Her first job out of a master’s program in Economics was as a research executive in Mumbai, at leading market research firm, Indian Market Research Bureau. Her work there sparked such a great interest in consumer memory and how it influences decisions that she went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Business Administration with a minor in Social Psychology. Today, Geeta Menon has been dean of the Undergraduate College at New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business for over seven years. But her relationship with the school goes back almost three decades.
“My journey to where I am has been serendipitous in my view,” Menon tells Poets&Quants for Undergrads. “While I was finishing up my Ph.D., I was on the job market as an Assistant Professor. As luck would have it, I got an offer from a great school in the best city in the world: NYU Stern in New York City. I’m from Mumbai, so I was really thrilled to have the opportunity to come to New York, which in my mind was the closest approximation to Mumbai. And so I came to NYU Stern for my first job in academia as an Assistant Professor in the Marketing Department, and 28 years have passed.”
Since joining New York University, Menon has taught every student population, from undergraduates and full-time MBAs to part-time MBAs, executive MBAs, and Ph.D. students. Her own students have also gone on to join the faculty of marketing departments at top schools, and she has served as chair of the NYU Stern Marketing Department for almost five years, and was elected President of the Association of Consumer Research, one of the largest marketing academic associations in the world.
“The deanship truly came at the right time in my life when I wanted a new challenge and to make a mark on the school that had given so much to me,” she says.
LEADING A SCHOOL IN THE MIDDLE OF NYC
Menon says that no two days in her life at Stern are ever the same. Every day brings new opportunities, challenges, and conversations, with people all over the university, including students, alumni, parents, and other populations like faculty and corporate partners. Whether it’s looking critically at the academic curriculum, investigating new career paths, fundraising, or planning collaborations and increasing affordability, there is a constant list of things to be done. While some may find the work overwhelming, Menon says, “There is an excitement each day that is palpable that I embrace.”
At NYU Stern, 98% of students complete internships during their junior year. Students venture to traditional business areas like finance and consulting, but also explore new areas such as data science at one of the city’s tech giants or doing microfinance at a nonprofit serving underrepresented communities. This number is impressive and Menon and her team work hard to make it possible.
Menon calls their location in the Big Apple “a mixed blessing,” as they are “a school without a campus and gates.” The result is a classroom experience that flows into the city, Menon says.
“While this provides an incredible opportunity, it also means that we sometimes lose our students to the endless opportunities that present themselves in NYC, including world-class and vibrant museums, sporting events, music concerts, restaurants, and the list goes on,” Menon says. “There is simply no other city that offers the breadth and depth of opportunity like New York City.”
FOCUSING ON THE GLOBAL, THINKING SOCIAL IMPACT
Since she arrived at NYU Stern in 1990, Menon says there has been an increased focus on globalization and social impact as a business priority, and the school has introduced several changes to ensure students are equipped for that evolving workforce.
“Stern has really led the way in these areas, introducing the International Studies Program course in 2001 and the Social Impact Core of courses in 2004. Both of these areas of study have become staples in undergraduate business education broadly, and they show no signs of waning any time soon,” Menon says. “In addition, we introduced the Stern Program for Undergraduate Research, or SPUR, to encourage research and analytical thinking. Founded in spring 2012, SPUR connects students with our world-renowned faculty doing cutting edge research.”
To date, Dean Menon shared that 484 students and 103 faculty members have participated in SPUR, and as of spring 2018, several SPUR students have gone on to Ph.D. programs in Finance, Economics, Accounting, and Bio-Statistics at institutions such as Columbia, Chicago, MIT, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, and Yale.