Lessons from the Past Year

Monday, April 1, 2013

I can't believe it has been more than a year since I was named dean of the Carlson School. And what a year it has been!

Connecting with students on campus, listening to faculty and staff, and going off campus, around the country and around the world to renew our connections with alumni, recruiters, and the phenomenal global business community we are fortunate to be part of, has helped me gain an entirely new perspective on this gem of a school.

Among the things I've learned in the last year:

  • Our students are a joy to be with. They are motivated, passionate, and inspiring in their dreams for the future. I have discovered they are even more valued in the business community than I had imagined. I knew we were providing them with valuable knowledge and experiences. Hearing what that has meant from recruiters, and seeing the impact our graduates are having worldwide through the organizations they help manage, create, and lead has been incredibly eye-opening and humbling. How do we make sure we continue to help them fulfill their dreams as the world changes and they face new unknowns? How do we educate them to become the principled managers, entrepreneurs, and leaders of tomorrow?
  • Our alumni care so much about our school. It sounds cliché, but it is true. There is deep-seated passion for this institution that we must harness to help us succeed as we move forward. We have not always been great at this -- how do we engage our alumni, keep them connected, help them succeed as they help us, and earn their loyalty?
  • Our staff are ready and able to rise up to the challenges thrown at them (and I will be the first to admit that working with me can itself be challenging!). I see more healthy working relationships across boundaries and a real commitment to excellence among our staff. Our challenge is to stay motivated and have fun while going all out to reach our goals, when it can sometimes feel as if we are constantly being asked to do more with what seems like less.
  • Our thought-leading faculty is willing to tackle new frontiers. I am so energized by the eagerness of our faculty to embrace the future, whether it is in online education or in bringing their passion for discovery to business and to the public. How do we continue to nurture the excellence in research that we have become known for while engaging with business to co-create knowledge and develop talent for our state, our nation, and the world?

Our journey does not come without risks. For us to succeed, we must:

  • Invest in inclusion and growth. Businesses around the world, and more so in Minnesota, are already beginning to experience a shortage of talent. We must step up to fill their future needs by providing resources that will draw more women, more minorities, and more military veterans into business education and careers in business, as well as bring in talent from around the country and around the world. To strengthen the talent-pool, we have to invest in building a pipeline of inclusion to expand our programs, and we have to tell our story to the world.
  • Maintain our innovative edge. From international education to experiential learning, we have a history of being at the forefront of innovation in our programs. As we go forward, we must be willing to take risks and be out front of changes in the corporate world and in business education, including with experiential and online offerings. How do we scale up the intensely experiential element that has become our hallmark as we seek to expand it to more students and programs? How do we innovate to add greater value to students in the mature MBA marketplace? How do we integrate online into our programming?
  • Build our thought-leadership with the community. Our faculty is doing some really neat research with substantial implications for practice. The opportunities to engage our business community in enhancing our intellectual capital in areas like marketing, strategy, social media and analytics, and in the medical and agribusiness industries that are so strong in our state, are really exciting. But rather than wait for our thought-leadership to work its way through the journals and perchance into business, we need to become more active in getting out in front of businesses as we engage with them in co-creating knowledge in our centers and in helping develop talent through executive education.

I am currently working with a group to formulate the school's vision for the rest of this decade, and you will have opportunities to weigh in as we develop our strategy. I look forward to making the Carlson School the place where businesses come for new ideas and students come for transformative educational experiences!