David Wilson loves getting to the heart of things, whether he’s breaking down complicated ideas in the classroom or busting down walls to renovate his house.
He is overjoyed to be a new professor at the BYU Marriott School of Business in the Department of Information Systems . As he works with students, he focuses on opening their hearts and minds to new perspectives, helping them lean into the characteristics that make BYU Marriott students unique among their peers.
As Wilson shared the gospel on his mission in the Netherlands and Belgium, he realized how much he enjoyed teaching. “I began to find myself as a teacher and as a communicator in the mission field,” recalls Wilson. He describes this “transformative” time in in his life as a foundation for his interest in both business and people.
Returning as a student to BYU after his mission, Wilson was initially unsure of exactly how to combine his love of technology with his newfound interest in business and people. He ultimately discovered the information systems (IS) program, and he’s never looked back. Beyond the exciting program content and career opportunities, his positive experiences with the IS faculty helped him feel confident and understood. “We as students felt loved by the professors, and for us, BYU Marriott was an awesome place to find good people to interact with,” says Wilson.
The PhD preparation track within the IS program solidified Wilson’s interest in research and especially in teaching. “I found a true passion for standing up in front of people and explaining things,” says Wilson. “I love being able to present ideas, read the audience, and gauge the amount of understanding that’s happening.” That passion inspired him to pursue his PhD from the University of Arizona. Following his experience in Arizona, he became a research professor at the University of Oklahoma.
Wilson’s post-graduate career and life circumstances pulled him into the entrepreneurial world for a time, allowing him to apply data science in the tech industry and discover a passion for real-world problem solving. He built a data team at an early-stage tech startup in Utah, where his enthusiasm for data science continued to blossom. “I experienced valuable difficulty and adversity. I saw what real businesses deal with and how data analytics and data science function within a business,” says Wilson.
Not ready to give up on his teaching career, Wilson left the startup to return to BYU Marriott as an IS professor. “I felt the classroom calling me. I missed teaching and being with students,” says Wilson. “And the timing worked out perfectly for me to join the faculty.”
Data science as a career path can be somewhat unfamiliar and intimidating to students in the business school today, and Wilson aspires to help students who are well-suited for the data science industry to explore this area of IS. “I continuously evangelize for data science careers,” Wilson says. “There’s a subset of students for whom data careers are such a good fit. I want to help students recognize that, and I want to lower the intimidation factor.” Wilson emphasizes how data science careers allow students to problem solve, use data, and experience variety in their working lives.
To help them in their professional lives, Wilson encourages students to lean into their unique spirituality. “There is a certain maturity that comes from quiet self-reflection as we try to progress in the gospel. That is not unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but we place particular emphasis on continually reviewing and examining ourselves and trying to become more like Christ.” Instead of students feeling as if they aren’t enough, Wilson hopes they will embrace their desire to improve as a means to help them serve and love others.
For Wilson, helping students move toward their career goals comes second to helping them understand their personal value and worth. He strives to “empathize with students and encourage them to take a few steps back when things are hard and to help them realize that everything will be okay.” Perfectionism and distress over falling short are familiar territory for Wilson, and he hopes to alleviate some of the pressure students put on themselves as young professionals.
“As I'm designing a course, I try to be aware of students who might have unseen things they are dealing with and who might need support,” says Wilson. “I benefited from those sorts of thoughtful things from my professors when I was a student at BYU. Students deserve to feel seen, heard, and valued.” By cultivating conversations of understanding and kindness, Wilson believes we can all give ourselves the same grace we extend to others.
Writer: Samantha Clinger