|Dr. Bill Dodds
Fort Lewis College Professor of Marketing Dr. Bill Dodds likes to introduce what he calls “wicked problems” into his classes. Wicked problems are issues that, at first glance, seem to have no solution. Dr. Dodds, this year’s Roger Peters Distinguished Professor, works with his students until they begin to, as he puts it, “poke holes in the problem” on the way to a solution.
“Sometimes you have to push, sometimes you have to pull, sometimes you have to vision,” he says, “you have to have a real wide bag of tricks when you go into the classroom and try to figure out what is going to motivate students to work through these problems.”
Encouraging his students to tackle challenging problems, the problems with no obvious solutions, is what he believes is going to make his students better people and better citizens.
Growing from making difficult choices and working through tough problems is a theme that runs through Dr. Dodds’ own life. Growing up in a small town in New York, he had a knack for math, but his communication skills weren’t as well developed. When he told his college advisor that he’d like to be a teacher, she laughed.
He studied industrial management at Clarkson University and went to work in the private sector, but very quickly he realized that this wasn’t the life he wanted. What he wanted to do was teach, so he made the decision to leave a good job behind and return to Clarkson for a master’s degree and begin a career as a professor.
He eventually moved on to a doctoral program where he was forced to confront his lagging communication skills. Fortunately, he found a mentor who pushed him, even challenging him to finish his degree in three years, something that had never been done before in the marketing Ph.D. program at Virginia Tech. He succeeded.
As a teacher, Dr. Dodds’ focus is on a tight correspondence between his research and creating interesting and challenging learning environments where students are fully engaged. Whether it’s working through wicked problems in his classrooms or leading international programs in Europe, he supports this process by coaching students to learn, think, and act effectively.
“There are tough choices and there are tough problems to solve, and that’s what I prepare my students for in their professional and personal lives.”