For Kai Larsen, teaching is about giving students the skills that help them throughout their careers and lives.
Kai Larsen, an associate professor of information management at the Leeds School of Business, was recognized at graduation with a 2022 Outstanding Mentor Award. Larsen is one of 18 faculty across the University of Colorado Boulder to be recognized, and is the only Leeds professor honored this year.
Larsen shared a story about the father of modern karate, Gichin Funakoshi, who was once said to be practicing a low stance on a roof during a typhoon when the rest of the village hid.
“If anything, my classes are designed to mimic the typhoon while I teach the students the tools to resist and succeed in challenging environments,” Larsen said. “Many of the students who thrive come back next time the class is taught and help me pass the skills on to future students.”
Larsen is an accomplished researcher who is a recognized authority in business analytics, especially machine learning and natural language processing—but what makes him memorable in the classroom is his ability to present these complex topics in ways that resonate with his students, like Bhari Cowlagi (BA’23).
“I really appreciated how his teaching style was purposeful, so much so that I could actually envision myself using and applying what he taught in my career,” she said. “What makes him a great mentor is how he really saw us as valuable additions to the workforce, and treated us as such. He was always reminding us that we were capable even when content got tough, and looked for internship and career opportunities for us.”
That mentorship isn’t limited to the classroom. Larsen is preparing to welcome academic leaders from around the world to Boulder later this month for a conference to share best practices and industry needs in the business analytics discipline.
“We have to start collaborating with other universities, to create the networks so we can supplement in-person offerings with online—and to figure out better ways of integrating those modes,” Larsen said.