The right place at the right time
Dave Bussière never planned on becoming a professor. He just “tripped” into teaching and fell in love with it.
He was completing the final semester in his Masters in Business Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University, and he was asked to teach Quantitative Methods in their BBA. “I thought it would be fun. I loved it,” he said in an interview.
“Teaching is an adrenaline rush for me. It’s like getting up on stage. I love the interaction with the students.”
Bussière was born in Montréal in 1964 and moved to Québec City in 1977 for high school and CEGEP. He still considers Québec City his hometown. He wanted to go away for university and chose Laurier for his BBA.
“I did my undergrad in business with a focus on marketing.” He said marketing aligned with his natural talents and strengths. “If you look at the average business degree, the first two years are standard. You’re taking a bit of everything: finance, accounting, strategy, marketing, and so on. The courses that really excited me were the marketing courses.”
Upon graduation he worked in marketing and sales roles in a business-to-business environment for two small-to-medium-sized companies. He travelled quite a bit. To get away from the travel, Dave and his wife Lucia started a publishing business. They still own it. “We took a chance and it worked. We’ve been doing it for 32 years. Staying active in industry also helps me in the classroom.”
Several years after starting the company, Bussière returned to Laurier for his Masters. In the final semester of his Masters in Business Economics, he was asked to be a sessional professor teaching Quantitative Methods. He also taught Macro Economics at Laurier. He fell in love with teaching but realized that he wanted to return to Marketing.
After two years of PhD courses (and sessional teaching) at Queen’s, Dave taught at the University of Florida for two years as a Visiting Lecturer. He joined UWindsor in 2002, eventually completing his PhD at the Bristol Business School in England in 2005.
Dave has returned to the University of Florida twice (2015 and 2017) as a Visiting Scholar on sabbatical and Admin leave. He has also taught 3-week condensed courses four times at AGH University in Krakow, Poland. He has been a virtual Visiting Scholar at Chitkara University in India.
Dave has also held administrative roles at UWindsor.
From 2007-2011, Dave was MBA and Executive MBA Academic Director. He was also Academic Director for the Master of Management Program 2010-2011.
In 2011, he was part of a 3-person task force that analyzed undergrad recruitment at UWindsor. As the task force prepared to submit the final report, then-Provost Leo Groarke asked Dave to take the lead and actually implement the suggested changes.
As Assistant Vice-President/Assistant Provost for 4 years, Dave oversaw Recruiting, Registrars and Student Awards. He held that role from 2011-2015: “I thought it would be fun and challenging, so I said yes,” he said. “I was back in the marketing world. I was responsible for undergrad recruiting for all programs across campus, Canada and the US.”
When he occupied administrative roles, his teaching load was diminished, but after his term finished, his focus went back to teaching and research. “It was very busy, and it was challenging, but it was also time for me to come back and be a prof,” he said. When asked if he would consider an administrative role again, he said, “For the right position I would. It brings you back to the business side, but I really like teaching. So, to do it again, it would have to be a fun challenge.”
Connecting with students
As a student, Bussière would sometimes fall asleep in class. He often felt that attending some classes was not necessary. As a professor, he did not want that environment: “I was determined that I wasn’t going to have a class like that.”
“I can’t teach students if they’re not paying attention, so I really try and keep the material clear and relevant. I try to keep them actively listening and actively thinking about the material,” he said. “I try to connect with students…. getting them to understand why, what, and where I’m coming from, why I want them to learn this, how it’s used and when it’s not useful.”
When teaching, Bussière tries to read the room and adapt when necessary. “If I see that I’m losing students, I have a bank of case studies that I have written. I’ll take 10 minutes to switch things up and do something that is still relevant to the material, but it’s not what I had planned to do at that moment. I think I’m better off diverting to a tangent to rekindle the class atmosphere.”
He continues: “I’m not actually a great lecturer, but I don’t think I’m paid by the university to lecture. I’m paid to teach.”
He still does lecture, but he keeps the lecturing to a minimum and focuses more on discussions. “I need to teach core models and variables. So, if we’re talking about the consumer decision-making process, I go through a five step model, and the implication of what drives it. But I think that students understand better when topics are discussed in context – through examples and case studies.”
Business schools often use Harvard-style case studies to teach — 20-30 page descriptions of actual business situations. It allows students to experience multiple industries, issues and geographies. Students must do a substantial amount of work before class to be ready to discuss the case study, which typically takes up the whole class.
While Bussière does use Harvard-style case studies, he prefers to use one page mini cases to inform the theoretical variable or model being discussed in a specific lecture. He has written approximately 100 of these 1-2 page cases, and they tend to work with his style of teaching.
Sometimes using a mini-case means leaving the classroom. “I will leave the class sometimes because I need the students considering the discussion question. If I stay in the classroom, students are more likely to seek my opinion. I want them to talk to their classmates. It’s just better if I back off and give them time.”
“When I leave, the volume gets louder, and I get fewer ‘is-it-okay-if-we-say-this’ type questions; they just do it. They attack the discussion question.”
He does not, however, use textbooks. “A typical Marketing textbook has 15-16 chapters and I want to focus on 10 of them. And I may not like how the textbook handles 1-2 other chapters. So I would feel guilty asking students to spend $200 for the book.”
This means that class attendance is important: “I am the textbook.” He also notes that he is slow at posting material on the course website. “Attendance is important.”
Bussière acknowledges that not all students like his approach. “After the first week, I will have some students drop my class because they prefer having a textbook. They were hoping for multiple choice midterms.”
His teaching style and methods seem to work. He has won numerous awards including the undergraduate Commerce Society Professor of the Year awards in Marketing, Master of Management Professor of the Year, full-time MBA Professor of the Year, and Executive MBA Professor of the Year Awards. He is the only professor to have won teaching awards in all Odette programs.
Bussière has been teaching full-time for 23 years (although at times with a lesser teaching load while performing administrative duties). While he admits it’s not about numbers, up to this point he has taught a little over 2000 grad students and 4200 undergrads. Many, he said, still keep in touch. “Of the 1800 connections I have on LinkedIn, about 1400 are former students. I’m still in touch with students I taught at the University of Florida in 2000 and over 1000 Odette students.”
He has also helped many students get jobs thanks to his business connections. Some companies and alumni reach out to him for names of graduating students who excelled. “They trust me, so they usually want me to put them in contact with 2-3 students who I trust.”
He will also make broad announcements. “At the end of recent spring terms, I created posts on LinkedIn saying I have many excellent students graduating.”
While he will turn 59 in December, 2023, Bussière does not have any plans to retire: “If I ever see that the class dynamic changes, if I stop winning teaching awards, if my student evaluations go down, or if my class is not filling up, then I’ll retire. Till then, I teach.”
In fact, he loves teaching so much that he has taught four times at AGH University in Krakow, Poland on his non-teaching semester: “I’m half Polish. I have had the awesome opportunity to teach a concentrated marketing class in Krakow. ”
Bussière’s teaching career may have begun in an unconventional fashion, but he wouldn’t change a thing, and is grateful for the opportunities he has had: “I have an amazing life. I love teaching. I love my students. I love Odette. I have an awesome family… kids, grandkids and wife. I cannot believe how being asked to teach a single Quant at Laurier course changed my life!”
Peter provides expertise in the area of multimedia in support of CTL programs, website design, and special events. He has been doing graphic and web design for about 20 years. He is a graduate of Print Journalism and Digital Media from Conestoga College, and Communication, Media and Film from the University of Windsor.