Gilbert wins 2010 Paccar Award for Excellence in Teaching

Thomas Gilbert, an assistant professor of finance at the University of Washington Foster School of Business, has won the 2010 Paccar Award for Excellence in Teaching.

The Foster School’s highest teaching honor was established in 1998 by Paccar Inc, the Seattle-based global technology leader in the capital goods and financial services markets. The annual recipient is selected by a panel of Foster MBA students.

Gilbert joined the Foster School in 2008 after earning his PhD from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. There, he applied his early study of physics toward the understanding of financial markets as complex systems where investors take the place of electrons. Personal economics dictated that he also teach early on, and Gilbert earned the outstanding graduate student instructor award three years in a row.


Gilbert’s Paccar Award-winning performance came in his first year leading the Foster School’s MBA core finance class and its pastiche of students entering with something between zero finance experience and five years in investment banking.

The result? “He kept everyone challenged—both investment bankers and people new to finance,” wrote one nominating student.

“Everything we did was 100% useful,” offered another.

And another: “Thomas achieved a consistently high level of engagement, higher than any of our other classes. You couldn’t slack off in his class and you didn’t want to.”

Tough love

Students could not slack off because of his exacting classroom style. Gilbert employs many techniques and technologies, his most effective being his tendency to “cold call” on students, put them on the spot to present and solve business cases as a means of persuasion to adopt his cardinal rule: be prepared.

“I don’t do this to be a hard on them,” he says. “Businesses are becoming more and more quantitative. And you have to be able to communicate on the spot, explain the data in simple and accurate terms.”

If he demands much, Gilbert provides even more. He equips students with materials in every medium possible. And he’s already renowned for his accessibility and ability to explain the trickiest concepts (MBAs at Berkeley nicknamed him “Is It Clear?” in honor of his comprehensive elucidations).

Gilbert’s research continues to explore the complex vagaries of the financial markets. His current work analyzes the impact of macroeconomic announcements on financial markets.

“I love doing research, but it’s quite solitary,” Gilbert says. “I therefore thrive on the interaction of the classroom. I work extremely hard to prepare for class and I find nothing more rewarding than giving students as much energy as possible. It’s exhausting at the end of the day, but it’s a great exhaustion.”

Previous Paccar Award Winners

Karma Hadjimichalakis (1998)
Stephan Sefcik (1999)
Elizabeth Stearns (2000)
Jennifer Koski (2001)
Ali Tarhouni (2002)
Robert Higgins (2003)
Jane Kennedy (2004)
Daniel Turner (2005)
Mark Forehand (2006)
Mark Hillier (2007)
Jennifer Koski (2008)
Shailendra Jain (2009)

*All 12 Paccar Award winners remain full-time members of the Foster School of Business faculty.

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