Professor Robert Drevs joined the Notre Dame family as a student in 1962. He then returned as a faculty member in 1975 and, after entering the business world and teaching elsewhere, returned in 1992 and has remained since. Having experienced the past five decades of the university’s life, Drevs has seen tremendous growth in all aspects from the curriculum to the student body, the business school to the Marketing Department—and has never let his presence in the Notre Dame community falter.
A Student in the '60s...
After spending the beginning of his academic career studying the liberal arts, Drevs was won over to the business school after hearing a marketing presentation given by Professor John Kennedy. Soon thereafter Drevs had officially declared himself a marketing major and became Prof. Kennedy’s teaching assistant, a position he would retain his junior and senior years as well.
At the time, the business school had just recently been renamed the College of Business Administration, and was located in the Hurley building on South Quad. More importantly for students like Drevs, the Marketing Department had recently undergone a foundational change in its approach to teaching that became a hallmark development in the department’s history. Previously, marketing had been taught on a functional basis, in which concepts such as retailing and pricing were addressed on functional, rather than management-oriented, terms. While this approach had technical merit, it did little to aid in understanding the real-world application and implications of various marketing decisions.
Under the influence of Professor E. Jerome McCarthy, one of the most prominent leaders in marketing thought, the department caught on to a budding trend in academic marketing and shifted its teaching approach to a managerial perspective. This involved integrating concepts like planning, strategy, and tactics into the study of marketing in order better to model the implications of marketing operations within a business and the marketplace. With the aid of his own textbook on marketing management, one of the first of its kind, Prof. McCarthy developed a course of the same theme in the business school—a class that spurred the curriculum transformation throughout the Marketing Department.
On a larger scale, the business school was also experiencing major changes. Physically, the Hayes-Healey extension to the Hurley building expanded the college, and organizationally, the school was beginning to develop its own MBA program. These two advances merged in the structure of the new building, which was mainly composed of horseshoe-shaped tiered classrooms conducive to the discussion-orientation of MBA classes.
While Drevs was a student, the business school prospered, especially in its ability to prepare its students for competing in the job market after graduation. Drevs remembers there being tremendous demand for the Notre Dame business graduate: “[Companies] were really looking for us. The guys who had graduated in previous years were really doing well at the companies they went to work for, so we already had a good name for our education.” He recognizes that this reputation still holds true for today’s graduates, but feels that the pressure of a tighter job market has current students too focused on life after school. “Notre Dame offers a world-class education,” he says. “But the students who will reap the real benefits of this are those who retain the focus on their studies while they are still here.”
While a student, Drevs took full advantage of both formal and informal education, the latter being mainly his involvement as a member, and eventual president, of Marketing Club. Much like it does today, this extracurricular organization provided its members with valuable real-world experience to supplement in-class learning. The club sponsored the Gilbert Lecture Series, which allowed major retailers and manufacturers to share their personal business-world insights with the students, and took regular field trips to prominent advertising agencies in the region. Members were even involved in special projects like designing marketing campaigns for interested companies, allowing students to put their practical marketing knowledge to use while still in school.
A Professor in the '70s...
In 1975, Drevs was recruited to the Notre Dame Marketing faculty to teach Buyer Behavior, which would eventually become a requirement for all Marketing majors. Upon his return to Notre Dame, he immediately noticed three major changes in the school’s identity: women were now on campus, the MBA program had been strengthened and stabilized, and the university as a whole was transitioning from a teaching-oriented to a research-oriented philosophy. As a new professor, Drevs welcomed all of these improvements and felt that their contributions to the university were significant.
“The growth of the university could even be seen in the student body itself: there were women, there were MBA candidates from other undergraduate institutions, there were students willing and wanting to be different. Back [when I was a student], it was a much more homogenous and sheltered student body,” Drevs reflects. “Now, it’s a lot more diverse—the students have so many different interests and backgrounds, and they have a lot more personality.”
Drevs appreciated that the classroom had also become more diverse. When he first began teaching in the business school, only business students were allowed to take marketing courses. With his new perspective as a professor, Drevs recognized that he needed students from other colleges in his classes in order to foster the intellectual interaction of students with various backgrounds in an academic setting. He argued that students majoring in fields like psychology, sociology, and economics could offer his business students different vantage points on the material, and therefore provide them with a more holistic understanding of marketing. When course offerings eventually opened up to a broader range of majors, marketing students could still retain their main focus on business with the added advantage of hearing challenges and support from related disciplines.
A Veteran Professor Today...
Throughout the decades, Drevs has seen a cohesive evolution of the Marketing Department that involves the students, faculty, and curriculum transitioning in concert with the business world. He believes that the courses focused on the field’s core concepts—namely, Principles of Marketing, Buyer Behavior, and Marketing Research—have not changed much due to their fundamental nature; therefore, the real growth of the department stems from new course development and differentiated faculty expertise. Both of these elements of the department develop from the progression of the real marketing world, as evidenced by an experience Drevs had in the mid-90s: “I began teaching a portion of my MBA Promotions class on how to market on the Internet… eventually, that portion became its own course—Internet Marketing.” Specialized courses like this have kept the Marketing Department up-to-date with the material its students will need in the business world.
Being involved with Notre Dame on so many levels—as a student, faculty member, and father of a student—and through so many growth stages in the university’s life, has provided Professor Drevs with a lifetime of experiences and an overwhelming appreciation. In a final reflection on his time here, Drevs reveals his hope for present and future members of the Notre Dame family: “This is a special place—for me, and for everyone who experiences it. One cannot be a part of Notre Dame without giving it the amount of respect and admiration it deserves.”
Article written by Alexandria Miller
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