College of Business
For the first class he taught at UTSA, Ron Sweet gave his students a comprehensive exam that was more than 30 pages long. At the time, he felt like he needed to test them on everything they had covered in class. No more. Now Sweet changes his finance courses every semester, always checking RateMyProfessor.com to get valid suggestions from former students and trying new ideas of his own.
“That’s what I love about teaching: I get to start fresh every semester,” he says. “And all the mistakes I made in the last semester, I get to fix them for the next semester.”
As a result, his exams are much shorter than when he joined the faculty 12 years ago, but they are by no means any easier. Now he might pose only a few essay questions, with at least one as open-ended as “What is the essence of finance?” Finance is a conceptual field, he says, so students have to be willing to do some detective work and be able to handle ambiguity.
“Your boss won’t walk up to you and say, ‘Hey, I need you to value this stock. Is it (a.) $57 or (b.) $62?’” he tells his students. “There’s nothing objective about finance.”
Sweet has been able to devote even more time to tweaking his syllabi and challenging his students since retiring from USAA in 2009. He worked for 23 years at the Fortune 500 company, most recently as head of equity investments, where he was responsible for $40 billion in investments.
“I don’t have the Ph.D., but I have that practical background,” he says. “I have a great appreciation for the theories of finance, so I think I’m a good person for the teaching side to bring those two together.”
In addition to teaching four classes each semester, Sweet also serves as faculty adviser for the 3-year-old Investment Society. The club, now close to 50 members strong, has been getting some real-world exposure to investing by shadowing Sweet in the analysis and research for an equity portfolio of a nonprofit he started to help support two doctors who provide medical services on a Cabecar Indian reservation in Costa Rica. Sweet also has started microlending in Costa Rica, and his students are helping evaluate those loans.
Add the Investment Society’s three-times-a-week meetings to his courseload, and retirement has been keeping Sweet pretty busy.
“I’ve got all this time now, and I spend most of that time with the students,” he says. “People ask me how many kids I have, and I say, “Oh, about 150.”