John R. Becker Blease
Excellence in Teaching
Assistant Professor of Finance
Whittemore School of Business and Economics
Photographed on August 27, 2004, with his daughter Lena at the Isinglass Falls, Gonic, N.H.
In teaching, there is the “ah ha” moment.
It’s the moment when something clicks in a student’s mind and he or she “gets it.” It’s what John Becker Blease, assistant professor of finance, strives for when teaching students and what he experienced as a student when searching for his academic path.
“I greatly enjoy that ‘ah ha’ moment. You can tell when a student suddenly understands an idea—and most good instructors get a great deal of joy out of seeing that moment,” says Becker Blease, who received the Whittemore School of Business and Economics Teaching Excellence Award.
To Becker Blease, teaching students who fundamentally understand what he is teaching—not those who do well by memorizing what they need to know—is a gold mine. They are the students who not only leave UNH with a degree, but with an education.
“I definitely know the students who remind me of myself, and I don’t what them to do what I did,” he says, referring to his method of learning as an undergraduate. It wasn’t until Becker Blease started his Ph.D. that he fundamentally understood how to learn.
“If I have any skill in the classroom, I think a lot of it comes from being on the side of the equation of the disinterested student. I know the professors who did not bore me,” he says.
Becker Blease joined the Whittemore School in fall 2001. He did his doctoral work in finance at the University of Oregon, and received bachelor’s degrees in history from the University of New Hampshire, and in finance and insurance from the University of Florida.
His current research focuses on the governance of corporations. “The recent scandals in the business world have heightened interest in how best to govern a corporation. Is there such a thing as a ‘good’ board of directors, and if so, what is it? My research attempts to answer this question,” he says.
This professor works to engage students in conversations about finance and how to organize their knowledge to solve everyday business problems. It’s a method of thinking he learned from one of his undergraduate mentors at UNH, Greg McMahon, associate professor of history. This kind of thinking—creating a framework for the big picture that allows details to fall into place—not only works in the classroom, but also in life.
“There is absolutely no way, as a professor, that I can teach students everything they need to know. What I try to do is to teach them to teach themselves, providing them the critical and analytical ability to approach a new situation, take their knowledge and apply it in a unique way to resolve the situation,” he says.
While a Ph.D. in finance can be lucrative in private industry, Becker Blease always knew his career would be in academia. “I knew with absolute certainty that this was what I wanted to do. I love the exploration of the topic and issues surrounding managerial motivation. But I also really enjoy teaching. I love the process of education far too much to have walked away from it,” he says.