A day in the life
Chris Hartt, assistant professor
My ideological philosophy is more of an effort to enact learning as opposed to teach. That doesn’t mean I don’t do any teaching, but I do tend to have more activities where students are supposed to think critically and create their own knowledge.
Helping students create knowledge to remember
Chris Hartt has plenty of experience in business and teaching, but he’s a relative newcomer to Dal’s Faculty of Agriculture. Prof. Hartt joined the faculty in July 2012, and says he was attracted by the culture of innovation on campus.
“There’s a lot of neat stuff going on here,” he says. “There’s a lot of dedication to the environment and the agricultural economy here amongst the staff and employees.”
Prof. Hartt is a Dal grad himself, with an educational background in political science and finance. He’s currently pursuing a PhD in management. He’s worked in health related fundraising, owned his own business and in recent years, has found a passion for university teaching.
“I think that one of the reasons people don’t use what they’re taught in university when they actually go out and work is because they aren’t given the responsibility for their own learning,” he says. “So my ideological philosophy is more of an effort to initiate learning as opposed to teach. That doesn’t mean I don’t do any teaching, but I do tend to have more activities where students are supposed to think critically and create their own knowledge.”
For example, instead of giving his students a business case to study, Prof. Hartt asks them to research and build their own case.
“One of the reasons for that is…the world is a sloppy place, it’s not a neatly packaged little case,” he says. “You don’t have the kind of information you want, and you have other information that you don’t want and you have to figure out what’s important.”
Prof. Hartt says this approach helps students build a practical connection to the lessons they’re learning—lessons he wants them to remember long after they graduate.
The small class sizes at the Faculty of Agriculture haven’t hurt Prof. Hartt’s cause. He’s gone from teaching 570 students to 15, and he’s enjoying getting to know them as individuals and learn about their interests. He’s learning more about agriculture from them, too.
Prof. Hartt teaches a fourth-year Strategic Management class this semester, and next semester he’ll be teaching Small Business Entrepreneurship and Quality Management. He says the faculty’s agriculture-business blend provides value for students in several ways.
“When (students) leave here, they have an understanding of the economics…and the supply and demand world of farming, and the world economics that are affecting their lives,” he says. “If the student learns enough about their own accounting and their own financial management…they’re going to be able to communicate with the business people they have to work with after graduation. Maybe as they develop these skill sets, we’ll have fewer agri-businesses running into financial trouble.”
For students who are more interested in business than agriculture, the faculty offers “more focused discussion” of business topics, Prof. Hartt adds.