Andrew Spieler is professor of finance in the Frank G. Zarb School of Business. He teaches undergraduate courses in introductory and advanced corporate finance, as well as graduate courses in investments and in the Executive MBA program. He has been at Hofstra for 12 years, and lives in Brooklyn. Read about why he makes his students study the Facebook IPO, who his favorite heavy metal bands are, and what 9/11 taught him.
Q. What’s unique about your classes?
Ninety percent of the students in my Intro to Finance class are business students but most are not finance majors, so I always try to tell them that this may be the most important course they ever take. The way the economy is currently structured –few companies offering pensions, you can’t count on Social Security, you’re lucky if you have some sort of 401(K) retirement plan – it’s now up to them, as future employees, to make their own investment decisions. It doesn’t matter if you’re a history major or studying law; you have no choice but to be responsible for your own financial future. A lot of what we teach is geared toward managing corporations, but I like to add this personal element because at the end of the day the most important decisions you make will be your own.
Q. How do you engage your students?
Many are still financially dependent on their parents and just don’t realize how important these issues can be. I tell them: everything is an investment, even your college education; you’re spending today for a return in the future. In the intro class, where many are unaware of how financial markets work, I ask each student to follow a stock and major indices, look at a company’s annual report, figure out how much the CEO makes, who sits on the Board — all of this gets them interested. In my advanced class, I just overwhelm them with detailed financial analysis – I give them real life situations, such as ‘let’s value the Facebook IPO [initial public offering], and we’re going to spend six weeks, not just one class, doing this. We’re going to build a model that you can take to an employer.’ Many former students tell me, ‘that class was tough, but I knew it was good for me, and now that I’ve been working, I confirm that it was good for me.’
Q. What are your main research interests?
I’ve been well published in the area of real estate and corporate finance, and have won several awards for it. I was interviewed by a leading trade journal about my research, and they had previously interviewed Nobel Prize winners, so I definitely stood as the odd man out but I was honored to be in that group. I’ve earned designations as a Chartered Financial Analyst, Financial Risk Manager, and most recently, as a Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst. I have been interviewed by Fox Business News, MSNBC, the New York Times and other media outlets. It’s just a way of showing students that I’m really connected to current topics and have professional expertise. I’m also very involved with the Breslin Center for Real Estate Studies on campus where I’ve been a co-director of conferences with my colleague Professor Nikbakht for the last five years. We have attracted some very high-profile guest speakers. This benefits the University, local community, and most important our students.
Q. You started your job at Hofstra just days before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. How did you and your students react?
It was a somber reminder that what you learn in class and everything you lay out for your life can change in an instant. Students already had a level of uncertainty about jobs and their future, and now we have to deal with grief and the impact on us individually and as a community. I remember trying to relate this back to financial markets, whether this could cause a global recession. None of us could say for sure what would happen, but we all agreed that this was an event that would impact us in many ways.
Q. Why did you get into teaching?
Teaching is the side that the students see. Being a professor is really about creating knowledge for the discipline. Much of that is not as visible to students; they see you in class, they see you give exams, they might see you on TV or know you wrote a book. At the same time, I would say that teaching has always been in my blood; I originally tried to run from it and work in other jobs, but I was always called back to university life. I always had a good ability to place myself in the student’s position; I think that’s what makes an excellent instructor. If I was a student sitting there, how would I want to have this explained? When you put yourself in that mindset, you become one with the student.
Q. Who would play you in the movie about your life?
Ideally, Harrison Ford. Realistically, Bruce Willis.
Q. Favorite music?
Eighties’ long-hair bands; my favorites of all time are Iron Maiden and Metallica. I took my 10-year-old son when they were on tour at Jones Beach last year. He was amazed at the vast amount of tattoos he saw.