Kalamazoo College’s “Fab Five” is not a sports team (though one of the five is a three-time All Conference basketball player, another holds Hornet single-season and career records for stolen bases, and three play ultimate Frisbee). More importantly, this group of senior economics and business majors share something that makes K unforgettable for them: an extraordinary relationship with a professor—a.k.a. mentor, inspired cheerleader, advisor, and, ultimately, friend.
Scott Beal, David Kamerman, Cameron Lang, Patrick Miller, and Joe Prepolec met Professor of Economics and Business Ahmed Hussen when they were first-year students. For the ensuing four years, Hussen has served as an advisor to each, both official and unofficial, academic and otherwise. The five have taken courses he has taught, and he became the Senior Individualized Project (SIP) advisor for four of the five.
Over those years something special developed in the relationship between these students and this professor. Such relationships are one of the great (often enduring) values of a K education.
Miller traces the relationship’s roots to Hussen’s accessibility and friendliness and his interest in students’ academic and personal lives. “We speak regularly, and we have lunch or coffee now and then,” he says.
Both Miller and Prepolec admire Hussen’s relentless effort to reach all students. “I saw this both as a student and a teaching assistant,” says Prepolec. “Professor Hussen invests himself emotionally. When a class did poorly on an exam you couldn’t miss his melancholy expression. He would bring me into his office and ask what he could have done better and how he could better connect with certain students. He would go down the list of anyone who underperformed and go over ways to improve on a case-by-case basis.
“He wasn’t the first professor to push me to expect more from myself as a student,” adds Prepolec, “but he was so genuinely upset when I didn’t give my best that it made me care as well.”
Lang agrees. “More so than any other teacher, Dr. Hussen establishes a relationship of strong mutual respect,” he says. “And I want to be accountable to that level of respect.” He adds that on those occasions when students don’t meet mutually-set high expectations, Dr. Hussen “works with us to resolve whatever is holding us back from attaining the level of excellence he knows we can.”
And that spirit goes beyond a student’s classroom performance. Lang and Kamerman laud their mentor’s patience and wisdom regarding their co-curricular activities and life in general. “Dr. Hussen takes the time to care about more than academics,” Kamerman says, and that interest encourages the breadth evident in the “Fab Five’s” curricula vitae (see below). Their mentor’s broad interest comes full circle and contributes to the Five’s outstanding average grade point average—3.6. “This group of young scholars is very strong academically” says Hussen.
Hussen’s passion for economics inspires such achievement, according to every one of the five. “I can remember a specific time when my interest in economics—which I’d already declared as my major—was faltering,” says Beal. “Dr. Hussen’s course on environmental economics, along with his positive attitude, put me back on track. He is always so excited about economics and mathematical relationships, and he effuses this enthusiasm in class and in conversations.”
Indeed, the quality of the relationships K students and teachers forge with one another is among the most valuable components of a K education. Such relationships are part of the College’s “more in four.” And such relationships can be “more in a lifetime.” Concludes Prepolec: “Professor Hussen cares tremendously about his students, a characteristic that will undoubtedly keep us close for many years to come.”
Photo – Fellow learners and friends (l-r): Patrick Miller, David Kamerman, Scott Beal, Ahmed Hussen, Joe Prepolec, and Cameron Lang. (photo by John Lacko)
SIP – Municipal Solid Waste Recycling. “I highlighted the inadequacies of status quo valuation Methods, specifically cost-benefit analysis and the use of discount rates, in the environmental Project decision-making process.
Favorite Class – Environmental Economics.
Co-curricular Activities – Ultimate Frisbee; President of the Economics and Business Club; Member of the Business Guild and the Sustainability Guild; Member of the Investment Club; Sustainability Intern.
Plan After K – Graduate school eventually (perhaps law or business); secure a job immediately.“I have been applying and interviewing for the past few months. I haven’t found anything that suits me quite yet.”
SIP – Customer Centricity: The Competitive Advantage. “I studied how customer-focused firms gain insights from customer experience of a product or service and apply those insights to create a competitive advantage.”
Favorite Learning Experience
"I want to be accountable to that level of respect."– “My internship at Perpetual Motion Fitness Corporation with K alum Jeff Marinucci made me certain that an economics major was right for me.”
Co-curricular Activities – Varsity baseball; Intramural basketball; Vice president of the Investment Club; Member of the Economics and Business Club, the Sustainability Guild, and the Business Guild.
Plan After K – National Account Manager, Coyote Logistics (Chicago, Illinois)
SIP – American Healthcare: A Critique of the Inefficiencies Found in our Current System.
Favorite Class – Corporate Sustainability. “It was a beautiful blend of theory and practice about a subject I am very passionate about. It highlighted the practicality I was hoping to receive from my education.
Co-curricular Activities – Service-learning projects. “I have tutored at a few schools in Kalamazoo and am currently a Civic Engagement Scholar running a program at Hillside Middle School that helps students develop critical thinking skills.”
Plan After K – “I have a position at Hantz Group in Ann Arbor and will begin work in the fall.”
SIP – The Franchise Business Model and the Factors Contributing to its Success. “I contrast the franchise business model with traditional independent U.S. businesses and examine in depth why the former is becoming increasingly prevalent, finishing with a case study of Jimmy John’s, where I worked for two summers.”
Favorite Class – Corporate Finance. “It was very challenging, and equally rewarding.”
Co-curricular Activities – Ultimate Frisbee (currently the team’s co-captain); Intramural basketball (“with Cameron and David”).
Plan After K – Attend graduate school to earn a Master in Health Administration degree.
SIP – “I designed a mobile phone application for the American Supplier Institute which helps teach time management techniques and responsibility to student Smart Phone users.”
Favorite Class – Macroeconomics. “It was the first time I felt I was starting to think like an economist.”
Co-curricular Activities – Varsity basketball; Ultimate Frisbee; Member of the Athletic Leadership Council and the Investment Club.
Plan After K – Secure a job in finance before attending graduate school.