MBA Program

The Finance Expert who Started out in Biology

Four years ago, Professor Dr. Garen Markarian started teaching at WHU. Previously he has taught at IE Business School, HEC, Bocconi, Concordia, Rice University, and Case Western Reserve. An award-winning teacher, Professor Markarian understands that to get the best out of his students, he needs to adapt his teaching style to new cultures around the world.

WHU Garen Markarian MBA

I was on track to become a medical doctor, but soon found that medicine wasn’t for me. I really enjoyed student life and was keen to find a new study path. Then, I got a scholarship in accounting and stayed in the field for 22 years. Let’s call it serendipity.

Every business school I’ve taught in has had an MBA Program in the Financial Times top 100. In total, I’ve taught in seven countries – Madrid, Paris, Milan, Montreal, Houston, Cleveland, and now Germany. Each experience has improved my understanding of people, cultures, and organizations.

I was the first regional economic officer for the United Nations in 2011. As a team, we provided country-specific economic recommendations to the countries involved in the ‘Arab Spring’. We focused our analysis on the general business climate, the development of capital markets and the banking system, and the activities of private equity and investment funds.

The dedication of the students at WHU is unparalleled to anywhere else I have ever seen. Working with mature students is particularly enjoyable as they appreciate the difficulty of the task at hand. And, in general, experienced students are more interesting people!

The first class I ever taught in 1999 was a night class. I was so nervous that I finished the preparation the day before. Despite that, I still couldn’t sleep until the class was over and so missed out on a night of sleep.

Teaching used to be much more challenging. Now it is much more routine. I once had a class full of high-level executives, including CEOs and CFOs. I had a three-hour time slot and dedicated three full weeks to the preparation. The first 30 minutes went well, and I finally relaxed a bit. Throughout my teaching career I’ve had the occasional difficult moment – an aggressive student, frequent ‘my dog ate my homework’-type students, and I also taught the youngest son of Lieutenant Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

The educational landscape will greatly change by 2028. Nothing is stopping the invention of incredible software that eliminates the need for 90% of what we do as teachers. I have seen software that is frighteningly human, and that are programmed to answer the vast majority of questions that finance students have. I’ve even seen similar software for non-technical classes such as leadership that simulates the presence of other virtual co-students.

Country characteristics are not to be underestimated. I adjust my teaching style every single time I change countries. If I do what I do here in Spain, I would fail miserably, and vice-versa. This applies to the learning methods students prefer and are comfortable with, as well as how much preparation students do before class and how they are graded.

I take particular care in ensuring that most of the students’ learning is not textbook based. After 20 years of teaching and following industry, you gain a lot of interesting insights. Hard work, ethics, inspiration – these can’t be covered well in accounting textbooks.

In my four years teaching here, the MBA Program has almost been completely transformed. The program is constantly developing. Previously, classes were 80% German and now they are less than 10%. The Part-Time program naturally contains more local students. To accommodate this minor difference, my teaching is slightly different even between the Full-Time and Part-Time programs at WHU.