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Finance professor gets a kick out of martial arts training

February 25, 2016
KOKOMO, Ind. —There aren’t many finance professors who can punctuate a discussion of corporate finance with a backspin kick above the head — especially if they are grandmothers in their 60s.

Dianne Roden is one of those professors —she has been known to demonstrate a point by dropping into a bent knee stance and firing away, kicking her best shot to a student volunteer’s outstretched hand, connecting with a satisfying crack.

“It takes them by surprise,” Roden said. “It’s a good way to show that you have to try what we are discussing in class, rather than just watching me do it, in order to learn, and you have to practice, practice, practice.”

A professor of finance at Indiana University Kokomo, she also has the Ph.D. of the martial arts world, a fifth degree black belt in taekwondo. The training leading to it helps her understand her students better, and makes her a better teacher.

“Training reminds me what it’s like to be a beginner, to be learning something for the first time, and to be confused,” she said. “When you teach the same subject for a long time, it can start to seem like it should be intuitive and the students should just know it. The classes I take as a student reminds me that is not true.”

Roden strives to inspire students not only in the classroom, where she is a well-respected instructor and researcher in corporate finance, but also by example in her personal life, where she has dedicated more than 20 years to perfecting her craft at the Indiana Taekwondo Academy.

Her Main Building office reflects her love of finance and martial arts, with frames holding not only her three Trustees Teaching Awards, but also a photo of herself high in the air, performing a flying sidekick. On her bookshelves, taekwondo trophies share space with finance, economics, and investment texts.

Roden started her training alongside her husband and two children in 1993, a year after she joined the faculty of the School of Business. She heard about the opportunity through a flyer in the mail, advertising an introductory class and free uniform.

“What appealed to me was it was something our whole family could do together,” she said. “We all started together as white belts, and progressed together to second degree black belts. I like the values it is founded on: Courtesy, respect, self-control, integrity, and perseverance. These are wonderful values that benefit you not only in martial arts, but in life.”

Roden teaches evening classes at IU Kokomo two nights, and trains three nights each week with Master James Crays in Noblesville. She earned her fifth dan, or degree, black belt less than a year ago.

“When I first started, I would have said I don’t have time for this much training,” she said. “I work smarter, not necessarily harder. I have to have very clear priorities and focus.”

She occasionally likes to use her skills to demonstrate a point about the importance of practice in learning. The math problems the class examines look easy when she solves them in class, but students find it more difficult when it is time to try it on their own. Similarly, a front kick may look simple when she performs it in class, but it took her many hours in the gym to perfect it.

“It’s good for students to know faculty members have interests outside of class,” she said.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 03/21/2016