DePaul Spotlight on Dr. Joel Whalen

Chicago Family Business Council: Tell us a little bit about your department?
Joel Whalen: Over the past 10 years, DePaul’s Center for Sales Leadership has become the largest sales organization in the world; a thought leader in sales education.

Our mission is to prepare our students to be successful the first 2 or 3 years of their career. The synergy we have with our corporate partners is outstanding. The classes offered are unique to DePaul. We teach the competencies that corporations want. Few universities do that. A typical college sales class uses textbooks and syllabi that are at least 10 years old teaching concepts from the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. At DePaul we started with the question, “what do our students need to know, believe and be able to so to be successful salespeople.” We then we designed classes in concert with our corporate partners to accomplish those goals.

Our founders are very successful business leaders, Clancy Ryan, Dan Strunk, and Dave Hoffmeister. Dave and Dan devoted full time work to our center, as executive residents. They brought years of experience to our center and gave focused dynamic leadership. Clancy brilliantly conceived the Center, then brought the great 3M Company to us as major partners. That gave us a huge, early boost in ideas, funding, and credibility.

Today we offer 13 graduate and undergraduate classes taught by over 26 faculty. As thought leaders we spend a great deal of time traveling and teaching our methods to other universities and corporations. For example, Dan’s work in category managements and customer relationship management (CRM) is the best in the world. Universities all over the world use his book and cases.

CFBC: Tell us why you chose to come to DePaul
JW: It was a lovely twist of fate. I had no idea how wonderful DePaul would be until I started working here. Initially I came here because DePaul was in Chicago and they invited me to interview. I was considering offers from southern universities and a school in Hawaii. My wife, Tina, and I thought it was viable because of the metropolitan area and it was near great corporations. I had come out of years in radio and TV and I wanted to apply my experience to working with large corporations.

It was extraordinary good fortune for me. I came from Florida State and the University of Florida where the teaching does not compare to DePaul. I was unprepared for the quality and practicality of teaching practiced at DePaul’s College of Business.

CFBC: What was your first impression of DePaul?
JW: I was struck by how smart and nice everyone was. They were down to earth people. I was also thunderstruck by how unbelievably cold it was, considering I lived in Florida for 30 years. Shiver.

CFBC: What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work with DePaul, and why?
JW: The entrepreneurial and open nature of DePaul. DePaul is embracing to new people and new ideas. For example, my work in communication science has received tremendous support from faculty and students. I have been able to develop a full scale teaching methodology in communication. I now show other universities what I learned here. I also appreciate the opportunity to work with the faculty and staff from across the university, especially the athletics department. I work for as Men’s Basketball Team’s Life Skills Coach teaching the same methods we use in the Business School.

CFBC: What has been your greatest lesson you’ve learned through your work at DePaul?
JW: A leader is someone who has a servant’s heart and wants things their way; (S)he is always looking for ways to help and support others, yet wants things his/her way. This is what I would describe as a DePaul leader.

CFBC: What do you wish CFBC members knew about DePaul or your department, and why?
JW: The faculty in the department of marketing is the finest in the world; they are a rare blend of scientist and scholar with a great hearts and talent as teachers. They are open nurturing people who want to help. They have world-class brains, yet are down to earth people. If I had a business that is the kind of person I would want to ask for help. One of the nice things about DePaul is that we are very modest and not great at self-promotion. I think my department stands with any university in the world. I encourage your members to ask for help from DePaul professors. They will find great knowledge and skill with a nurturing attitude.

CFBC: Tell me about someone who has influenced your decision to do the work you do?
JW: Jim Jenness. He is a prominent DePaul alumnus. When I met him he was head of creativity at Leo Burnett. He went on to head Leo Burnett and is now chair at Kellogg’s Company. In early 90s I was struggling to teach MBA students to be better communicators. I saw Jim present and was dazzled by how well he spoke: Jim used his slides beautifully. He went into the audience to engage them. I thought if we could find a way to get our MBA’s be more like Jim, it will be tremendous. He is the template I use to teach people about communication. It works beautifully.

CFBC: What do you do when you aren't working?
JW: I like to fly small airplanes. I also like to read beautifully descriptive novels by a nice warm fire.

CFBC: What one book would you recommend to our members?
JW: If they haven’t read it already, Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. It’s where you start your study of people.

CFBC: What are your plans for the future?
JW: To move more into e and internet based communication. I am working to learn to edit audio and video for small screens. I would like to transfer my materials into eBooks. I look forward to more travel to show other universities how we teach communication at DePaul.

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