Thursday 17 November 2011

Jordan LeBel's Recipe for Success in the Classroom

One part real world, one part no nonsense, and one part fun

Jordan LeBel, an associate professor at Concordia’s John Molson School of Business, calls upon his experience as an executive chef in some of Canada’s food service organizations and a top restaurant to teach The Marketing of Food and Experience Marketing.

Currently on sabbatical, LeBel has twice received the Dean's Award for Teaching Excellence. In 2010, he was a recipient of a President’s Excellence in Teaching Award for full-time faculty. Recently, he was the first recipient of the student-created award for MBA Elective Professor of the year for his course on Experience Marketing.

Marketing professor Jordan LeBel is studying ways to encourage consumers to make healthier food choices. | Photo by Concordia University
Marketing professor Jordan LeBel | Photo by Concordia University

A Montreal native, LeBel has taught at the Norwegian College of Hotel Management, the École Hôtelière de Lausanne, as well as Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration. He holds a bachelor’s and a master’s of science from Cornell and a PhD from McGill.

He co-developed the award-winning online course Marketing Yourself and its accompanying textbook. One of his latest undertakings is the online ‘edu-tainment’ course, The World of Chocolate: Explore, Experience, Enjoy.

LeBel’s research focuses on consumption for pleasure or aesthetic reasons, and the impact of related marketing on consumer choice and behaviour. His expertise and findings have been featured by NBC, CBS, PBS, the Discovery Channel, CTV, Global, Glamour, Self, Washington Post, New York Daily, Globe & Mail, National Post, Toronto Sun, The Gazette, La Presse, and Le Devoir. He has written for publications such as Commerce, and starting next February he will sign a branded column in the glossy Le Must Alimentaire, titled Parlons plaisirs.

What is it that makes him such a successful teacher? “That’s like trying to pin down the indefinable ingredient that makes a recipe sing,” he offers with a laugh. But when pressed, he says “it’s human interest. I care that the information I share will be useful to students, not just for the exam but in their work and in their life. We reflect on concepts larger than just the textbook concepts and theories.”

LeBel describes his approach as “very real-world pragmatism” and “no-nonsense grounded theory.” Fun is another valid descriptor, if the year-end student presentations, which follow the format of the popular CBC TV show Dragons’ Den, are anything to judge by.

His engagements outside class, such as his vice-presidency on the board of Youth Employment Services (YES), enrich his pedagogical approach. He says activities such as co-chairing the annual fundraiser for the not-for-profit organization help to make what he says to students more relevant.

LeBel has also been involved with the McGill World Platform for Health and Economic Convergence (MWP), which brings together representatives from business, government, academia and other organizations to brainstorm about improving health worldwide through better standards of living. MWP has given LeBel the opportunity to meet such innovative thinkers as Mohammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi economist who founded an institution to provide microcredit to people who want to start a small business but have no collateral. The organization has enabled LeBel to share a global outlook with his students.

He says his students “ask the kind of questions that make me a better volunteer,” and he admires that so many of them manage to balance part-time work with their studying. He praises the university as blessed with “an incredible vibrancy, energy and multi-ethnic diversity” that keeps him and other professors on their toes. Even on sabbatical, he likes to stay in touch with students, recently giving a sold-out talk to help raise funds for the MBA student's International Community Outreach Program.

Students give him grief about being old-school for his short quizzes on assigned readings, but he is determined to ensure his students learn the basic lingo and culture code of the discipline.

LeBel’s teaching is most likely celebrated because he so clearly values its role. “I know research is important and that we have to do it, but we are a higher education institution,” he says. “We all have to develop our own approach, I just hope that my work inspires others as I have been inspired by gifted teachers.”

Related links:

John Molson School of Business
Jordan LeBel’s bio
“The Skinny on Bulging Waistlines” — NOW, February 14, 2011
“Dragon's' Den, Concordia-style” — NOW, April 18, 2011
Marketing Yourself
The World of Chocolate: Explore, Experience, Enjoy.

(Originally Posted on Concordia - NOW, November 14, 2011)

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