Associate Professor of Finance Priscilla Liang has a few tricks up her sleeve to engage students in her Business Finance class.
“I connect the course projects in ways that relate to their daily lives – keeping things practical and interesting,” she said. “Money, loans, budgets, credit, capital – no matter what you call it, finance is a necessary part of people’s lives.”
To teach the concept of Time Value of Money, Liang has students plan for major financial decisions in their lives, such as buying a car, purchasing a home, paying for college, and saving for retirement. Using their own financial goals, her students quickly grasp the concepts of opportunity cost and the power of compounding that’s possible when investing early and consistently.
“I prefer to explain difficult concepts in the simplest ways possible – often requesting that my students do the same,” she said. “I ask them, for example, to present the concepts of finance to non‐business major students, or to explain them in a way that even their grandmothers could understand.”
Liang can appreciate how a subject like finance might seem like a daunting foreign language to some students. A native of China who earned her bachelor’s degree and began her career in real estate development in Beijing, Liang came to the U.S. to do international trade, and later pursued her MBA and Ph.D.
“I studied Japanese as a second language in China and lacked formal English training. This made my doctoral studies very difficult in the U.S.,” she recalled. “However, I learned one important life lesson that helps during difficult times: always try your best and never give up. As a result, I was the valedictorian for my MBA program and the second-fastest to graduate in my Ph.D. program with superior scores for all my discipline’s qualification exams. I use this example to encourage and motivate my students to work hard and aim high.”
For the past few years, Liang has worked hard to connect students in the Martin V. Smith School of Business & Economics (MVS) with businesses throughout the region for internships and jobs, fostering a mutually beneficial relationship between the University and local employers. Currently, she is trying to build MVS’ Finance option with the first Finance elective class starting in spring 2016.
Her helpful and encouraging approach has earned Liang high regard from students, peers and the business community. In 2015, CSU Channel Islands Business & Technology Partnership named her Faculty Leader of the Year.
Though she draws upon her years working in international finance frequently in her research, Liang says working with students is the most satisfying part of her career.
“I believe university teaching is my calling and the best way I can to contribute to society,” she said. “It’s very rewarding to me when I see students’ eyes light up, or big smiles come over their faces, just because they’ve come to understand a challenging subject or a difficult theory. Finance is not an easy subject to learn, but finance is one of the highest-paid career sectors for students entering the workforce after graduation. Knowing how to best manage capital and put it to the most efficient use is essential for individuals, companies and the entire economy.”