From the Courtroom to the Classroom

Cliff Fisher lays down the law

If the growing pool of undergraduates and recent alumni who’ve taken Krannert’s core course in business law formed a jury, the verdict would be unanimous in favor of Cliff Fisher.

Fisher, clinical associate professor of management and academic director for Krannert undergraduate programs, was welcomed into the Purdue Teaching Academy this spring as one of five recipients of the 2011 Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Awards in Memory of Charles B. Murphy.

For Fisher, teaching business law is about challenging students to push their boundaries, question what they learn and then apply it to their lives.

“I’m here to assist the students’ understanding of the material and then to help them apply it to real situations,” Fisher says. “I want them to be able to analyze and think critically about what they come in contact with in life. On the first day of class, I talk to the students about their interests and experiences, and I draw on these experiences in my lessons.

Fisher aims to challenge all of his students, but he says helping struggling students gives him the most satisfaction.

Cliff Fisher

Cliff Fisher (Photo by Mark Simons)

“I enjoy seeing the look on a student’s face when they start to understand a new concept,” he says. “It energizes me.”

Fisher, who has been at Krannert since 2005 and serves as area coordinator for business law, also teaches for Krannert Executive Education Programs (KEEP) and at GISMA Business School in Hannover, Germany.

Before moving from the courtroom to the classroom, Fisher was an assistant city attorney in Bellingham, Wash., and a risk manager in California for the city of Fresno’s finance department. Prior to coming to Purdue, he served as a professor and chair in the Department of Economics and Business at Hanover (Indiana) College.

“My focus has always been the knowledge of law rather than the practice of law, and I’ve also worked as a manager,” Fisher says. “While I was completing my MBA, I had a fellowship to help pay for my education, and that sparked my interest in teaching.”

Along with his classroom work, Fisher is faculty advisor for Beta Gamma Sigma, the business international honor society, and Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity. He also counsels students considering law school.

Fisher has received the student-chosen Krannert Undergraduate Outstanding Teacher Award three times. He has never received an instructor rating below 4.7 on a five-point scale, and business law is the highest-rated undergraduate area within Krannert.

“I think of myself as a guide for my students,” he says. “Working with them causes me to look more closely at where we’ve been and where we need to go.”

According to Pablo Puente, a Krannert junior who plans to go to law school, Fisher’s knowledge of the subject material is surpassed only by his passion for teaching it. “Professor Fisher has been a great mentor to me,” Puente says. “I can always turn to him for advice and support.”