Leading by Example: Professor Emerita Annette Shelby
A notable trailblazer for women, young girls, and aspiring educators in academia, Annette Shelby has dedicated her life to empowering future generations of business leaders and professionals. Shelby, who earned her Ph.D. from Louisiana State University in 1973, is the first tenured female professor and first female emerita professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.
The published author, researcher, and classical theory enthusiast began teaching at Georgetown after relocating to Washington, D.C., from Alabama in 1979, when her husband, former U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), was elected to Congress that same year. Shelby said she searched for available teaching opportunities at various universities in the D.C. area and quickly realized that Georgetown would be the best fit.
Shelby explained she was especially motivated by Georgetown’s small class sizes and the opportunities it offered long-term, including working with former McDonough dean, Ronald Smith, who held the position from 1977 to 1986. Shelby said Smith understood and appreciated her professional background; he gave her autonomy in her instruction and advising of students.
“I liked that Georgetown had an emphasis on values, and it was okay to incorporate them in your coursework and classroom teachings,” Shelby said. “I liked that I had control over my own syllabus.”
When Shelby arrived on Georgetown’s campus, she was a temporary professor, still holding a tenured faculty position at the University of Alabama. After her husband was re-elected, she accepted a tenured track position at Georgetown. Shelby said the Georgetown community welcomed her with open arms and treated her as part of the Hoya family from the very beginning. “I worked on committees from day one and was involved in helping to write the MBA program proposal, which didn’t exist when I came on board.”
Reflecting on her time at Georgetown, Shelby said she feels a great sense of accomplishment and believes students finished her courses with tangible knowledge and skills that prepared them for a competitive and changing workforce.
“My students left class knowing that the audience is the most important thing. If you don’t know who your audience is, or how you adapt to your audience, you are not going to get far.”
While she’s proud of her accomplishments throughout her academic career, Shelby recognizes some of the obstacles that she and many women have faced in primarily male-dominated fields and industries.
Shelby said she sometimes had to prove herself to faculty members in more traditional areas on campus despite having a good rapport with administrators, faculty, and staff. Simultaneously, she met some of her lifelong friends while she was at Georgetown. “I think you have to work harder as a woman in professional settings and you have to be able to get along with people,” she said.
While Shelby is no longer teaching, her impact on the university and higher education continue to be long-lasting. As part of a $4 million gift, McDonough established the Annette N. Shelby Endowed Chair in Business & Leadership Communication with the appointment of Professor Jeanine Turner.
This appointment recognizes Turner’s ongoing research into the broader complexities of communication and technology, as well as her impactful teaching methods as a joint professor at McDonough and the Communication, Culture, and Technology (CCT) Program.
Additionally, the gift supports the Annette N. Shelby Endowed Fund for Leadership Communication at McDonough; creating experiential learning opportunities in leadership communication challenges through the MBA Executive Challenge, Leadership Fellows, Leadership Coaches, and other closely related curricular and co-curricular activities. It will also go towards course instruction, development, and other programmatic initiatives.
Shelby said she looks forward to keeping her legacy alive at Georgetown through the gift, which honors her academic areas of interest and encourages experiential learning opportunities for current and future Hoyas.