From the Fantastic Four to the Fab Four, it’s clear that the best things in life come in groups of four. And Baker is no different. Baker University’s School of Professional and Graduate Studies has four instructors named Jeff, and each one took a unique path to teaching. In this series, you will learn how each Jeff is truly #BakerBuilt.
Jeff Ratcliff, who teaches MAOL 540 Maximizing Technology in Organizations and BU 327 Leveraging Technology in Decision Making, has been a Baker instructor since 2008. He began his educational journey by learning what he did not want to do.
“I grew up in Texas farming, ranching, and working for my dad in the oil field,” he said. “My dad took great care to make sure I learned many things, but the most important thing my dad taught me was that I did not want to spend my life farming or ranching or in the oil field.”
He earned his bachelor’s in business computer information systems from the University of North Texas in 1998. Soon, he was working in a variety of IT roles. While he was happy with his work, he knew he’d need a master’s degree to continue moving up. The simplified process of Baker’s MBA drew him in, and he enrolled in 2004.
“It really brought me out of my comfort zone,” Ratcliff said, recalling the number of presentations and speeches he gave while earning his degree.
Two years after earning his MBA, Ratcliff began moving up in management but still found himself uncomfortable speaking in front of people. Working on a farm and in IT had given him the technical skills he needed, but expanding his personal skills would require a big leap.
He remembered his time at Baker and decided that teaching would give him the confidence he needed.
He began his interview by giving the lecture he had prepared, but he found himself getting more and more nervous, to the point that he was shaking. He knew he needed to address his nerves head on if he were going to be a Baker instructor.
“I told them, I have things and experiences I want to share, so if you can ignore my shaking, I can too,” Ratcliff said.
The shaking stopped, Ratcliff finished his lecture, and he was offered the job.
Ratcliff said he took a similar approach to teaching his first class. He was nervous, but he explained to the class how he was looking forward to sharing his work experiences. If they could ignore his shaking, he said, he could too. Addressing his nerves directly did wonders. Ratcliff said he has never shaken from nervousness again. Since then, he has taught more than 700 students and led countless meetings, speaking in front of large groups and small.
“Baker has been such an important part of my life,” he said. “It has kept me alive and excited and able to share my experience.”
Ratcliff especially loves sharing the world of IT with those outside of the profession.
“Nothing gives me more pleasure than to have a class where half of the students in the course admit up front that they do not like information technology and, in some cases, are afraid of it,” he said. “I want them to know nothing is too complex to break down into bite-size pieces. I really like showing students in other business disciplines where their goals fit in with IT. My goal is for every student to love my course, even if they don’t love IT.”
Most important, Ratcliff wants to give them the personal skills that Baker gave him.
“You can do anything you put your mind to—but don’t forget to add some heart.”