What are some of the biggest highlights or achievements of the school that should be highlighted in a 100-year anniversary celebration?
I would say that over 100 years, we have had unbelievable alumni. Many of our alumni will say, “Oh, I could never get into VSB today,” because our acceptance rate this past year was 16.8%. It was very difficult to get in. But what I’ve tried to tell them is we are still trying to select the same kind of person that they were. By that, I mean we select based on our values: Unitas, Veritas, and Caritas – truth, unity, and love. We’re not just selecting super smart, motivated people. That’s just one piece of it. We’re also selecting people who have strong leadership potential, who are community service minded, well rounded, and those are people like our alums.
Think about the history of us. We love our legacy. We’ve got people on Wall Street who have done so much good, using their personal wealth to build schools, to give scholarships, to enhance all types of educational opportunities for students. They don’t have to give this much – not just their money, but their time, their mentoring, their expertise. That’s been a constant over the 100 years.
We’ve also really pushed hard on trying to make this an environment that is even more welcoming and inclusive. I mean, this was a school that started out with all men, which most business schools did. To make it an environment where you have more women, where you have students of color, where you have students of all faiths, backgrounds, ethnicities, orientations, etc., that’s been a big focus. Not just because that’s important, but because that’s based on our Augustinian Catholic background and on our charge to be more welcoming and inclusive; that’s part of our faith. People sometimes forget that part.
And, I think for the business school, really pushing advancements in data, technology and cutting-edge knowledge. We’re really very quantitatively focused, but at the same time, trying to get students really strong leadership and communication skills while pushing into what students need to know to be successful for future jobs. You wrote the article about the Gmelich Lab; That’s like the best lab in the country, and I feel confident about that. The idea is to ensure our students are really prepared for jobs of the future, but at the same time, they get the ethical training to do the right things.
I also absolutely love our teacher-scholar model. I take a lot of pride in the fact that at Villanova, I know the other leaders across campus, we’re all working collaboratively. When we talk to prospective faculty members, I only heard of one candidate in the past six years that said that they had to do a teaching presentation at any other prospective school. But, to teach here, you have to come in, do all your usual interviews, do a research presentation, and then you have to go in the classroom and teach. That seems like common sense, but it’s very rare. We care so much about teaching, scholarship, and service, that it’s how we recruit people, as well as how we reward and promote people. And personally, I love teaching. This semester, I’m teaching a negotiation class with seniors. I spent all summer just rereading all this stuff, I’m so jazzed by it.
As one example, there was a faculty member who took our job, and this person had offers at a variety of really good places, and I asked, “What made you pick us?” And he said, “Well, I was walking down the hall and I saw how your faculty actually know your students, not just their names, they knew them. I just wanted to be in a place like that.”
Have you taught before as dean or will this be your first time back in the classroom?
I’ve taught every year since I’ve been here, through guest lectures in almost every program. Faculty will ask if I can come in and do a session on leadership or negotiation, so I’ve taught anywhere from the undergrads to our master students to our executive students.
We have a professional development program for our undergrads where they learn about resumes, mock interviews, LinkedIn, etiquette, and all that stuff, but one thing we don’t really do much on is negotiations. So, for this year, I said, “Okay, that’s it. I’m doing this because I really want them to have these skills.” I’m really excited about it; I love getting into the classroom with students because it feels like I’m home.
Is this a full semester class?
It’s just a one credit course for the first half of the term. It’s all skill based. They’ll be practicing, I’ll be watching and providing feedback. It’s all about: What did you learn today that you can use as you walk out the door? I’ll probably turn it into a 3-credit course for our undergrads down the road.
Next Page: Achievements in dean Russell’s tenure so far
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