professor is I’ve become more of a guide than a lecturer; I’m not saying here’s the information and memorize this,” Phillips said. “I’ve become a facilitator and a guide and I want my students to know that if they want to get something out of my classes, they have to be involved too and that just makes it more fun for everyone.”
For more information on how to support APSU, contact the University Advancement Office at 931.221.7127. To find out more about Austin Peay’s College of Business, visit www.apsu.edu/business