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Peter Jennings, a new management professor, poses powerfully. Hannah Kwapisz / Collegian
Peter Jen­nings, a new man­agement pro­fessor, poses pow­er­fully. Hannah Kwapisz / Col­legian

Assistant Pro­fessor of Man­agement Peter Jen­nings said he learned the meaning of lead­ership, when he served in the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

“My class teaches lead­ership, some­thing you can’t evaluate through a written test,” Jen­nings said. “It’s some­thing learned through expe­rience, whether on the bat­tle­field or on the bas­ketball court, only later rec­og­nized as impulse deci­sions that could forever impact lives.”

Coming from Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara Uni­versity in Cal­i­fornia, Jen­nings brought his expe­rience and knowledge as a thrice-deployed Marine Infantry Platoon leader to Hillsdale College this semester, when he joined the expanding business department to teach what it means to be a leader.

“Man­agement is not a tech­nical subject,” Jen­nings said. “The chal­lenge is han­dling people and pol­itics within it. I agreed to teach lead­ership here because my expe­rience at business schools taught the idea that business edu­cation is missing some­thing.”

That human element shows in coursework and classes through engaging lec­tures and self-reflective papers, senior Kie Kababik said.

“Espe­cially in a business setting, Pro­fessor Jen­nings stresses that the well-being of a company lies within the hap­piness of the employees,” Kababik said. “It’s more important to under­stand how to work toward a goal with people rather than coerce them with fear if they don’t hit that goal. That’s the dif­ference between a leader and a boss.”

Having earned his bachelor’s in eco­nomics from Miami Uni­versity, his master’s in business admin­is­tration in supply chain man­agement from Michigan State Uni­versity, and a doc­torate in man­agement from Arizona State Uni­versity, Jen­nings said he knows his approach to man­agement training is unique.

“I can’t teach business like this any­where else,” he said. “Michigan State Uni­versity stu­dents will graduate with a lot of tech­nical knowledge having read about Lloyd Blankfein, while our stu­dents will graduate with knowledge of Marcus Aurelius and what virtue is. Blankfein may be the CEO of Goldman Sachs, but Aurelius was the CEO of the Roman Empire.”

Jen­nings comes from a family of leaders. His three brothers were a CEO and chief financial officers of medical sup­plies and instru­ments com­panies, but Jen­nings made his mark else­where.

“The cor­porate life wasn’t for me,” he said. “My brothers always talked about pres­ti­gious posi­tions and company events, but the idea of having a desk job ter­rified me. I was a lousy student and pre­ferred engaging activ­ities like hockey and lacrosse over aca­d­emics.”

Instead, Jen­nings worked in hard disk drive man­u­fac­turing for Inter­na­tional Business Machines in Asia and Thailand. After serving in the mil­itary, he was a research director for the U.S. Army Center for the Army Pro­fession and Ethic at the U.S. Mil­itary Academy at West Point in New York state.

He served in the Gulf War from 1990 – 1991, in Iraq from 2004 – 2005, and in Afghanistan in 2010.

When Jen­nings came to Hillsdale after applying for his position, he taught a class for a panel of judges, which included stu­dents and faculty.

“We were all impressed with his demeanor in how he handled the classroom,” business and eco­nomics department chairman David Paas said. “His teaching expe­rience at West Point def­i­nitely gleamed through his lecture, and Dr. Larry Arnn specif­i­cally hired him to teach lead­ership.”

And those lessons are going to focus on the rela­tional aspects of lead­ership, Jen­nings said.

“In business, life happens,” he said. “Strife, mar­riages, divorces, and ambition cloud the work­place, but you must get people to coop­erate. That’s not taught in business school. Any­where from Homer to ‘Beowulf’ is the essence of business. You must inte­grate life lessons taught by classic lit­er­ature to win the game of business.”