Dr. Ariel Belasen had no plans to follow in the footsteps of his dad, Alan, by becoming a college professor. But, it turns out those academic shoes fit perfectly.
“I started doing some teaching in grad school and enjoyed it,” he said. “I liked seeing how everyone was learning and watching their eyes light up as they picked up new concepts. I switched away from thinking about working in the private sector to getting a Ph.D. That was it.”
Dr. Belasen recently completed his 15th year as a professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) after teaching for one year at St. Louis University to launch his professional career.
He teaches two core courses: Quantitative Analysis and Managerial Economics and an elective, Health Economics & Policy, in the online Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs at SIUE.
“I had that upbringing for becoming a professor with my dad, so it was a natural move,” he said. “He was one of the early adopters of online learning. He was the first at his university, SUNY Empire State College, to adopt online learning to his MBA program.
“When we had the chance to start doing some online teaching here at SIUE, I volunteered quickly. Through him, I knew some of the different strategies and best practices. It was nice to see what works outside of what I’ve done and combine it with the different things I have been doing.”
No Arbitrary Decision
Born in Jerusalem, Israel, and raised in upstate New York, Dr. Belasen graduated with a bachelor’s degree in labor and industrial relations from Cornell University in 2001.
“I wanted to become an arbitrator for Major League Baseball, but…there are a limited number of people who get to do that,” he said. “I had full intentions of going to law school.
“When the Jerry Maguire movie came out, everybody wanted to become a sports agent. It became highly competitive. I didn’t want to take a chance on my career.”
Baseball’s loss is academia’s gain. Dr. Belasen has seen the online MBA programs at SIUE go from humble beginnings to teaching students from across the globe. He earned his master’s degree (2004) and Ph.D. (2008) in economics at Binghamton University.
“When we started teaching online, it was an alternative to help students if they needed to fit an extra course into their schedules,” he said. “They were all local students. With this program now, we are getting students from all over, although a lot of them are from the Chicagoland area.
“It’s neat getting the different perspectives. You have to make the most of it. You can’t just rely on a discussion board and tell them, ‘Hey, post here once a week.’ If you are not going to engage in them, they are not going to want to engage with you or with each other.”
Dr. Belasen said that MBA students at SIUE gain insight for the real world via a hands-on approach to the coursework and projects.
“In the Quantitative Analysis course, rather than saying, ‘Here are some things we can do in Microsoft Excel,’ I have them put together proposals for business clients I worked for as a consultant or businesses that I know of,” he said. “I give them mock scenarios for the businesses.
“They get some real experience about how to do a quantitative consulting project or analytics project. They get to experience that through a team scenario where each one has a different role, like an analytics team would have if they were working for that particular company.”
Home Away From Home
Even though Dr. Belasen did not believe he would ever be a college professor, he’s happy everything worked out the way that it did.
In addition to his work in the MBA program, he teaches an undergraduate globalization course and has become a St. Louis Cardinals fan after spending 15 years in the area.
“I love to travel and see new places,” he said. “It’s always cool to see these different places I teach about in the globalization course. I have taught up and down the curriculum since I have been at SIUE. I stepped in and picked up a lot of courses.
“Before COVID-19, we used to go home to Israel every year. It’s been tough. We haven’t had a chance to go. We are going to go this December if everything works out.”
Dr. Belasen — whose research areas include corruption, labor, health, econometrics and market shocks — believes one of the most important things any student can do while in the online MBA programs is network.
“More than the skills, it’s the contacts,” he said. “In an online MBA, you’re not seeing people face-to-face, but through this program, you have people from all over the country, and some international, so you’re able to build up these contacts.
“Hopefully, you can leverage that into different opportunities to take part in entrepreneurial activity or a job at a company. It’s rewarding for me to see that happen.”
Learn more about SIUE’s online MBA programs.