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UCLA chancellor appointment

Anderson School lecturer inspires students with experience, energy

Eric Sussman, an Anderson School of Management Senior Lecturer and UCLA alumnus, has won more than a dozen teaching awards since he began teaching at the university almost 20 years ago. (Miriam Bribiesca/Daily Bruin)

By Stephen Stewart

May 16, 2014 1:09 a.m.

At a restaurant with his wife on a weekend getaway, UCLA Anderson School of Management Senior Lecturer Eric Sussman heard someone call out his name.

Surprised, he turned around to find a former student of his and chatted with him briefly before returning to his wife. When he and his wife went to pay the bill, he was told that it had already been paid – his former student left a note thanking Sussman for everything he did for him in the classroom.

“That’s why I teach,” Sussman said about the lasting impact he has on students.

Sussman, who is also a UCLA alumnus, has won more than a dozen student-nominated teaching awards since he began instructing at the university. He’s been teaching at Anderson for nearly 20 years.

After graduating from UCLA in 1987 with a bachelors in business and economics, Sussman began a career in accounting and soon went into real estate investment.

He never thought he would be a teacher.

“I would say my entire teaching path is a combination of karma, serendipity and the golden rule,” says Sussman.

The first time Sussman ever taught was for a Certified Public Accountant exam review course. He had just begun working for a small real estate investment firm and was looking to earn some additional income, he said. Sussman said he enjoyed his role in the classroom, teaching and performing at night and on weekends.

It was not until his mentor and teacher offered him a lecturer position at Anderson that Sussman thought about teaching at UCLA. At a barbecue at Sussman’s house, Anderson Senior Lecturer David Ravetch approached him and asked if he would be willing to teach a class at the university.

“Of course I said yes,” Sussman said. “Before I knew it, I was teaching managerial accounting, real estate … it sort of steamrolled and I was teaching full time.”

Though he taught undergraduates in the 1990s, Sussman now teaches just MBA students, as he finds he is a better instructor for graduate students. He has taken students on global trips to locations like Brazil and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates to give them international experience.

Gordon Klein, a senior lecturer at the Anderson School, has known Sussman since he was a teaching assistant for him while he was an undergraduate.

“He heard through the grapevine that I was in the hospital and visited me,” Klein said. “It told me a lot about his character and we’ve been best friends ever since.”

In the classroom, Sussman is interactive and demanding.

Students that walk into class late are required to bring baked goods to the following class, so his lectures are always filled with bagels and doughnuts, Klein said.

And his classes leave an impression, even after students graduate.

“I have lots of Facebook friends now, 99 percent of them former students,” Sussman said with a laugh.

Sussman also goes out of his way to make his classes relatable to students using his real-world experiences, Ravetch said.

“He has a lot of energy,” Ravetch said. “I think in most cases you want dynamic instructors who can engage the class and he’s an expert at that.”

One of the challenges that Sussman has faced in the classroom in recent years is rising expectations from MBA students as tuition costs have increased. Despite this, Sussman has continued to teach because it is his chance to make a difference, he said.

Alan Furmanov, a graduate student in the Anderson School, is currently enrolled in Sussman’s Managment 220: “Corporate Financial Reporting” course. Despite accounting not being one of Furmanov’s favorite subjects, he says the class is one of the best he has taken at UCLA.

“He makes accounting fun and no one makes accounting fun,” Furmanov said.

He heard about Sussman after current students and even alumni from ten years ago recommended he should take a class with him.

“He has the memory of an elephant,” Furmanov said. “He remembers your name and everything you’ve done. If you zone out in class, he’ll (call on) you.”

Ultimately for Sussman, teaching is about engaging with his students and encouraging them in their future careers.

“It’s a chance to make a difference here (and) I’m honored,” Sussman said.

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Stephen Stewart
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