Professor encourages students to make a difference outside the classroom

September 22, 2017
Andy Litteral, associate professor of management, promotes civic engagement

Andy Litteral, associate professor of management in the Robins School of Business, makes a point to get students out of the classroom as much as possible.

“In 2017, if I teach only with a book and chalk, it’s malpractice,” Litteral said. He’s fighting that strategy with the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement at the University of Richmond.

The Bonner Center prepares students for lives of purpose and connects student, faculty, staff, and community stakeholders in social change efforts.

Over his years of teaching at the Robins School, Litteral began searching for new ways to teach his Business Statistics course.

He says the book he had been using had not changed much over time, and he wanted to adapt the course in a way that would make it more interesting for students.

Instead of cracking open a statistics book, Litteral decided to reach outside the Robins School in pursuit of real data.

Now, he has his students work with organizations that need statistical analysis. Most recently, they worked with Secure Futures, the solar energy equipment firm that installed the solar array on top of the Weinstein Center at UR.  Students worked to determine the effectiveness of the different configurations of the panels in the array.

“Real data is messy,” Litteral said. “If you take textbook data, you don’t have any trouble. For example, when we looked at the solar ray data, there were parts where we didn’t have any data because it was a cloudy day. That is not going to happen in a textbook, and it’s important for students to see those imperfect data sets. By doing so, they can learn how to overcome it.”

Over time, he has also partnered students with groups like the Better Business Bureau, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and the Crisis Assistance Response Emergency Shelter. An earlier student project investigated the voting practices in Central Virginia to determine their effectiveness and security.  This work informs the current conversation around the 2016 presidential, especially concerning electronic voting.

“It’s important for students to be doing the kind of research that will make a difference,” Litteral said.

He says, after working with the Bonner Center, his students are more engaged in the class.

“The classroom should be something other than the professor standing in the front, and students writing down what they said. That’s a waste of time in my opinion. The students should get something while they are in class that they can’t find elsewhere. And that’s what these collaborations have done.” 

For more information on the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement, and Litteral’s role in their programming, visit their website or read the story featuring him for faculty engagement in their annual report.