Business Law Professor Keeps It Real
Assistant Professor of Business Law
When you take a class with Professor Jamie Prenkert, you better be prepared for a little drama.
As part of his honors course L293 Legal Environment of Business, Prenkert, an assistant professor of business law, uses role-playing to teach his students about discrimination in the work place. He walks into the class as the vice president of human resources for a company called L293 Industries, and tells the class that the company has received a charge of discrimination from one of its workers. He instructs his “employees” to investigate the charge, summarize the issue, and write up a report with recommendations about how the company should proceed.
To make the situation even more real, Prenkert’s wife plays the role of the “victim,” a low-level marketing employee who claims she has been subjected to sexual harassment for two years. The class spends a day interviewing her and hearing her story—and then it’s up to each student to decide who’s right and who’s wrong. “This is not a case with clear-cut outcomes,” says Prenkert. “I’m really interested in my students’ recommendations based on their research. My goal is to show them the ambiguity that is inherent in this environment—especially when you’re dealing with humans and their memories.”
He should know. Prenkert is a graduate of Harvard Law School who worked for several years as a senior trial attorney with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where he handled many similar cases, from religious discrimination to racial harassment. His love of teaching—and the chance to have significant impact on young people’s lives—brought him to academia. His unorthodox teaching methods have won him much praise, including the Kelley School of Business Innovative Teaching Award.
Another innovative way he makes business law come to life for his students is the Work/Life/Law Blog. This is a public Weblog collaboration between Prenkert and his students that addresses current events and issues involving employment law and policy. “The blog can both deepen and broaden the class, and it gives students an incentive to write concisely and for public consumption,” says Prenkert. “I really feel that teaching is a partnership—I’m teaching my students, but I’m right there learning with them too.”
- What is the best thing about teaching?
“I really like challenging my students and seeing them rise to that challenge. It’s also really gratifying to get those e-mails after graduation that say ‘hey, look what I’m doing now.’”
- What are your hobbies?
“I play tennis on the clay courts at the Russell Road Racquet Club, and I really love film.”