Jeff Kulick came to Mason in 2001 fresh from a career in nonprofit management. “I came to Mason without having taught somewhere else,” Jeff says. Practitioners as professors make important contributions across university campuses, so this isn’t unusual. However, Kulick was made a full-time faculty member in 2006 and since then has received multiple awards in teaching excellence and consistently outstanding reviews from his students.
It’s easy to see why. In speaking with Kulick, generosity and humility come through. When asked about his awards for excellence in teaching, he demurs, “I had a sales training department I was responsible for, so I had an idea about how people learn and what their expectations are. I could also fall back on my own experiences getting my MBA and my feelings about classes I took.”
Perhaps it’s an innate sense of curiosity that serves Kulick so well in his teaching career. It’s certainly evident in his approach to the Mason Korea program and the Bhutan study abroad program, both of which he’s been instrumental in developing. “In terms of the Mason Korea program, my objective was to try and prepare the students for what it was going to be like at an American university, which is very different. My objective was to try to get them to understand how to do research, how to engage in class discussions, how to think critically—some of the things that are taken for granted in the American system.” Kulick’s interest in the differences in how Korean students and American students are taught to learn allowed him to develop effective materials and approaches that bridged the gap between the Korean culture of education and the American one. “I developed an exercise to encourage Korean students to talk more in class, which they were initially reluctant to do because that's not the way it's done there. I said, okay, we're going to have these graded questions and you have to talk about them in class. I let them know I knew it was sort of alien to them and I allowed them to bring in a written response to a question—which I provided ahead of time.” Over time, Kulick had the students bring in just a sentence to spur their thoughts and eventually they became comfortable discussing concepts and questions in class without the help of notes.
Kulick devised and implemented the study trip to Bhutan through his teaching of that nation’s concept of gross national happiness. “I was able to craft a tentative course and then I went there and confirmed that it was a viable place to bring students. Mason students,” he notes, “are far better prepared than a lot of the people to travel and work internationally, and the first trip was a major success.” He has one more trip to Bhutan in his future—he’ll be taking a cohort of students in the Spring—right before he retires. “I don't have a whole plan for retirement,” he says. “I'm not worried. I have a stack of books—probably about three or four feet tall—that I've only had time to read the first chapter. That will keep me busy for quite a while. I'll be traveling, too. I've done a fair amount of traveling for Mason and you can't go cold turkey on travel. There are lots of places I still want to see.” One thing is certain, though, no matter where Kulick’s future takes him, he’s left an enduring legacy at Mason—one that includes the materials he’s developed and shared; inspired colleagues who credit him with modelling what fantastic teaching looks likes, and countless deeply affected students here in Virginia and around the world.
One highlight of Kulick’s career at the School of Business was the development of new curriculum and courses. He created 15 of the 29 courses he has taught at George Mason and shared the course content and syllabi with colleagues who followed his approach. He developed a number of in-class exercises and approaches that colleagues use, including forming groups based on work preferences, group dynamics exercises, and cases. Colleagues consistently go to Kulick for mentorship and guidance. A hallmark of Kulick’s approach is the care and attention he gives to students, inside and outside of the classroom, whether as a faculty adviser to organizations, mentoring, or guiding research. “I make it a practice to learn every student’s name and use it in class. It shows respect, and it tends to make them more accountable for their preparations.”
He is also well-known to the faculty for the service he has provided the school over the years. Highlights include his four-year stint as secretary to the faculty and his service on the Nominating Committee and the Undergraduate Policy Committee. He’s put his excellent public speaking voice to use as a reader of student names in the School of Business Degree Celebrations, and many students have asked him to present their awards at the Award Ceremony. He’s a familiar face at WelcomeFest and recruiting events, too. “I’ve excused students from class to attend WelcomeFest as long as they brought some proof they were there—and not a pizza crust.”