When Paul Seaborn joined the Daniels Department of Management faculty in 2011, his research and teaching interests involved the intersection between business and government. After eight years as a consultant and receiving his PhD in strategic management from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, he was looking at non-market strategy and industry regulation and evolution. It just happened that a new business was budding in Colorado where he could research all of that. Yes, it was the marijuana industry.
“When I arrived, I had no idea that topic would even be relevant in any discussion or that I would have any role in it; it didn’t even cross my mind,” said Seaborn, assistant professor. “Because of my research on how business and government interact, I was attracted to learn as much as I could about such an interesting new industry.”
In 2014, he published one of the first, if not the first, academic teaching cases on the marijuana industry titled, “Medical Marijuana Industry Group: Outdoor Advertising in Denver,” in the Case Research Journal. Three years later, he developed and taught the first ever Business of Marijuana course at any AACSB-accredited business school.
“I’ve never had such a wide range of inquiries from people interested in getting into my course,” Seaborn said. “From freshmen to DU staff members to alumni, they wanted to get into the class. I even had a parent contact me wanting her son to take the course.”
Sarah Reidy (MBA 2018) didn’t take Seaborn’s class, but sat in on many classes as an industry insider. With 10 years of experience in the cannabis industry, she’s now the director of client engagement at Simplifya, a cannabis compliance software company.
“Paul’s ability to recognize this opportunity and create the space for students to learn more about the industry, its growth potential, and the challenges that business owners face every day shows that he is dedicated to expanding access to students on relevant and interesting topics,” Reidy said.
She explained that sales in Colorado alone topped $6 billion since marijuana was legalized for adult use in 2014. As the industry continues to expand, more and more top-level executives from large consumer packaged goods and Fortune 500 companies, and high-ranking government officials, are joining in.
“It is never easy to introduce new curriculum to the board, let alone curriculum focused on cannabis, but Paul was willing to argue the benefit this would bring to students as well as the DU Community,” she said.
While Seaborn was integral to Daniels developing a relationship with the cannabis community, he didn’t stop there. He helped elevate Daniels’ Race and Case event by partnering with corporate sponsors to co-write meaningful cases for the competition.
“The cases he wrote not only challenged students to bring their analytical and critical thinking skills to the competition; they also created real value for the company in generating ideas for executives to consider,” said Patrick Orr, director of global experiential operations at Daniels. “His devotion to ensuring students get the most from their education has been amazing.”
In addition, Seaborn was part of the Daniels faculty team who served as mentors to faculty at Herat University in Afghanistan, helping them co-create a new MBA curriculum oriented toward building local capacity and employability.
Seaborn traveled to Kigali, Rwanda, and Cairo, Egypt, to work with the Herat faculty and also mentored Herat faculty remotely.
“Paul dedicated his time and energy to help change the lives of people in Afghanistan,” Orr said. “Working with Paul has been a pleasure. His love of people and willingness to go the extra mile has made it truly fun to work with him.”
Seaborn has accepted a teaching position in the management area at the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce. He’ll move with his wife, Heidi, and their three boys, 13, 10 and 6 years old.
“They were so young when we moved here,” Seaborn said. “All they remember is Colorado and supporting all of DU’s sports teams. But, we’re heading to a great college town where they just won national championships in basketball and lacrosse, so my boys will be in a neat spot.”
“He was pioneering, doing exceptional work in terms of new and innovative courses,” said Bud Bilanich, adjunct faculty in management. Bilanich and Seaborn co-authored many of the Race and Case cases and their offices were feet apart.
“We could very openly share our ideas and thoughts and be critical without any damage to our relationship,” Bilanich said. “Our pieces were always better than what either of us could produce on our own. He’ll be greatly missed.”