Meet Allan Eberhart: The Dean with a Sense of Humor

Georgetown University hosts the MSB Master of Science in Finance Opening Reception and Dinner on Friday, April 11, 2014, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Leslie E. Kossoff/Georgetown University)

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Allan Eberhart, founding director and now senior associate dean for the Master of Science in Finance (MSF) program, may be quick with a joke or pop culture reference, but it’s because he’s serious about how his students learn. He and his colleagues launched the MSF program in 2014 as the school’s first technology-enhanced degree at the McDonough School of Business, and it has quickly become one of the world’s top MSF degrees, blending asynchronous learning with weekly classes held in the program’s revolutionary blended classroom, where students can attend class online or in person and receive the same educational experience.

How did you choose your career path?
Although my father was a professor, I do not think I appreciated how much he enjoyed what he did until I was an undergraduate. That is when I started thinking about becoming a professor.

What is your personal philosophy?
To paraphrase Reinhold Niebuhr, I carefully try to distinguish the things I can control, and should therefore work diligently on, from the things I cannot and must accept.

What are students surprised to learn about you during the program?
My guess is that it is my sense of humor. Based on thousands of anonymous student reviews—the only kind of feedback you can completely trust for its honesty—most people appreciate my humor. When it is delivered well and used in the right context, good-natured humor can be a highly effective means of making people feel comfortable and ready to learn. Much like music, humor also can help people remember key takeaways from a lecture or a talk.

What can we find you doing outside of Georgetown?
I enjoy spending time with family and friends. My wife and I are empty nesters now with our son off to college, but we have two dogs who think they are our other children and we enjoy spending time with them. We also are close with our families and have developed a terrific group of friends. We talk, text, email, and socialize with them regularly. I also enjoy reading, hiking, movies, and following my favorite sports teams.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The best piece of advice I ever received was during a summer internship at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). At the time, I was pursuing a Ph.D. in economics and had taken a course in finance that spring. I really enjoyed the course and began thinking about the possibility of switching to pursue a Ph.D. in finance. The FTC had a superb team of economists, many of whom also had an expertise in finance, and they encouraged me to pursue the Ph.D. in finance because of the interesting research questions and the greater career opportunities. It was good career advice, but the reason it was the best advice I ever received is because I met my future wife in the finance Ph.D. program, where she was a fellow student, and we will be celebrating our 27th wedding anniversary in January.

What has been the biggest change to the business world since you started teaching?
The embrace of social and political causes.

How would you describe the sense of community at Georgetown McDonough?
I would say very strong overall. I have enjoyed the opportunity to get to know many of my colleagues over the years. They are committed to doing their jobs well and leaving Georgetown a better place than when they started working here. So, even when I disagree with them, I know that their hearts are in the right place.

What is the one thing you hope students take away from your program?
A passion for hard work and for living a good, fulfilling life. I believe our students already embraced these principles before they enrolled, but I hope they feel a strong reinforcement of these principles through the examples my colleagues and I set in and outside the classroom. I believe I speak for all my colleagues in saying that we want the best for our students. They have the ultimate responsibility to do the work required to graduate, but my colleagues and I are committed to helping them succeed.

What is the one thing you recommend a student does before graduating from your program?
Learn about the history of their future alma mater. Georgetown will be celebrating its 250th anniversary in 18 years, and it is a distinguished university for a reason. As part of learning about Georgetown’s history, I encourage students to explore unique parts of the campus—such as the Bioethics Library, Georgetown Observatory, and Riggs Library—and the surrounding area such as the Falls of the Potomac and the Towpath.