New Whitman School Dean on Strategic Planning and the Future of Business School Education

Eugene “Gene” Anderson, the new dean of the Martin J. Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University, is spending his first few days, weeks and months listening to the Whitman School community. So far, he is seeing and hearing opportunity, excitement, energy and a bright future. Whitman Voices recently sat down with Dean Anderson to learn more about his background, leadership style and plans for his new position.

Q. What attracted you to Syracuse University and this leadership position?

A. I like to build things. My passion has always been working together with others to build something of which we can all be proud and having an impact on things that matter. Coming to Syracuse University at this time when you have such a great leadership team at the University level there is a real sense of purpose and possibility in the air. Within the Whitman School itself there’s wonderful talent, faculty and staff, that are committed to the school and its mission. Recent innovations, such as IMPRESS and the expanding portfolio of online programs, have created a tremendous sense of momentum. And, of course, you have a terrific student body that is getting stronger all the time. So, to have the opportunity to be a part of shaping the future of Syracuse and of Whitman really gets me excited.

Q. What are your priorities for the first 90 to 100 days on the job?

A. My top priority coming in as a new person on campus is to listen and learn about the culture here and really get to know the people and get to know what the potential is and what the opportunities are. That being said, I think there are some things that are really important to me that I think are shared by the community generally. Student and alumni success is very important and a top priority for me, as well as conducting high impact research and educational programs. Finally, building a strong, respectful community, one that really embraces diversity in every direction, is inclusive and creates a culture of belonging for everyone is important.

The way I see it is that this first phase is really about having each different constituency express their hopes and aspirations for the future. So, I plan to meet with students, faculty, staff and alumni to get to know the school and identify what our strengths are and what our opportunities are going forward. Out of that process we’ll start to shape a roadmap for the future and the top priorities to work on together.

Q. The landscape of business education is rapidly changing. How do you see the Whitman School responding to and thriving in the face of this changing environment?

A. Technology, of course, is having a huge impact. It’s changing what and how we teach, as well as reshaping the industry overall. A lot of basic knowledge that we teach is going to be freely available online, if it isn’t already. This democratization of knowledge is happening not only with business school education but within higher education in general. So, that puts tremendous pressure on leading business schools to be offering something that goes beyond that basic information. Because if you can find out how to do net present value analysis or basic accounting online, why would you come to campus for business school or even enroll in an online program in business?

Obviously, we offer the experience that you have when you come to campus. Interacting with our faculty and other great students is very important. Certainly, we offer access to an alumni network. But I think what’s going to be really important is for us to be able to offer enriched learning experiences for students – teaching in ways that really stick. Experiential learning is going to be a part of that. We need to get students more closely connected with practice by bringing business people and practice to campus and sending students out into the world to think more internationally and globally. I think we want the Whitman School to be a special place and an attractive community for students. Utilizing experiential learning pedagogies and partnering with our alumni network to provide students with an education they can’t get anywhere else.

Q. What is the single most important challenge the Whitman School faces this upcoming academic year

A. The strategy question. What do we want to be going forward? How are we going to equip students for the future — an ever-changing business world and one where we can’t predict half of the jobs that they’ll be doing or what industries are going to look like in 15 or 20 years. That’s really the fundamental question.

The second set of questions is around what’s happening in the business school industry. What’s the set of activities and where and how should we play in the rapidly changing landscape of business education? What should we be doing online? How should we be bringing distance technology to our other programs to make them more blended or hybrid and taking advantage of our full-time programs? What kinds of programs and certificates should we be offering given that the market is changing so rapidly?

The third biggest strategic question goes back to the purpose. Why are we here? What is it that we’re trying to accomplish? What is the purpose of business school? What should be our mission and contribution to business and the broader world in which business exists?

If we can successfully answer those strategic questions, we can accomplish quite a bit and put us on a great trajectory going forward.

Q. What role do the alumni play in the Whitman School’s future trajectory?

A. The alumni are essential. If a primary goal of students coming to business school is to find a great job and be successful in their careers going forward, alumni are going to play a really important role in that. The most successful business schools in terms of finding great internships and great opportunities for their current students are ones that have a strong alumni network and alumni that are committed to helping the school. And then more generally in a world that’s changing so fast and so rapidly, the alumni are going to be a really important source of counsel and advice for us in terms of what we should be doing in our curriculum, as well as what we should be doing strategically as a school. They’re experiencing the dynamic changes going on in business every day and we have the luxury of being somewhat insulated. Whether it’s time, talent or treasure, their generous support and contributions are going to be important to whether or not we achieve the full potential of the school and achieve our full aspirations going forward.

Q. What is one characteristic every leader should possess?

A. I think a successful leader has a drive and ability to work with others to make the world a better place. I think this is true no matter what industry you’re in, whether it’s education or if you’re in for-profit practice. At the end of the day people get excited about having a purpose. Being able to have an authentic set of goals that you’re able to articulate to people helps get them excited about what they’re doing and the impact they’re having on the world.