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The Root of finance

March 20, 2012

Tom Root, associate professor of finance

To many, finance is a dry subject, wrought with jargon and complicated equations. But for Tom Root, associate professor of finance, financial markets are his passion — something he tries to share with and pass on to his students.

“I have a dedication to helping students and providing them the tools to be successful,” says Root. “It’s important to be excited about it.”

Root, who holds four degrees, including a PhD in economics, is not just a well-known expert on campus. In addition to being published in several academic journals during his career, he has been a media darling in recent months, providing financial insight for national news media, including CNBC, Associated Press and CBS News. He’s commented on hot-button market topics like the price of farmland and the personal impact of the debt ceiling. While he appreciates sharing his expertise, the attention is mainly for the greater good.

“I do it mostly because I know it’s good for Drake and it’s great to get the University’s name out there,” he says.

Root first came to Drake University in the fall of 1999. Although he had several teaching offers after earning his PhD, Drake seemed like the best fit; he liked the school’s mission and goals and its location in the Midwest. Most of all, he enjoyed the camaraderie of the staff in the College of Business and Public Administration (CBPA); that tight-knit feeling among faculty and staff at the CBPA is still an important reason he enjoys working at Drake.

So how does Root keep his students engaged and excited in class? It’s all about the real-world applications and examples.

“With finance, I can come in every day with a new real-world example,” says Root. “And it’s been more interesting the last two to three years with the state of the economy. It’s important to make those connections.”

Root has received recognition for his teaching skills by the Drake community, earning the Graduate Teaching Award and the Harry I. Wolk Research Award/Outstanding Faculty Scholar Award, both from the CBPA. His fellow professors also speak highly of his teaching skills.

“Professor Root is that teacher who continuously takes the time to stay relevant to current affairs and this is inevitably conveyed in his lectures,” says Jimmy Senteza, associate professor of finance. “He expresses generally complex financial and economic concepts using contemporary phenomenon in a laid back fashion, enabling students to easily grasp them and relate them to what they see in the ‘real’ world.”

His teaching extends beyond the Drake campus as well. For the past five years, Root has led groups of Drake students in a three-week seminar in Uganda. He has helped strengthen the bond between Drake and its partner school in Uganda, Makerere University Business School. He is also active in the Des Moines community, serving as a consultant for a local wealth management firm and teaching courses through Drake’s Center for Professional Studies.

It is clear through his many honors and involvements, that teaching is truly Root’s first passion.

“I believe the most important quality for an instructor to possess cannot be learned or developed, but comes from within,” Root says. “The most important part of teaching comes from the heart.”