Like most university educators, David Summers spends his time organizing lessons, engaging students and preparing them for life outside the classroom. What makes his story different is distance.
Some of his students are thousands of miles away.
The University of Houston-Victoria associate professor teaches master’s courses in economic development and entrepreneurship. The specialized program takes place entirely online.
“There are no face-to-face classes,” he said of the study track that began in fall 2006. “Because of that, most of my students are not in Victoria. I have them scattered all over.”
Summers said his students have included residents of Moscow and the Philippines, as well as some stationed at overseas military bases. Courses cater to all time zones because, although they include class discussion, they don’t require everyone to be in the same place at the same time.
While it might be a bit untraditional, Summers said the system has its benefits.
“You’re able to get a real variety of perspectives,” he said, noting a student in Russia offered classmates a look at Moscow’s market, and how things differed from the United States. “That’s one of the beauties of online.”
Summers was born in Houston and raised in Ingram, a small town near Kerrville. He earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Texas Tech University and went on to earn a master’s degree in finance from West Texas A&M University.
Through the years he worked as a distribution design engineer and later owned businesses in consulting, wholesale retail merchandising and real estate.
When he returned to school to pursue a doctorate in organization theory and strategy in the mid-1990s, Summers took weekly flights between his home at the time in Amarillo and Dallas, where he attended the University of North Texas.
“We didn’t have online classes back then,” he said with a laugh. “There still aren’t many online options for doctorate-level classes. But at the time it was like anything else. You did what you had to do, and that’s what needed to be done.”
Today Summers lives in the Ingram home in which he grew up. He still finds time to travel and fish, and keeps active with his church and UHV’s Small Business Development Center.
Summers said he looks forward to watching the economic development and entrepreneurship program continue to grow.
Success stories are already evident, he said, noting one graduate received recognition as an Ernst and Young U.S. Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist and was among honorees for both the Houston Business Journal 100 Fastest Growing Companies and Inc. Magazine Fastest Growing Companies in America.
He said he hopes to hear about similar stories down the road.
“Getting an education is one thing, but having it bring you value is another thing altogether,” he said. “It’s exciting for us to see people do well after graduation.”
The Faculty Feature is an online feature highlighting faculty members from each of the University of Houston-Victoria’s four schools. To nominate a faculty member, contact Paula Cobler, UHV interim director of marketing and communications, or call 361-570-4350.