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1. Who are you?Phil Dawson

Greetings!  My name is Phil Dawson, and I am the Academic Program Manager of the undergraduate Finance program at Post University.  I am a native of Pittsburgh, PA, but I’ve lived in Connecticut essentially since early high school (30 plus years). I am an alumnus of Connecticut College where I earned a BA in psychology with a second self-designed concentration in medical science.  I also hold an MBA in Finance from The University of Connecticut, and I’m currently enrolled in the Ph.D. in Personal Financial Planning at Kansas State University.  My research interest focuses on the concept of predicting the propensity of financial planning activity based on correlations to investment risk tolerance and personality type(s) of professional athletes in the United States.

2. What are some personal and professional achievements?

Personal achievements include the transformation of a mere avocation (coaching competitive athletics) into a five-year career as varsity track & field coach at a local Connecticut high school, as well as a two-year stint as head varsity football coach at the same school. It was not my original plan to transition from volunteer coach status to contracted head coach of either sport; however, the experience was very enriching, both personally and professionally.

Professionally, I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying successful career tenure in the sectors of Risk Management & Insurance, Investment Management, and now Education. Also, I am one of the very few individuals who can say that I worked in BOTH towers of the World Trade Center, above the 100th floor, between 1993 and 2000 (wedged between both terror attacks).  Every day, I take stock and thank God that I am alive and well, despite two very close calls in that regard.  In terms of health care related activities, I’ve had the pleasure of serving first as Vice President of the Board of Directors, then transitioning to a one-year stint as Interim CEO of Hartford Behavioral Healthcare. Finally, my wife and I have successfully purchased the CT operations of America’s Best Eyeglasses and Contacts, operated as a small joint venture.  We later sold the operations, assets, and patient lists to a local medical group of Ophthalmologists.

3. Why did you get into education?

After selling our business interest, I was fortunate to become a Certified Contract Advisor to the NFL Players’ Association.  By reading my background, it should come as a surprise to no one that athletics is beyond a passing interest for me, it is an avocation of sorts, which I was able to vicariously extend through my doctoral research.  The experience (becoming an NFL Agent) was both enriching and infuriating at once. My focus quickly shifted from player contracts to money management services.  I successfully launched a sole-practice investment management practice under the auspice of my employer at the time, Morgan Stanley using my client base of professional football players as the starting point and core market segment.

Of course, the market crash of 2008 caused turmoil not only in the markets but also in the money management business.  The subsequent economic retrenchment and market correction proved very punishing to small, sole-practitioner financial advisers such as myself. Ultimately, I’ve never lost my passion for athletics, nor for markets. The field of higher education was a natural transition for me.

My diverse employment background allows me to bring context and practical application to the subject of finance from the standpoint of both corporate finance and investments.  Teaching and coaching provide a natural synergy with my professional background and personal interests; same holds true of my doctoral research focus.

4. What type of students will succeed in your program?

Students who have an intellectual curiosity about how economic value is created by a firm or students who are perhaps curious about the process of managing and preserving the trans-generational wealth of individuals or families will be very successful in this program. It is also helpful for students to have at least a fundamental comfort level with basic moderate math concepts and basic algebra.  

5. When do you begin noticing that your students have that ‘aha’ moment?

That ‘aha’ moment often becomes evident as students begin to work and solve homework problems, or complete projects in the first or second Finance course.  I refer to that ‘aha’ moment as the ‘moment of triumphant bliss.’  Our students who go on to become Finance majors are discovering, perhaps for the first time in their academic experience, the intersection of the math concepts they learned in high school with real world financial problem solving on a practical, every-day level.  I can tell you as an educator, it’s a magic moment!

Bonus question:

6. Where do you see the field in which you teach going in the next 5 years?

Finance, and the understanding of money, wealth, and value, are ubiquitous to our society.  The knowledge is both ephemeral and foundational. I see tremendous growth in the field, especially with respect to wealth planning and retirement management, driven by the changing demographics associated with the aging of the global baby-boom population.

Phil Dawson is the Academic Program Manager for the Finance program at Post University. Dawson earned his M.B.A. from the University of Connecticut and is currently enrolled for his Ph.D. in Personal Finance Planning at Kansas State University.