I don’t consider teaching work. There’s nothing else I would want to do.
A leap from conducting physics research to teaching accounting and finance might seem daunting, but for Professor Adam Schwartz, the inaugural Holmes Professor of Management, the choice to change careers midstream was clear.
"I had two roads that diverged, and I had to choose," says Schwartz, who was an optical engineer working on missile-related defense projects until the 1990s, when he returned to school to study business.
"My work on missile guidance systems wasn't as altruistic as I would have liked," he notes. "Instead, I picked the career I would've chosen if I'd won the lottery, and I've never regretted it. I don't consider teaching work. There's nothing else I would want to do."
Schwartz's varied research, which focuses on financial modeling, option pricing and finance pedagogy, is both theoretical and in some cases practical. For example, he helped a former student perfect the payout tables for the World Series of Poker, taking a computational approach similar to algorithms used by many bond portfolio managers.
Schwartz has also written a computer program that compares the price patterns of current stocks with patterns exhibited by all stocks ever traded in the U.S. to determine if the patterns exhibited in the past can prove predictive. "If you consider the price graph for a given stock and then search the graphs for every stock traded since 1926 for the best match, do the patterns repeat like wallpaper?" he asks. Along with his co-authors, Schwartz found that stocks with highly positive matched data significantly outperformed stocks with poorly performing matched patterns.
In the classroom, Schwartz strives to make complicated material accessible, a task that comes naturally to him. Teaching, he says, is intrinsic to his personality — a realization he had while attending a lecture on color theory. "I remember watching the instructor and thinking, 'This isn't just what I want to do. That person in the front of the room, explaining how a color TV works — that's who I am.' Hopefully, every student will have that same kind of epiphany."
Toward that end, Schwartz encourages students from across disciplines to explore finance and accounting classes.
"You get exposure to a breadth of opportunities at a liberal arts school like Bucknell," he says. "My job is to make finance less intimidating for students, so they can see if they'd like to make it a career."
Posted August 2018