To the world, Leigh Bauer is an attorney and a professor. To his students, however, Bauer is much more -- a friend and, sometimes, even a father-figure. Bauer began his teaching career in Wharton's Legal Studies Department over 40 years ago, even before he graduated from law school. He has a unique teaching philosophy, one that focuses on learning about the world by using critical thinking. "In my class, I bring everyday things to life," Bauer said. Students respond eagerly to this approach, often bringing up current news issues in class. Bauer is not easy on his students -- he strictly enforces attendance and requires class participation. But unlike most Wharton classes, Bauer refuses to grade on a curve. "Students graded on a curve aren't willing to help each other," Bauer explained. "If everyone masters the material, everyone should get As." Bauer shares his beliefs about college life and Penn with his students inside and outside the classroom. He encourages students to date, explaining that it is part of the college experience. Other issues that Bauer feels strongly about include underage drinking and litter, which he believes is the No. 1 problem at Penn. Explaining that the garbage left lying around campus only reflects poorly on Penn, Bauer said, "Everyone should be embarrassed by this litter. It reflects on our character." Bauer does more than just speak out about what he thinks and feels. He acts on those opinions as well. Former student Nhung Tran, now a graduate student in the History Department, explained how one of Bauer's practices influenced her. "Every day, after class, I would watch Professor Bauer walk around the classroom and pick up the trash the students had left behind," Tran said. With her own parents far away in Vietnam, Bauer and his wife took Tran, then an undergraduate student, under their wing to become her adopted family in Philadelphia. "They've provided moral support for me and opened their home to me," Tran said. Bauer, she said, instinctively steps beyond the norm for a professor-student relationship. But don't bother telling Bauer that there's anything remarkable about his attitude toward his students. "Bonding occurs naturally in my class -- I can't explain it," Bauer said. "Interplay with faculty and students is also very important to my wife and to me." Every Friday night, the Bauers dine with different members of the faculty or administration. They also commonly invite students to their home. "The Bauers are always inviting students to their home for Thanksgiving and other holidays. Leigh takes special notice of those students who cannot go to their own homes," Tran said. Students feel at ease with Bauer and take him up on his offer of accessibility. Indeed, one student called Bauer at his office at 5:15 a.m. last week, just to check if he was there. "It's all collaborative," College junior Adam Schiff explained, "and there is no lecturing. We help him come up with the answers." This is exactly the result Bauer desires -- for his students to learn to think critically on their own and also to realize that, for every situation in life, the answer is, "It depends." Bauer enjoys working with Penn students, describing them as "the cream of the crop." Preferring to teach undergraduates to MBA students, he explained that "My challenge here is to do more than just teach law." This is a challenge that, according to his students past and present, Bauer has met and surpassed. "His approach is different than any professor-student relationship I've ever seen," Schiff said. And Engineering freshman Rachael Palmer added her own praise for Bauer. "He's just great -- really interesting and an excellent teacher." Whether catching up with former students or discussing topical issues with current students, Bauer continues to deliver witty one-liners and tricky questions to those around him. But what he hopes his students will realize is that he is simply pushing them to be their best.Comments powered by Disqus
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