The Perks of Being a Professor

PROVO, Utah – Apr 16, 2020 – When Michael Swenson, BYU Marriott Christensen Professor of Marketing, was studying to earn his PhD, the words of a visiting professor changed his life.

While going through his PhD program at the University of Oregon, Swenson planned to work in corporate marketing for a computer company where he had previously worked. However, Peter Wright, a visiting professor from Stanford University, changed Swenson’s plans for his future. “I asked Professor Wright, ‘Have you ever considered returning to industry full-time?’ because I thought that was what I wanted to do,” says Swenson. “There was a long pause, and then Professor Wright said, ‘Heavens, no. Being a university professor is a loophole in society.’”

Intrigued by Wright’s response, Swenson asked Wright why he described being a professor that way. “Wright said, ‘I get to teach what I want. I get to be around bright, young people. I get to be around scholars who are at the cutting edge of their field, and I get to do whatever research I want to do, so there is a lot of autonomy.’”

Though Wright also shared some of the sometimes difficult responsibilities that come with being a professor, his words had an impact on Swenson. “What Professor Wright said struck me to the core,” says Swenson, recalling that he shared the story with his wife when he returned home that night.

Soon after this experience, Swenson, who graduated from BYU Marriott’s finance program in 1980, was given the chance to return to BYU Marriott and teach during summer 1988. Swenson accepted the offer and was offered a full-time position after that summer. Though Swenson pursued several offers in academia, “BYU was the school that seemed like the best fit,” he says. Swenson became a full-time professor at BYU Marriott in 1989.

For the last thirty years, Swenson has experienced first-hand what Wright meant. He currently has the chance to be around the “bright, young people” whom Wright described when he teaches large sections of undergraduate students. Though Swenson notes that engaging students in such a large class size can be a challenge, he says, “teaching the larger sections is rewarding because taking my class is the first time many of these students have been exposed to marketing, so I love that aspect.”

Swenson has also conducted study abroad programs and even directed BYU’s Washington Seminar. “I like to teach students the love of learning, teach them to be lifetime learners, and I like to teach them to broaden their perspective,” says Swenson. “Experiences outside of Provo, such as the Washington Seminar and study abroad programs, are broadening experiences. I encourage those because the world is BYU’s campus.”

Beyond working with students, Swenson enjoys the opportunity to build the marketing program. “I enjoy helping to hire great young faculty that are making us so much better than when I started,” says Swenson. “The program is better today because of the great hires we’ve made.”

Swenson also conducts research in entrepreneurial marketing. “The first part of my career, my research was in salesperson performance,” says Swenson. “The last ten years, I’ve been more interested in entrepreneurial marketing and how marketing for small businesses and entrepreneurs differs from marketing for larger Fortune 500 companies.”

While Swenson enjoys the perks enjoyed by university professors everywhere, he has especially enjoyed being a professor at BYU Marriott. “At BYU Marriott, we can talk about spiritual things,” says Swenson. “We can pray together. I’m grateful that we can embrace the spiritual and the secular at BYU.”

Michael Swenson.
Michael Swenson.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Natalia Green