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Kathryn Caggiano

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Kathryn CaggianoKathryn Caggiano makes her ORIE classes as hands-on as possible. "A good friend of mine has a saying, that 'Students remember 20 percent of what they hear, 50 percent of what they see, and 80 percent of what they do,'" she says. "I wholeheartedly agree with this."

Everything Caggiano teaches—from Spreadsheet-Based Modeling and Data Analysis to Case Studies—is aimed towards preparing students for the professional arena. "I get tremendous satisfaction out of helping students to master techniques and skills that are going to give them an edge in their professional lives from day one," she says. "Every year I get dozens of anecdotes from former students about how the skills they learned in my classes have given them 'rock star' status in their jobs."

Caggiano's pedagogy has evolved in many ways over the years. One important change ensures students get the experience they need without overburdening them with unnecessary busy work. "In the beginning, I gave the usual weekly (or sometimes bi-weekly) individual homework assignments, consisting of 4-8 problems that spanned the material from that period in bits and pieces," she says. "Now, I have a very different approach, one that I believe is much better preparation for the professional arena. Over the course of the semester, I assign four "mini-projects" that focus on solving technical business problems and require the submission of professional quality materials. While some of these projects are expected to be individual efforts, others can be completed in pairs or in teams. There is also a final project instead of a final exam."

This approach illustrates Caggiano's belief that less is more. "Focus on quality of outcomes rather than quantity of material," she advises new faculty. "People are not going to hire students for the amount of material they know, they are going to hire them for the quality of work they can do."

One recent spring, Caggiano's students let her know just how much they appreciated her methods. "At the end of the last session of my spreadsheet course, the class spontaneously broke into applause," she says. "That was pretty memorable!"