Mike Welch reflects on his journey to Quinlan and favorite classes
Executive Lecturer Mike Welch found academia later in his life.
He was a lawyer for 28 years, serving at Quaker Oats for the final 23 years. When PepsiCo bought Quaker Oats in 2002, Welch helped the law department transition into the PepsiCo organization but felt he too needed a transition in his life.
Below, Welch reflects on that transition to teaching and his retirement in 2020.
“During the outplacement process, the company put me through a number of career tests to see what the next steps for me might be, which they discuss with you and your spouse. The last couple of years at Quaker had been stressful, so I wasn’t sure if I want to jump into another legal position. On the basis of the tests, they asked my wife and me if I had ever thought of being priest. My wife said no way! They then asked if I had ever thought about teaching. I had taught a course during law school to undergrads and I enjoyed it. It got me thinking about teaching and I began networking at business schools around Chicago.
“I talked to Dr. John Kostolansky, who was an Associate Dean at the time, and he asked if I could teach an undergrad strategy class and I accepted. I was fortunate to have had two wonderful mentors here: Dr. Jill Graham, who retired 13 years ago, and Dr. Dawn Harris.
“I started teaching in spring semester 2003. The hardest thing for me was I couldn't “read” the the students as an audience, which was new for me. Anytime I was in court or with other individuals, I felt I could gauge the group’s reaction to me. I remember that Dawn talked to me and said relax, just be yourself and tell some stories; you have a lot of experience and that is more important than getting through every chapter of the material. Dawn’s advice really helped, and with those changes, I began to feel a close engagement with the students. I am thankful to Jill and Dawn for helping me through the early days.
“Dawn was also helpful when I started teaching the capstone class in the MBA program; she and I are the pretty much the only ones who have taught that course for the last 12 years. I also got the opportunity to teach in the EMBA program, and eventually became the Director of the program for 5 years. I went back to teaching full time, but over the past few years, most of my classes have been in the EMBA program.
“I have so many wonderful memories from the undergraduate, MBA and EMBA programs. My favorite class was the Microenterprise Consulting course. We had grads and undergrads working together with people from economically distressed areas who wanted to start their own businesses. Consulting with their clients, the students prepared a business plan for the client, which in turn benefited the local community by having a new business provide goods, services and jobs. It is a ton of work for students, more work than most courses, but students got the benefit of being of service to others in the Jesuit tradition. That class embodies the mission of Loyola and Quinlan, and why I am so blessed to have been able to teach at a Jesuit university.
“Quinlan has been an unbelievably special place. The colleagues, students, the alumni have all been inspiring to me, and what I will miss most is being in the classroom. I also had so many opportunities to do different things like executive education courses, strategic planning for Quinlan and Loyola, and immersion trips with the EMBA students. I don't think I can express in words all the wonderful feelings and gratitude I have for Quinlan.”