Professor of Business Economics,
Director of the Maine Health Research Institute (MHRI)
Ph.D., Florida State University
M.S., Florida State University
M.B.A., Plymouth State College
Professor of Business Economics Sheena Bunnell never planned on being a teacher. The New Delhi, India native and business graduate, was convinced she would end up in a corporate job working on Wall Street.
“My family was sad when I left, but my mother realized that continuing my education would be a great idea for me,” Bunnell said, ”Missing family, friends, lifestyle and culture was the most difficult part of leaving home and that is what I miss about India even today.”
Bunnell planned on embarking on that career by continuing her graduate studies in the United States at Florida State University.
“But it is interesting when I started working on my Ph.D. I started teaching and I found the level of satisfaction and enjoyment I got from teaching was incredible. It was exciting. Teaching a full schedule of classes was intense and I loved it so much,” Bunnell said.
“I love my students. UMF students are very appreciative. They are very passionate about their studies and very driven. They are very hard working. I find if they are motivated that they can do excellent work. And to me that’s the exciting piece — getting them motivated, getting them excited and getting them happy to do the work,” Bunnell said.
“If they work hard they will do well. I make my students very aware of that equation. I tell them repeatedly that their output is a function of their input I tell them the harder you work, the higher your grade, but it’s your choice. I’m here to help you navigate through this path, “Bunnell said.
Graduate with Job Market-Ready Skills
Whether it is a bull or bear economy, there is always a demand for business economics graduates, Bunnell said. And Bunnell works to prepare her students for their careers with her class projects.
“Students don’t always realize how highly valued a business degree is,” Bunnell said, “With it, one can get a job in almost any field.”
Bunnell encourages her students to choose class projects in the fields that they what to succeed in, so for example a student with an interest outdoor recreation might focus on eco-tourism. In her courses, Bunnell’s students will follow the stock mark, scrutinize federal regulations, monitor the Federal Reserve, evaluate markets, and review current events that could affect the market value of their selected product or service. Students then record and analyze their observations and research in a project portfolio, she explained.
“This way I’m teaching them economic theory and also how to apply it. My students end up with a portfolio that they can show a potential employer or graduate school that they can use statistical application subsets,” Bunnell said, “I tell my students when they go into a job interview; they must have their portfolio with them.”
Bunnell, who is also Director of the Maine Health Research Institute, uses her ongoing research projects and business contacts to give her students hands-on work experience and internship opportunities.
Bunnell vets her interns closely. Before meeting with executives for an internship interview, students have to meet with Bunnell for a mock interview that assesses their presentation and interview skills. This invaluable advice helps her student be more polished and professional when meeting business contacts who will mentor them during their internships and perhaps their careers.
Many of her recent graduates are finding jobs in the health care and finance, Bunnell said. Her business students have been able to use their internships at area hospital and banks as stepping stones to jobs in Augusta and Boston.
Health Information Systems Concentration
One of Bunnell’s latest innovations is the development of the Health Information Systems concentration. Students in this Interdisciplinary program take courses in Business, Community Health Education, and Computer Science with the goal of becoming analysts and administrators for hospitals and other healthcare providers. Health information analysts help doctors and nurses manage vital medical records and data.
A few years ago Bunnell organized a statewide event with healthcare providers and state officials to discover the demands for the future labor force, so schools could supply them with the necessary skills.
“It became clear to us that Maine, as well as the rest of the nation is suffering from structural unemployment. The jobs are available but people don’t have the skills for them; they don’t have the necessary educational background,” Bunnell said.
“State officials told me how important it was to have students trained in health information systems, so that’s where it all started,” Bunnell explained,“ Right now, there’s a huge demand for individuals with skills in business, health, and IT (information technology). These are the hot fields.”
Bunnell added that the need for people educated in Heath Information Systems extends beyond Maine and is a nationwide trend.
That’s $15 Trillion Dollars
An ever-changing economy means that Bunnell’s classes are constantly updated. In her Consumer Behavior course, Bunnell and her students will look at market trends after the Great Recession and how are consumers behaving in the post-recession era.
“For instance the U.S. economy is worth about $15 trillion dollars out of which about $10 trillion is allocated to consumption so what I teach is why we consume what we consume. What are the drivers, what are the motivators of spending? It’s questions like that keeps things interesting,” Bunnell said.
And Bunnell has her students to looking at global markets. Business goes beyond borders and understanding global interdependence is vital for future entrepreneurs and financiers whether they are working for their own small business or a Fortune 500 company, she said.
“What is most important is that students today have to recognize that competition is global and they have to be prepared to do it all. They have to focus, research, get creative and get the job done to be successful in a global market. I try to get them to embrace this global model, but practice it locally,” Bunnell said.
“As things change you have to be very dynamic you can’t be static you have keep changing and figure out what the trends are and was the market demands are,” Bunnell added.
A Student-Centered School
One of the qualities Bunnell likes best about UMF is that it is a dynamic, student-centered university where the focus is on teaching and help students.
“UMF allows students to really grow and develop. We encourage students to follow their dreams and passions. I think that’s an important characteristic of UMF,” Bunnell said.
Faculty regularly work to help students develop Individualized majors. Recently one student sought Bunnell’s advice on how to combine her interest in Business Psychology and Health Information Systems.
“It’s a very collaborative atmosphere. And faculty is very accessible” Bunnell added.
Bunnell added that the UMF also provides students with a strong liberal arts education.
“A liberal arts education allows people to become well-versed in critical thinking skills. It teaches people to become life-long learners. I think a liberal arts education allow you to develop marketable facets to your knowledge and helps steer you into any career path once you graduate from college,” Bunnell said.
Planting a Seed
Bunnell likes living in rural Maine with its natural beauty. The picturesque lakes and mountains of Maine remind her of her childhood vacations in Kashmir, an area in India renown for its scenic vistas. When Bunnell is not in the classroom, she’s probably in her garden.
“I like to garden. It’s my passion and when I’m gardening it reminds me of teaching. It’s the same process you plant a seed and watch it blossom. It’s the same with my students. I meet them when they are very young and share the seeds of learning and then I get to watch them bloom. Thanks to Facebook, I’ve stayed in touch with many of my former students and see how well there are doing,” Bunnell said.
“At the end of the day it’s about the students and when my student say thank you for teaching me, that’s my biggest inspiration,” Bunnell said.