When Russell Lacey was a child, he had no mentors to show him the way to college. He had no idea what he could be, or how to get there. It made his eventual dream of becoming a college professor a bit of a challenge.
"I am the first member of my family to earn a college degree so I experienced first-hand the profound impact that higher education can make on changing the trajectory of people's lives," says Lacey, Ph.D. "I can honestly attribute my education as the gateway to all the success I have enjoyed in my career. I didn't have mentors in the family to inspire or encourage me to think about careers that require college degrees, much less ones requiring advanced graduate degrees."
But there was always something inside of him thirsting for knowledge.
"I am humble but I have a great deal of inner confidence in my abilities because of where I came from," he says. "I hope I can help inspire students to love learning as much as I do and to take full advantage of their education."
Now, Lacey is the Director of the Center for International Business and an associate professor of Marketing in Xavier's Williams College of Business. For seven years he has taught undergraduate, MBA, and Executive MBA courses, primarily focusing in the areas of Marketing Strategy, Business Ethics, and Services Marketing.
And it's his desire to deliver that drives him today. He wants his students to learn, and he wants them to enjoy learning. In order to accomplish that, he uses different techniques to make his lessons memorable, like taking his classes to major corporations as well as bringing different speakers to them.
"At the undergraduate level, students will pick actual businesses to conduct marketing audits and are expected to interview business people as a part of that work," he says. "I also routinely bring in at least two guest speakers for each undergrad course I teach. For my Marketing Services course, our classes have taken place at Great American Ballpark to meet with marketers working for the Cincinnati Reds, and at Cintas Center to learn about how Xavier delivers on a great fan experience at men's basketball games."
After years of working as a healthcare marketer, Xavier is exactly where Lacey hoped to be, he said.
"I yearned to work as a college professor," he says. "And after teaching at the University of New Orleans for eight years, I joined Xavier because of its deep-rooted Jesuit traditions to educate not only intellectually, but morally and spiritually as well. As a scholar, my ongoing research on corporate social responsibility is aligned with Xavier's mission."
Now, the married father of three is the author of (since 2006) more than 25 scholarly articles and is the current recipient of the D.J. O'Conor Professorship, the most prestigious award given for exceptional academic achievement by the Williams College of Business.
"I love that I have the great privilege to perpetually work with young, bright and talented students," he says. "As a lifelong learner, I am given the resources to expand and evolve my knowledge and share it with others."
His students will work with a variety of organizations, ranging from a small fair trade retailer, a local provider of social services and a large downtown hotel and restaurant, to very large multi-national companies, including industry leaders in eye wear and chewing gum.
"Students see the relevance and practicality of what I teach," he says. "I draw from my years of professional experience and my current research work to bring to life the value of what we are learning together.
"Xavier has a rich tradition of business education excellence," he continues. "Xavier's business faculty are outstanding teachers with long track records of cultivating the lives of our students. We value each individual student we have the privilege to work with."