Mike Gold

Mike Gold brings a global perspective to his lectures to students in the Montana State University College of Business. Gold is a former international ad exec who shares real-world

It is the late afternoon, that devil's triangle time of the academic world, when the day wanes and so do students' attention. Except in the classroom of Mike Gold, who is teaching a Montana State University College of Business class on introduction to global markets that includes students from 15 different majors.

Gold's 40 students are engaged in a spirited lecture about the alphabet soup of contemporary global trade blocks. Students from Mexico and Montana debate the merits of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). A student from a small Western town gives a presentation on the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN).

"I tell my students that if there is anything that is important to learn how to do in the real world, it is to give a good presentation," Gold says.

The real world, especially beyond the sheltering mountains of Southwest Montana, is something Gold knows well. A former president for the international advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi, and several other multi-national firms, Gold built an international reputation as he managed accounts for such companies as FedEx, and Pizza Hut. He's lived on three continents and has definite opinions about why it is important to open Montana students to the world.

"I have kids the same age as these students' so I think I can relate to them," says Gold, who still calls himself a Londoner, although his "West End" home is now in Gallatin Gateway. "Hopefully they can learn from someone who has global experience and has traveled to some 70 countries."

Learn they do.

"Mike Gold brings an extra-ordinary level of talent and experience to the College of Business classroom," says Rich Semenik, dean of the College of Business. "He spent 20 years with the most prestigious global advertising agency in the world and directed notable campaigns for Mars Candies and Heineken beer. Our students are getting one of the best practitioners anyone could hope to have as an instructor--anywhere in the world."

"Students adore Mike," says Susan Dana, assistant COB dean in charge of academic affairs. "He has a hilarious sense of humor, incomparable experience and demands a lot from his students. They know they are incredibly lucky to be learning from Mike and (they) work hard for him."

Gold might have retired to some tropical clime, rather in Montana, were it not for what he calls "A City Slickers Moment." Gold said that most of his life was spent in airports and on international flights away from his wife and three children.

"But we had great vacations," Gold said. "We were living in L.A. and visited a dude ranch in Montana. My wife, who is Welsh and prefers mountains to skyscrapers, fell in love with Montana and said, 'We could live here.' And that's how we came out."

The family moved to Gateway two years ago. Gold spent a year fishing and golfing, until he ran into MSU business professor Mike Reilly, who also lives in the outlying community. When Reilly heard about Gold's work in London, San Francisco, Auckland, New York and L.A , he suggested Gold consider teaching. The idea appealed to Gold, who thought he could provide practical advice to students.

"I immediately loved it," Gold recalls. He said when he first started teaching a year ago he spent hours laboring over lesson plans. While he's a bit more relaxed now, "my classes are very, very structured. After all, I am English."

Gold also has a fine sense of how to involve students.

"Is admitting Turkey to the European Union a good or bad idea?" He quizzes a student from Turkey about her opinion, asks for a hand vote of students' opinions, all the while swigging from a bottle of Gatorade.

In addition to the class on global markets, he teaches an advanced course in advertising that includes senior marketing majors as well as selected students from the MSU Graphics Arts program. The end-result is a nation-wide advertising campaign and competition. Last year, the MSU team was third in the region and won the peer award for the best presentation. One student who participated in the competition got an instant job offer from one of the judges. The student's parents told Gold at graduation that he had engaged their son when no other class had, and that Gold had changed their son's life.

The experience also changed Gold's life. Prior to the competition, he asked several representatives from local advertising agencies to come and see the students present their work at a dress rehearsal. Murray Steinman of Flying Horse Communications, one of the participants, later asked Gold to be the CEO of the company. Gold accepted as long as he still had time to teach at MSU.

"I'm passionate about advertising and the fun is when you do a great job, where ever you do it," Gold said. "Whether it's a global ad for Heineken or a local ad for NorthWestern Energy, the challenges of communication are similar, and that's what is interesting."

Gold says his wife loves living in Montana and he has also found life here rewarding.

"I'm teaching a subject I know inside-out and a subject I enjoy," he said. "I do it because I really want to make a difference, somehow. And I think teaching is how I can do it."

By Carol Schmidt - MSU News Services