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James “Pouli” Pouliopoulos walking and talking with Bentley students
(left to right) Maria Campbell ’25, Jason Murphy ’25, Senior Lecturer in Marketing James “Pouli” Pouliopoulos and Megan Casey ’24. Photo by Maddie Schroeder.

When Bentley students sign up for a sales course with Senior Lecturer in Marketing James “Pouli” Pouliopoulos MBA ’94, some may be expecting to learn industry-specific skills such as how to perfect the art of closing a deal. But it’s the unexpected lessons — including learning behaviors to raise levels of personal and professional well-being — that reflect why Pouli is a favorite among students and why he was honored with 2023 Cronin Award for Excellence in Advising and Mentoring. 

“I consider this award to be the highest honor I've ever received as an educator; it’s like getting my name on the Stanley Cup,” Pouli says, comparing the mentoring honor to the coveted NHL championship award. “I love helping these fantastic young adults launch their careers and start their professional lives. There’s always so much pressure to ‘succeed’ after graduation. I try to remind my students that life is about the stories you can tell. Get out there, experiment with different roles, course correct as necessary and focus on what you enjoy doing well. Relax; it takes time for your passion and purpose to reveal itself.” 

The best thing students can do, according to Pouli: “Keep building your network and help other people along the way. Most importantly, pay attention to your well-being — because happiness precedes success.”

 James “Pouli” Pouliopoulos
There’s always so much pressure to ‘succeed’ after graduation. I try to remind my students that life is about the stories you can tell.
James “Pouli” Pouliopoulos
Senior Lecturer in Marketing and Director of the Sales Program

The Cronin award follows another Bentley recognition that Pouli received in 2021 — the Dr. Dave Landers Faculty Mentor of the Year in the Northeast-10 Conference — for his support of student-athletes. Pouli, founder and director of Bentley’s Professional Sales Program, has been teaching at the university for more than two decades. His courses — including Sales Strategy & Technology (PRS373) and Sales Management (PRS343) — are favorites among students. Bridget Coughlin ’23 calls Pouli “a once-in-a-lifetime professor” who brings industry knowledge and a level of vulnerability to the classroom.  

“Pouli is the definition of what a good mentor should look like,” Coughlin said as part of Pouli’s nomination. “He’s inspirational but relatable, well-spoken but a great listener, and knowledgeable but offers no judgement in his tone.” 

Coughlin remembers one class that she says will stay with her for a lifetime. “We came to class with an outline of the material we would cover, but at the beginning of class began talking about our weekends. Through that, Pouli began sharing some personal life lessons about the end of college, and now I have a note sheet entitled ‘Pouli Life Lessons’ that I look at just about every week.”

James “Pouli” Pouliopoulos teaching a course at Bentley

Sabrina Louro ’24, a Professional Sales major with a minor in Computer Information Systems, first met Pouli when she enrolled in a sales management course during her sophomore year. “Pouli invests so much time in the enrichment of his students’ education. His commitment to helping us excel in the sales industry is evident in his approach to teaching. He emphasizes the importance of relationship-building, teaching us not only to sell products but to create lasting connections with people. Pouli fosters an environment where we can not only excel academically but learn to nurture our well-being and happiness.”  

Louro shares Coughlin’s perspective about Pouli’s authenticity. “One of the most remarkable things about Pouli’s teaching is his ability to combine personal experiences with his sales lessons,” she says. “He often shares stories from his own life journey, illustrating how he found true happiness while navigating his career. These anecdotes not only make his lessons engaging, but they also provide insight about finding fulfillment in the workplace. This is invaluable as we prepare to navigate our own careers after graduating Bentley.”  

Pouli’s story, particularly his search for true career happiness, makes him relatable to students and has been the source of his multiple TEDx talks and a book on well-being.  

RELATED: Pouli shares three ways to harness happiness

“I was good at math, so I was encouraged by my parents and guidance counselor to pursue a career in engineering because I would always have a good job,” Pouli shares. “After two engineering degrees and a decent career, I realized I didn’t want to settle for ‘a good job;’ I wanted a fulfilling career, so I changed direction. These days, I am a professional speaker, author and educator. I focus on the intersection of personal positivity, workplace well-being, career satisfaction and sales effectiveness.” 

The goal of sales, Pouli teaches, is about authentic listening, empathy, trust and problem-solving. To help students learn this firsthand, in 2021 Pouli launched an annual sales competition — the Salvatore J. Stile Professional Sales Competition — where students conduct simulated, timed sales conversations with corporate and alumni volunteers playing the role of the buyer.  

Louro, who is in Bentley’s Women’s Leadership Program and is vice president of marketing for Alpha Phi sorority, participated in two sales competitions. “Sales professionals from all industries come to act as judges of the competition. Pouli helped connect me with the right industry professionals both in the competition and in the classroom through guest speakers. He continues to share professional connections, listen to my goals and foster new opportunities for me.” 

Coughlin agrees. “Outside of the classroom, Pouli offers up his personal network to connect us with job opportunities and will help set you up for success after graduation. He is the kind of professor that changes his students’ lives; he’s what people come to Bentley for.”

RELATED: Professor Betsy Stoner honored with 2022 Cronin Award