Rob Simon utilizes his past professional experience in retail, wholesale and e-commerce to bring real-world perspective to the classroom. As an associate professor of practice in marketing at the College of Business Administration, he connects with the business community to help students gain relevant experience through special course projects.
Simon teaches classes in marketing principles, marketing management, retailing and a special topics class in partnership with Union Pacific (UP) in which students are presented a case study and prepare a presentation based on that case to some of the company’s managers. Known as experiential learning, classes such as the UP marketing course give students a taste of real-world business experience.
“Experiential learning is an excellent way for our students to learn. They are in an environment where they can make a mistake and not lose a job or a career. Students can test themselves against each other and learn how to give and receive feedback,” Simon said. “Experiential learning gives students a means to practice and use the tools they are learning and developing.”
His professional experience brings a unique perspective to his classes. Simon spent nearly 20 years as CEO, marketing manager and operations director of Ben Simon’s, Inc., a specialty clothing retailer in Lincoln. He also served as wholesale business manager and public relations director for Sell2All Inc., worked in business development and marketing for Smart Surplus and currently owns XS Solutions, an inventory services business based in Lincoln.
“My professional experience provided a broad perspective I can share with my students, including how to apply theories,” Simon said. “I also have a great network of colleagues I can reach out to for opportunities in and outside of the classroom, and they share with me projects that my students can work on with business leaders in this area.”
If not for a request from a former long-time faculty member, Simon may never have brought his expertise to CBA. Shortly after earning his MBA from UNL, Simon was approached by Dr. Sandy Grossbart, former chair of the Department of Marketing, about teaching a retailing class.
“Never in a million years did I ever think I would be teaching and especially in the business college at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln,” Simon said. “I never thought of it until asked to teach a retailing class immediately after I earned my MBA. I realized then I had a passion for teaching and working with students. I like challenges and this one came along at the right time in my life.”
His teaching style resonates with students such as senior Derek Hudson of Omaha, a dual major in marketing and accounting. The UNL Parents Association recently awarded him with a certificate of recognition for contributions to students.
“Professor Simon provides a great atmosphere in the classroom. He is one of my favorite teachers, which is one of the reasons why I have taken so many of his classes,” said Hudson, a peer mentor for MRKT 341 with Simon and assistant professor of practice in marketing Steve Welton. “I took the special topics class with UP and learned so much. We were engaged at a higher level in real-world situations.”
Simon receives the outstanding article award this month in Denver at the 2016 Marketing Educators’ Association Conference for an article in the Journal of Marketing Education.
He shares the honor with colleagues James Cross, associate professor of marketing, University of Nevada–Las Vegas; Shannon Cummins. Ph.D. ’12, assistant professor of marketing, University of Wisconsin–Whitewater; James Peltier, department chair of marketing, University of Wisconsin–Whitewater; and Nadia Pomirleanu, assistant professor of marketing, University of Nevada–Las Vegas.
Their article, “Evaluating Educational Practices for Positively Affecting Student Perceptions of a Sales Career”, published in the April 2015 issue of the journal, identifies educational innovations for reducing students’ reservations towards careers in sales.