When Ray Wimer arrived at Syracuse University to pursue master’s degrees in history and education, there were no available teaching assistantships in either major, but there was one in retail management. He accepted and began work grading course material for an Introduction to Retail class. He enjoyed the subject matter and interaction with students, so he continued for a second year—this time working for Professor of Retail Practice Amanda Nicholson, who now also serves assistant provost and dean of student success at Syracuse University.
After graduation, Wimer decided to forgo teaching history and, instead, leverage his newly acquired knowledge of the retail industry. He accepted at position at Border’s. Four years later, after working in marketing, event planning, operations and human resources, a call came from Nicholson inquiring about his interest in returning to the classroom.
“I enjoyed working in retail and had learned a lot, but the landscape of media retail was changing and I missed the connection with students,” Wimer said.
In the fall of 2002, Wimer returned to Syracuse University as a professor of practice teaching three courses: merchandise mathematics, personal selling, and visual merchandising and store planning. The 2005 move of the retail management program from the College of Visual and Performing Arts to Whitman meant additional courses for Wimer, including perspectives of business management, which is required for all Whitman freshmen.
Years later, Wimer is still energized by the interaction with students.
“I meet students as soon as they arrive on campus and I challenge them to learn and grow while setting the bar high for classroom expectations,” said Wimer. “I teach many of them again as juniors and seniors as they continue to explore their interests and strengths and build an understanding of career opportunities. Then, I watch them walk across the stage at commencement and into the world to make their mark. To be able to see the full circle is very fulfilling.”
Wimer, an avid Boston sports fan, was selected by the class of 2012 to give the faculty address at convocation. His favor among students isn’t just because he makes the subject matter interesting by using New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick in leadership scenarios. Students become quickly aware that he is invested in them.
One of Wimer’s goals is to know the name and a personal detail about each student within the first two weeks of class. He says this serves two purposes.
“A college education is expensive and requires a commitment on their part,”explained Wimer. “I fulfill my part of this commitment by taking the first step and learning every student’s first name and a little bit about them. From a sales perspective, this also demonstrates the value of knowing something about your client when establishing a relationship.”
Wimer says he wants students to consider his classes an opportunity rather than an obligation, and he tries to be available to provide extra help, a practical perspective or advice. He sees his selection as one of four faculty house masters in Whitman’s new Goodman IMPRESS program as another means to that end.
“Being a house masters gives me a different way to connect with students outside of the classroom,” he added. “I think that is often when the really interesting connections and conversations happen.”
“Professor Wimer taught me more about myself and my interactions with others than I have ever learned in a class,” said Caitlyn Parsons Chiari ’15. “He pushes you to your limit, testing you to think outside the box and dig deeper. And he goes above and beyond to interact with his students in and out of class, preparing them for any sort of sales or professional interaction they may encounter.”
Kelley Long ‘15 shared Chiari’s sentiment.
“Professor Wimer has the unique ability to motivate students to be contributing members of the classroom,” she explained. “He sets high expectations and pushes them to continuously make connections. But I think what sets him apart is his obvious passion for teaching. His enthusiasm for the topic made me excited for every single class.”
Wimer has twice been recognized with Whitman’s Oberwager Award for teaching excellence and received the prestigious Syracuse University Meredith Teaching Recognition Award.