"Everyone is here for the students." An Interview with Dr. Michael Boland
Name: Dr. Michael Boland
Years with the University: Dr. Boland started at the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities in August 2010 and has spent the past 6 ½ years in the Department of Applied Economics. Before joining the university, he spent 14 years with Kansas State working as a Professor of Agricultural Economics.
Why did you choose to go the university route, and why the U of M? Dr. Boland has a master’s in Agricultural Education from the University of Minnesota and grew up in Minnesota, so coming back to the U was like being “back home.” He also stated he felt as though the job description fit what he wanted to do with his career.
Current projects/research: Dr. Boland is currently working on health economic marketing ideas, water law issues, andwriting a textbook on cooperative and mutual insurance organizational structure.
Advice for ApEc students: His number one piece of advice is that a college experience must include the work experience a student accumulates, the clubs a student joins, and the non-academic parts of life. Going to class is only half of the university experience. Life continues after and outside of class, and it is important to keep that in mind. Make sure to find a passion and pursue it. Employers do not want a “one-tool student to use a baseball analogy”, they want a dynamic person with life experience who is willing to put in the extra time.
What do you like to do in your free time? As the oldest of 12 children, Boland spends a lot of time with family activities. He likes to donate any extra time after that to charitable things such as his church and similar activities.
What is your passion that has driven you to who you are today? Being the oldest of 12 made him try harder. He grew up working 24/7, so finding things that made him happy and allowed him to keep working was a huge goal of his throughout everything he did. The fact that he grew up in a somewhat rural community made him enjoy agriculture. He also had great teachers along the way that fostered his dreams and pushed him to the next level.
What is something you wish you would have known as an undergrad? Boland’s main wish is that he had the ability to stay caught up with the computer generation. With this in mind, he also thought that it would be nice to know that math is not scary and instead a powerful way to organize your brain. You need both left and right brain skills, so do not be afraid to work on the things you are not naturally good at, because those are often what you need the most when you come to a situation you do not know. He also thought it was incredibly important to learn a second language, or at least learn to communicate with people who do not speak your native language.
What is something you wish your students knew? Dr. Boland wishes every student was able to go to a country where they do not speak the same language and study there for even a week, “Anything is better than nothing” he explained. There are so many skills someone can only learn by experiencing first hand. Dealing with people who do not have the same reference point as you is the first step to truly understanding why you think and believe the things you do.
What is the most annoying thing students do? Unsurprisingly, he said the most annoying thing students do is play on their phone or laptop while in class and think he does not realize it. He said it is so painfully obvious when someone has checked out of class, it makes them look silly thinking that no-one else realizes what they are doing.
This is closely followed by grammar mistakes. Boland wanted to emphasize that just checking to make sure you utilize periods and have tangible thoughts in every sentence can completely change your grade or land you a job. “Employers keep hammering on us to reinforce written and verbal skills in students.” Just check your work and make sure that you proofread everything.
What is your favorite thing students do? His absolute favorite thing that students do is ask questions. When students take time to think of a good question that actually continues to intrigue the class and further engage other students, it can turn a normal lecture into a helpful discussion. Professors have a lot of knowledge and information to pass on, but other students often have similar reference points that can turn abstract material into something truly substantial and applicable to life.
What is one myth you think undergrads have about professors that you believe is false? “That we are unapproachable.”Dr. Boland did not even take a moment to think before he was able to answer with this. He thinks it is so strange that students find professors intimidating and even went on to say, “Everyone is here for the students.” Most professors decide to pursue the educational field because they want to help the next generation learn and the only way they can really do that is to interact with the students. He still, to this day, thinks it is weird that students feel as though they cannot come to office hours even just to say, “Hi.” Professors are not there to be intimidating, they want to help and they want to see you succeed. Dr. Boland is no exception.
Overall, meeting with Dr. Mike Boland was a trip. With years of experience in the field and in the collegiate education system, he is a bank of knowledge and is determined to help the students that want help. He is a prime example of the faculty that this university has to offer and their openness and willingness to facilitate achievement within their students. No matter how nerve-wracking it may be to step into a professor’s office for the first time, they really do want to see you get that grade you are shooting for. Just remember, class is only 50% of the “college experience,” make sure you are getting the most out of the other 50% along the way.