Tom Barkley Enhances Finance Curriculum with His Practiced Business Perspective

Tom Barkley, professor of finance practiceWhen Tom Barkley, assistant professor of finance practice, isn’t teaching at Whitman, traveling to Brazil to help recruit students into Whitman’s graduate programs or grading Chartered Financial Analyst exams, he enjoys playing billiards in the Syracuse-area division of the American Poolplayers’ Association. He has competed in three U.S. Amateur Open competitions.

Another fact Barkley’s former students may not know is that he was born in Brazil and raised there by his missionary parents until the age of 16. He has lived in London, the Bahamas, Arizona, Texas, Florida and New York. In addition to being well traveled, Barclay is well educated.

He earned a B.S. in mathematics from Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine in London, a post-graduate certificate of education from King’s College in London, an MBA from Thunderbird, the American Graduate School of International Management in Glendale, Ariz., and a Ph.D. in quantitative finance from the University of Florida.

Barkley’s career before joining Whitman as a professor of practice (PoP) was rooted both in business and teaching. His first professional position was at a branch of National Westminster Bank just outside of London, but he soon began to think that teaching might be his calling. He returned to school, earned a graduate degree to become a high school math teacher and accepted (site unseen) a position at Kingsway Academy in Nassau, Bahamas. After five years, he decided it was time to further his own education, so left the island for Thunderbird to pursue his MBA.

With the degree in hand, he landed what he thought was his dream job: pricing exotic options at the world’s leading wholesale energy marketer—Enron. He moved to Texas and worked for Enron for less than a year before the company declared bankruptcy. He had to either look for another job or get a Ph.D. He chose the latter and enrolled at the University of Florida.

The Ph.D. brought multiple offers in both academia and industry. The love of teaching won the tug of war and he accepted a position at Whitman. “I am delighted to say that I am as happy about that decision today, perhaps even more so, than when I first joined the school,” shared Barkley.

Barkley believes the role of PoPS is an important one. He feels that years of working in industry—in different functional roles at different firms—gives professors of practice the ability to help students understand what they will experience when they get their first internship or full-time job, how to relate to others and traits of successful leaders.

“There is great value in having researchers present novel ideas in classrooms and display new theories about how business and finance work,” says Barkley. “Where I think professors of practice have a great deal to contribute is sharing our knowledge of what actually happens day to day in the business world.”

Barkley’s range of experiences give him a unique perspective. Having worked for different organizations, both large and small, in different countries, he can share insight into the differences between those work environments and the skills essential to be successful in each. “I stress the need to stay current by reading business newspapers and magazines, I talk about the business culture in different organizations, I provide ideas about career paths and I emphasize the importance of developing both “hard” skills, like quantitative analysis, and “soft” skills, such as communication.”

When speaking of the things he enjoys most about academia, Barkley quickly points to the gratification he gets from working with students. “The thing I enjoy most about teaching is seeing the students’ expressions when they have been struggling with a concept and, after some coaching in the right direction, they finally ‘get it.’ I don’t think there’s a greater feeling as a teacher than being present in that moment.”