A resident of Eugene since 1985, instructor of management Tom Durant joined the Lundquist College of Business six years ago and has been wowing students ever since. He was recently recognized with the undergraduate teaching award for his work during fall term 2014.
“The award was a pleasant surprise,” Durant said. “It keeps me motivated to improve upon what I do. There are several things that excite me. I love the enthusiasm and the spirit of the students. Secondly, it’s a way for me to stay on top of business topics of interest. Teaching sort of requires you to do that.”
After earning his bachelor’s and MBA degrees from the University of Southern California, Durant followed up with an MA in theological studies from George Fox Evangelical Seminary.
Durant said he draws upon all his degrees in his work at the Lundquist College. For example, he explains the importance of understanding the culture of a region in his Managing in a Global Economy course—religion being one element of a country’s culture.
When addressing people from the island nation of Haiti, he noted, “It is important to know that Haitians are about 90 percent Christian, and the way in which they conduct business centers on their religious orientation.”
In addition to his emphasis on cultural competency, Durant also informs students at the beginning of each term about his expectation that they not only learn concepts but be able to apply them.
“Without that—as far as I’m concerned—it’s a waste of time,” he said. “I’m very application-oriented, and I draw on my 40-plus years in the industry to highlight examples of how one can apply information that otherwise is more academic.”
During his 40-plus years, Durant has worked at several Fortune 500 companies, including Ford Motor Company and Rockwell International where he served on the corporate strategic planning staff. He headed up strategic planning for a high-tech electro-optics firm in northern California, and the marketing and sales function for a high-tech manufacturing firm in Eugene. Durant followed that up with 15 years as an independent management consultant based in Eugene.
Some of his most meaningful work involved the founding of EcoCafé Haiti , a sustainable enterprise in Haiti, that Durant continues to oversee today.
“The goal of the company is economic self-sufficiency for rural Haiti,” he said. “We do that by cultivating, processing, and exporting high quality specialty coffee to the United States and Canada.”
Student achievement is another driver in Durant’s work.
“I really enjoy seeing the success of the students, particularly after graduation,” he said.
Recent student Kaitlyn O’Connor said that Durant was her favorite instructor at the University of Oregon and that his dedication to helping students find their way via hands-on opportunities gave her a truly unparalleled learning experience.
“Tom became my mentor in my job search process and helped me to secure my dream job postgraduation,” O’Connor noted. “Words cannot explain how grateful I am to have had the pleasure to associate myself with such an amazing professional.”