What keeps you up at night as the undergraduate dean?
I would say number one it is absolutely the case that if we stand still we move backwards. As a school, you’ve got to be evolving and growing all the time and not in response to what the current market needs are, but in response to some projected or uncertain future. I would say that’s number one, assuring that we are ahead of the curve and preparing our students.
How do you keep an undergrad business program moving forward in the face of such uncertainty?
You can’t teach to the skill they’re going to need the first day on the job. You can slightly do that, but that should not be your primary goal. Ensure students have not just foundational knowledge, but plenty of experience in gathering the best available resources and knowledge out there, working cooperatively with other people, and being willing to step up and move into uncomfortable or stretch assignments. Provide them with an approach methodology and really solid frameworks so that they have the wherewithal to move within markets. I can prepare them to think about how to be a continuous learner and to draw from the best possible resources out here. I can’t prepare them for 2027, not even the best faculty can do that.
Also, because we’re firmly situated in liberal arts, we don’t have business students who are simply checking off a couple Gen Ed requirements. I think that assures students come out of the program as more nuanced critical thinkers with a broader foundation in the seminal ways of thinking.
What’s happening in the school right now that has you most excited?
One thing we’ve spent a lot of time doing is actually reviewing the BBA curriculum. Right now our faculty are engaged in a pretty comprehensive look at our learning objectives and making sure we’re delivering the right material in the most appropriate pedagogical way. In this review, we’re asking the difficult questions. One really wonderful thing is that in the context of this review, we also brought in three deans from other prominent undergrad schools — Wharton, Berkeley, and Cornell — as external reviewers. This is evidence of the cooperative interactions amongst undergrad school deans and program directors.
We’re 12 months in and it will probably be December before the committee brings curricular revision recommendations. Personally, I’m incredibly excited about the school’s thrust towards innovation and entrepreneurship.
Another thing is there has been a very strong spirit of collaboration across undergraduate programs and we already have some joint concentrations and co-curricular academic opportunities for students.
We have our oldest concentration, film and media management, which started about five years ago for BBA students and film students. It’s a very robust and popular concentration that includes two core classes in film, a range of electives, then in the final semester all the students come together for a course called content creation. There are invited speakers and a trek to L.A. as part of the program.
There’s a similar concentration in arts management that covers arts history, theater, dance, music as well as the business side of art. Just this year we did our first arts management trek in New York City where students went to MOMA, the American Ballet, and Lincoln Center. It’s about helping students see the range of opportunities if they’re passionate about the arts.
We also have our first co-major with the college — QSS+BBA — which involves quantitative studies courses along with BBA courses to offer students a deeper ability to work with big data.
So there are already quite a few things going on and I’m anticipating much more to come. It’s really exciting to think about how Emory can leverage all of its strengths.
How often does a review of the undergraduate curriculum take place?
We review our structure and our delivery in a formal way probably every three to five years. We have AACSB accreditation and internal standards then, over the years, the curricular review has been incremental or piece-by-piece. There may be a year we might consider a new capstone course or how many courses there will be for each concentration, but this is first time in a very long time faculty has spent an entire concrete effort tearing apart the curriculum.
Three to five years seems long given how rapidly the business world changes. How does this coincide with your concern of falling behind?
Every year there is incremental change. For instance, I just mentioned several concentrations and co-majors that didn’t exist five years ago. There is a built-in process of continuous improvement that has to happen or you will fall behind. We’ve done an excellent job articulating objectives every year and making sure changes are made as appropriate. Tearing it apart is not something you want to do too often. One would think you build on a foundation that’s not ephemeral. I expect what the committee comes up with will serve as a template for a reasonably long amount of time.