Adding lyrics from the film Frozen to his exam questions is just one way that Associate Professor Ekant Veer uses music and fun to inspire his students in New Zealand. His passion for helping students become “useful, happy people” was just one of the reasons why he was named one of the world’s top 40 business professors under 40.
For Ekant Veer, who teaches at the University of Canterbury (UC) in Christchurch, New Zealand, being named one of the world’s top business professors is proof of the power of education to change lives.
Ekant’s grandfather was the first person in his small rural village in northern India to learn to read and write. He became a successful lawyer and later built two schools in his village.
“The fact that I’m now winning awards for teaching shows that education changes not just one person’s life but the life of a whole community,” says Ekant.
In 2018, Ekant was named one of the world’s top 40 business professors under 40 by business news website Poets&Quants, and won a national tertiary teaching excellence award.
He has also won UC’s highest award for teaching excellence, the Teaching Medal, and been voted lecturer of the year five times by students.
Ekant teaches at the UC Business School’s Department of Management, Marketing and Entrepreneurship, where he’s on a mission to bring ethics into business practices and use marketing as a tool for social change.
His goal is for his students to become “useful, happy people” who understand the impact their work has on the wider community.
“New Zealand has a deeper feeling for communities and the environment than many other countries. That’s an important part of who we are,” he says.
He’s also passionate about student care and wellbeing.
One year, Ekant gave all his master’s degree students an envelope saying, ‘open in case of emergency’. The envelopes contained bubble wrap – a great stress-reliever – and lots of slips of paper containing personalised quotes including encouraging comments about each student’s strengths.
“All the students said how much those envelopes meant to them,” says Ekant.
“It’s important to me that my students know that someone cares about them and wants the best for them.”
Ekant is well-known on campus for bringing fun and music into his teaching. He often uses song lyrics in his exams – including lines from the theme song of the Disney film Frozen.
He encourages his students to work closely with industry, learning by discussing real-world issues and the latest research. Third-year students hone their skills by developing marketing, communications or advertising plans for a local charity, while master’s and PhD students work closely with a local business.
“As a teacher, my role isn’t to read out of a book and have students write down everything I say. I want my students to ask questions and join the discussion,” says Ekant.
It’s a style of learning that Ekant says produces graduates with the skills they will need to thrive in work and in life.
“Whatever field students go into, they will struggle if they don’t have skills like communication, critical thinking and teamwork,” he says.
“Students need to be curious, to know how to exploit opportunities for good, and to be able to look into the future and imagine what might happen next. That’s what will give them the edge.”