Longtime Business Information and Analytics professor retires
With a love for nature fueled by a background in biology, Amy Phillips isn’t your typical business analytics professor. And she realizes that.
“I don’t fit the traditional role in any sense,” she said with a laugh. “I don’t often like to swim with the other fish.”
Despite her unorthodox background, Phillips is armed with an infectious personality, a passion for learning and courage to tackle new things—qualities that have made her a mainstay at the Daniels College of Business for more than two decades.
Three decades in higher education have caused her patience to wane a bit, so now, Phillips is retired, sort of. In true Phillips fashion, she described her retirement as a “sidestep,” meaning she’ll remain on campus, just taking on less than before.
“I feel like it’s my time to step off the court,” she said.
The environmental biology major graduated from Plymouth State University in her native New Hampshire in 1984, as she prepared for a career as a “professional tree hugger” with the U.S. Forest Service. When jobs became hard to find, she jumped at the opportunity to work as a substitute biology teacher at a local high school.
After the three-month stint ended, the school approached Phillips to teach a computer literacy course for another staff member going on maternity leave. While she didn’t have a computer background, Phillips’ fearlessness prevailed, and she took the role.
When the staff member decided not to return from leave, Phillips was offered a full-time position and worked toward her teaching certification. That led her back to Plymouth State, where she received her master’s in educational technology in 1995. While there, she became a lecturer in the graduate education studies department and then the business school until 2000.
Phillips said she loves learning, particularly about hard things, and that spawned her passion for teaching. When it came to her focus area of business information and analytics, she just dove in headfirst.
“I just wasn’t afraid of technology,” she said. “I’m not any smarter than anyone else; I’m certainly not a Steve Jobs or Bill Gates type.”
Changes in Phillips’ personal life brought her to Colorado and the University of Denver in 2000, where she has risen through the ranks to her current role as teaching professor at Daniels. Phillips’ favorite memories come from her courses in Daniels’ MBA programs, specifically the time she has spent at The Nature Place, where MBA students go early in their academic career to bond with their cohort.
And, while she deviated from her biology studies, Phillips has still found time to engage her inner tree hugger.
For more than 20 summers, until 2016, Phillips served as a field ecologist in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Jackson, Wyoming. She used her expertise in grasses to inventory and sample native and non-native species in prescribed burn areas, alongside other volunteers and forest service employees.
“I provided them with some legs, arms and a little bit of brain,” she said, smiling. “That was just absolutely fantastic.”
Hannah McDonald, a 2022 graduate of the business analytics program, said that Phillips made and continues to make “everlasting” impacts on her education, career and self.
“Amy is one of the best educators I have had the honor to learn from. She partners with you on the learning journey. When you work hard and do your part to learn and challenge yourself, the support she will offer you is endless,” McDonald said.
McDonald specifically remembers jumping for joy in Phillips’ class when she solved a challenging problem and recalls Phillips’ joining in on the celebration. That connection has led McDonald to a career path she never would’ve expected.
“In my last few months of undergrad, she planted a seed in my mind: to be a teacher myself. Now, I am a teacher, and she continues to support me on this journey. Her impact as an educator is one I aspire to have on my students as well,” McDonald said.
As she reduces her role at Daniels, Phillips will continue to teach select courses for Executive Education and the Online MBA. She still has a desire to create class content and, with fewer responsibilities, will be able to do so in a much deeper way.
“I absolutely love creating class content. That puts a fire into my belly, and I hope it will continue going forward,” she said. And, in her free time, she’ll embrace her love for the outdoors as she skis, hikes and bikes around the state.
Reflecting on her time at Daniels, Phillips is thankful for the connections she’s made over the years.
“There is a wonderful network of people and support here that has never gone away,” she said. “Even though programs come and go, the people that have been here for 20 or 30 years have stayed here for a reason.”