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2024 PRME Faculty Teaching Award


Andrew Hoffman

Andrew Hoffman

Ross School of Business, University of Michigan

What is your innovative pedagogical approach and how was it delivered in a way that facilitated student engagement effectively?

This course reaches the whole student, appealing not just to their rational and analytic side, but also to their emotional and aspirational side. Where we traditionally teach knowledge in a classroom, this course guides students in developing character, wisdom and judgment by immersing them in an environment where they must explore their calling for themselves. The program takes students on two offsite, weekend long retreats. (I am working on developing a 3rd virtual retreat to take place one year after graduation.) The first is at the beginning of their final year and the second at the end of their final year, just before they graduate and enter the workforce. The first helps them to begin to discern their calling.

The second continues that quest, emphasizing that this is a lifelong pursuit, and offers skills and tactics for staying true to that calling when they may face resistance in the work world. As General Dwight D. Eisenhower once said “every battle plan is perfect until you meet the enemy,” or boxer Mike Tyson said more colorfully, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Students will get “punched in the face” when they leave the safe confines of the academy and enter the world of business practice. Each retreat takes place at a site in nature because research shows that stress hormones go down when we are in the natural environment. And in each retreat, cell phones, computers and social media are prohibited because research shows that these distractions limit creativity and a capacity for being fully present. Within this environment, we employ four central elements: (1) inspirational reading, (2) guided exercises, (3) community and peer engagement, and (4) private reflection.

The course is capped at 40 slots to keep an intimate environment, requires an application to be accepted to assure that serious students take it and is available to business students in their final year of study so as to prepare them for their life once they graduate. The final outputs are a “Personal Mission Statement” and a “Letter to Your Future Self.” Overall, this program is a very personal and meaningful experience for students, helping them develop a deeper understanding of who they are and what they hope to do in the world. This deepened awareness can help them become more resilient as they advance in their career and face setbacks. I see this as particularly important for students who want to go into consulting, a sector that churns through people and places students in a situation where they may be let go for reasons that are within their control. If they have a better sense of who they are, they will be more likely to be able to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and continue on their path.

What made this pedagogical approach successful for you and your students?

This program has shown measurable impact on the students that participated based on pre- and post-retreat surveys for both Cohort 1 (2022-2023) and Cohort 2 (2023-2024). On a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree), average reported scores on each of the following questions showed positive growth (question 5 should create a negative outcome, showing that students need less help in finding their calling after the retreat).

1. I understand what a calling or vocation is.

Pre Retreat: 4.11; Post-Retreat: 4.68.

2. I understand what my calling or vocation is.

Pre Retreat: 3.11; Post-Retreat: 3.96.

3. I have put a high degree of effort into finding my calling or vocation.

Pre Retreat: 3.71; Post-Retreat: 4,32.

4. I am comfortable articulating my purpose or calling.

Pre Retreat: 3.14; Post-Retreat: 3.89.

5. I need help finding my calling or vocation.

Pre Retreat: 3.87; Post-Retreat: 2.96

A Sample of Student Testimonials show that students find this experience to be extremely powerful and formative.

The Management as a Calling program was one of the highlights of my second year MBA program. … I am so grateful for this opportunity and hope that many more students are able to experience the transformational retreat for years to come.”

“I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity this year (at such a crucial juncture of my career and life) to have had the space to explore deep thoughts in secluded locations away from school & home, thoughtfully curated questions & reading materials to get the juices flowing, and the close-knit community which celebrated vulnerability and mutual breakthroughs. I could not have asked for a better soul-searching experience over the course of this year.”

“This was one of the most valuable experiences during the MBA, I learned a lot about myself and help me organize my priorities.”

“This program is supremely unique and absolutely crucial to the students coming out of this program that will be in positions of leadership and also examples to others.”

“Management as a Calling creates a rare opportunity to reflect during the business school experience.”

“This has made me realize the essence of life and what I need to seek in the coming years."

How might this be a useful model for others?

I have made the materials for this program freely available to anyone who would like to use them. Thirty-one schools have reached out for more information. While every school is different in terms of its culture, faculty and students, and should tailor a program like this to fit their context, I think there are commonalities among students today that suggest it will be a welcome course offering. Surveys show that 97% of young business professionals want a career with “purpose;” 60% of Gen-Z and Millennials are alarmed or concerned about climate change and more than 70% of the Gen-Z business cohort want content that responds; business ethics entered the top 5 most popular subjects for the first time in 2019, with nearly 25% of incoming students wanting a job focused on social impact after graduating, and nearly 50% wanting to do so later in their careers. In 2023, a survey in the US and UK found that nearly half of employees said that they would consider resigning from their job if the values of the company did not align with their own, and a third have said that they have already resigned a position for this reason. Among Gen Z and Millennial employees that number goes up to almost half. These are just a few of many such surveys. But what is also clear is that students are searching for ways to live out their values through their work and this program is designed to help them articulate those values.

At PRME, we embrace iterative practices, engaging in cycles of reflection and feedback. What have you learned since implementing this approach and what, if any, would you change?

The program was pilot tested successfully in 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 with a grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations. Each cohort participated in 2 offsite retreats (September and April) and 4 interim lectures (October, November, February and March). Through survey feedback, I have made adjustments and improvements. What I learned was first, students value time for quiet reflection and second, they value group engagement. To the first, business school does not allow much time to stop, breath and reflect deeply on their education. Students report feeling overwhelmed with recruiting, classes, clubs and social life. This experience was a welcome opportunity to step back from that and, while the program is built on intensive exercises, I have provided more time for walks in the woods and quiet contemplation (adding yoga to start each morning). To the second, I have added additional programmatic opportunities (both during the two retreats and in the 8 months between them) to engage with other students in the program and share their thoughts on the idea of purpose. I should add that this program has helped me to think more deeply about my own calling and my role as a professor. Lastly, the first two years were offered as a non-credit co-curricular activity. Next year it will be offered as a for-credit, pass/fail class without a curve. I will be interested to observe if this changes the tenor and tone of the program and students.


Retreat booklet #1
Retreat booklet #1 Download Retreat booklet #1 pdf
Retreat exercise booklet #1
Retreat exercise booklet #1 Download Retreat exercise booklet #1 pdf
Retreat booklet #2
Retreat booklet #2 Download Retreat booklet #2 pdf
Retreat exercise booklet #2
Retreat exercise booklet #2 Download Retreat exercise booklet #2 pdf
Retreat orientation materials
Retreat orientation materials Download Retreat orientation materials pdf
Syllabus: Management as a Calling
Syllabus: Management as a Calling Download Syllabus: Management as a Calling pdf
November 2022 media article in 'Michigan Today'
November 2022 media article in 'Michigan Today' Download November 2022 media article in 'Michigan Today' pdf
January 2024 media article in 'Michigan Today'
January 2024 media article in 'Michigan Today' Download January 2024 media article in 'Michigan Today' pdf
Interview on NPR
Interview on NPR Download Interview on NPR pdf