Babson College recently welcomed returning family member Patricia Bossi, who completed her MBA at Babson’s Olin Graduate School of Business and is now returning as a QTM professor.
Free Press: Where are you from?
Patricia Bossi: Well, I’ve lived here my whole life. I was born in Boston, and as a small child moved up to Chelmsford, Mass. I moved to Bedford, Mass nine years ago, which is about 20 minutes away from Babson without traffic.
FP: What brought you to Babson?
PB: Well, I got my MBA here and have been very involved ever since that point of time. Also my prior boss is here, so that kind of influenced me quite a bit. When he came over here, it was only a matter of time before I came over to teach a course or two with him. I adore him, so I couldn’t wait to come over.
FP: What’s the transition like from teaching at Bentley to Babson, considering that the two schools are known to be rivals?
PB: I don’t really consider them as rivals. I think Bentley is more of an accounting school and it’s much more focused on being a fear for the accounting world. I think Babson is more of an entrepreneurship school, so I don’t really see them as rivals. I think Babson is much more focused on a global education, entrepreneurship, educating all around, so it’s not so much of an accounting structure. I see much more of a rounded student coming out of Babson. I see the school as a lot more competitive with, I think, the Ivy League schools, personally. The Harvard’s and the Stanford’s and the Kellogg’s quality of their students are similar to those at Babson.
FP: What would you say are the focal differences between the two schools?
PB: Students here are much more rounded, they are go-getters, willing to take that extra step, ask questions, and are not shy. In my classroom experience at Bentley, students wouldn’t talk, they wouldn’t raise their hands. They would just sit there, take notes, and leave. It was not very interactive. At UMass Lowell, I was teaching a different type of student. I was teaching engineering students, and engineers are known to be more introverted, so I expected that over there. As far as business students go, it’s very refreshing to see outgoing, assertive and confident students in their skill base, and a lot of students here have started businesses and have done entrepreneurial things before and during their attendance. That is not something you see at other business schools in the area.
FP: Could you tell us a little bit about your work experience before coming to Babson?
PB: I started out in pure engineering, and then after getting my MBA I got much more into the business end of things. Of course, all the business was still in technical-based companies, so having both skills, a business background and a technical background, made it a very strong combination in the business world. I could understand the technology, so nobody could pull any blinders over me, and I understood the business side to things, so nobody could fudge the books on me. And I could help with the business planning and the startup process. It was great to have both; you need to have both.
FP: When you made the decision to pursue an MBA, was that because you recognized that you needed this business side?
PB: Absolutely. I would sit in meeting after meeting, and I understood math very well, but I did not necessarily understand what all the accountant and finance people were talking about when they discussed pro formas, year-to-years, and all these financial statements. I would wonder, “Am I missing something, are these real, is there a little bit of smoke being blown at me?” I knew I needed more understanding, and that’s when I went back and got my MBA.
FP: As an alumni, you know Babson’s focus on entrepreneurship. So how do you bring this focus into your own classroom?
PB: I try to get people to think on their own, to solve their own problems. I think a lot of the time by pushing back and giving in-class activities, and having people work together, you get a feel for what really happens in the business world. Not every one situation in life is someone going to be handing you a problem and solution. So you have to be able to think and solve problems on your own by doing some of the work. My students learn the skills and then they try it, solve it. I give them questions like, “What do you think about this?”—more open-ended questions versus a yes or no. I really try to get the thinking going.
FP: What is something that you’d like students to know about you or your class that they might not know about as of now?
PB: Well, about me, I certainly never thought I was going to get into teaching based on my career, and it was one of those things that people say “when the teaching bug hits you, it hits you,” and it hit me hard. I am here because I love what I do, and I do want to give back some, hopefully all, of the knowledge that I’ve accumulated over the years. I always want students, and everyone, to know that I am approachable, I am here for them, and that there is never a dumb question. I don’t care what the question is, it will never be dumb, and it will always be answered with respect and treated with respect. I am here to help, I am never here to insult you or treat you poorly because you need or want help.
I want people to know that there was a day when I sat in that same chair as a student, and I don’t forget those days. And I have kids, and I’ve had times when they come home and tell me bad experiences with teachers and it breaks my heart that teachers can be short or mean to students. I want everyone to know that my door is always open and I’m always here. If I can find a way to help, I will.