This summer, we’re introducing a new interview series to showcase members of our community who help make our Division what it is.
We invite you to get to know one of our adjunct instructors, John Burnett, who teaches Business courses in the Division of Applied Undergraduate Studies. He is also an alumnus.
When and how did you decide to research and teach about your field?
I grew up dreaming about leading and managing a global organization and doing business around the world. My dream came to fruition three years after attaining my undergraduate degree at SPS. Over my twenty-five-year leadership career in financial services and business information industries, I fulfilled and lived my dream. In addition to learning my trade, I educated myself by researching and reading about best practices in fostering high performing organization and effective management techniques, and leadership styles that yield optimal results. Such organic learning and real-life experiences enable me to bring a wealth of knowledge, skills, and successes into the classroom for both of my courses: Business Organization and Management and Organizational Behavior. Teaching is a way for me to help establish future business leaders, entrepreneurs, and develop prudent global citizens.
Is there a research topic that you have not yet researched or taught, but would like to do in the future?
Perhaps, the difference in behaviors, decision-making, and wealth disparities of students who are exposed to financial literacy education, knowledge, and programs. I am a firm believer that knowledge is power—and financial literacy and basic application of economic principles in a person’s life can be a difference-maker to bridge the wealth divide and inequities in life.
What's the best advice you’ve ever received?
Respect is powerful and deeply tied to mental memory. Treat people with dignity and respect. In life, people may forget your name or key points of information, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
Is there a figure, either living or passed, famous or not well known, who you’d like to come guest lecture one of your classes or to joint teach with? Why that individual?
I would invite Henry Ford to my classes to talk about the mind of an inventor, about starting the Ford organization and establishing corporate culture, and about management at a time when an innovative product was being introduced to America and the world: the car, or should I say, motor vehicle. The Ford Company was founded in 1901, introducing the concept of the assembly line used in a broad range of industries from manufacturing and fast-food restaurants. There are many management and organizational behavioral insights that stem from the economic manufacturing boom that has survived for generations. I would be curious to contrast challenges at the start of a transformational organization to the issues that confront modern-day companies and how to manage company and employees to ensure the organization still exists more than a century later.
What’s the most interesting thing you own? Where did you acquire it?
I own coins and currencies from around the world that I attained through business travel. It’s not only a collection that has monetary value, but rather, a reflection of culture, history, and sovereignty of nations.
What will be your next book to read?
Anything related to entrepreneurial success in any kind of legal and ethical business or industry.
Was there a class or subject you dreaded or struggled with in college?
When I transferred credits into NYU to finish my degree, I enrolled in two classes: Microeconomics and Global Ecology. The microeconomics course was easy for me given my background and experience on Wall Street. I chose the global ecology course to expand my thinking outside the realm of the financial industry. After a few quizzes and the midterm exam, I had a rude awakening. I ended the semester with an A in macroeconomics but a B in the global ecology course. The B ignited an internal fire to improve and attain my bachelor’s degree with honors—I did achieve my goal, while making my family and friends proud, which was fulfilling.
Do you have a favorite neighborhood in NYC? Why?
I have a few favorite neighborhoods, but one of the most revered for me is Washington Square Park. I used to hang out with friends in my early twenties at the start of my career in financial service, and I never thought I would attain my bachelor's degree from NYU with honors as an adult student. Not to mention subsequently teaching at my alma mater. The park is also special because my graduation was the last University Commencement to take place in Washington Square Park.
Who/what is your inspiration?
In my reading of history and travel experience around the world to witness economic, financial, and political systems firsthand, I deeply appreciate the freedoms and opportunities that exist in America. Although the United States of America is far from perfect, it is the best place for opportunity on Earth. I’m reminded of my parents who were children growing up amid the Great Depression and resided in the south under Jim Crow Laws. I’m molded and shaped by that horrific past, the enormous struggles of my lineage, the opportunities afforded to me in the modern-day, and the promise of the future.
What’s your favorite word?
My favorite word is: Empowerment.
Do you have a hidden skill or talent?
In my mind, I am a culinary master, pending independent reviews.
John Burnett is an Adjunct Instructor at DAUS, teaching Business Organization & Management and Organizational Behavior.