MOVING FORWARD
NEW SCHOOL OF BUSINESS DEAN GENE ANDERSON IS USED TO BEING AT THE CENTER OF TRANSFORMATION AND INNOVATION.
BY PETER HAAPANIEMI | PHOTOS BY STEVE BOXALL

TAKING CHARGE
New School of Business Dean Gene Anderson understands the business community’s evolving needs, and how the School can meet those needs.

New Programs, new ways of looking at business education and innovative ways of interacting with the business community — these have been hallmarks of Eugene “Gene” Anderson’s 23-year academic career, and he’s brought that perspective to the University of Miami School of Business Administration, where he began his tenure as dean on Aug. 1.

He sees a chance to help the School keep a step ahead in a rapidly evolving business world — and to equip students with the skills they need to adapt and succeed in that world.   “Business students today need global perspective, multidisciplinary thinking, and an ability to learn quickly from experience and turn ideas into action, and I can’t think of another school in a better position to produce graduates who can do just that,” he says. “The business school has tremendous opportunities to build on its momentum, and to reach out to the rest of the university, reach out to the business community and reach out to connect internationally.” 

 dean_gean

TAKING QUESTIONS
During his first couple of months on the job, Anderson met with students in all of the School’s programs.

In a way, it’s an ambitious early agenda. But Anderson, who insists that everyone, including students, call him Gene, is well positioned to fulfill it. He brings to the School more than a decade of experience managing change in a consensus-driven academic environment. To capitalize on the opportunities he sees here, he will use the expertise and lessons learned at the University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business, where he spent the first part of his academic career, most recently as senior associate dean for academic affairs. It is a career that has included both teaching and administrative duties — and a chance to navigate through an era of rapid evolution. 

Anderson’s ability to effectively respond to change will serve the School of Business well, says Marvin R. Shanken, a member of the School’s Board of Overseers and chairman of M. Shanken Communications. Shanken notes that “at Miami, the program is already strong. But like anywhere, there is always an opportunity to take things to the next level, and I think the Board of Overseers is keenly interested in helping him get the School there.” 

As BusinessMiami sat down with Anderson, he was new on the job — and new to Miami. (Anderson and his wife, Sheryl Manning, have a daughter who’s finishing high school in Michigan and a son attending Swarthmore College.) But he already had an idea of the types of things he would like to accomplish. “I do want to see us do more on the international front, more collaboration across the university, and more outreach and partnership with business,” Anderson says. As for the exact path forward, he has “some early ideas, but they are not set in stone. I’m throwing out some provisional thoughts, to see what people think, engaging the community in conversations to see what resonates. I’m also reviewing the programs that are already in place, and listening and learning to find out what people are passionate about. The idea is to identify some areas and themes that we can build around. As a school, you want to pick things that are going to make you distinctive, and that leverage the unique strengths and assets that you have.”

He has zeroed in on a few key strengths. The School’s location, for one, gives it access to the vibrant community of South Florida and, more broadly, Latin America. He also points to existing initiatives, such as the Center for Health Sector Management and Policy, which involves both the business school and the medical school. He notes that in recent years the School has instituted new advanced-degree programs and been particularly successful in recruiting top faculty. “I hope to keep investing in faculty and intellectual capital,” he says. “I’m looking forward to working with the faculty to develop the people we have already, as well as attract great new people, to maintain that momentum that’s been built up.”

 

PROFESSOR, RESEARCHER, PROGRAM DEVELOPER

It’s an exciting new challenge for Anderson, who had spent his entire post-PhD career at the Ross School, where he began working in 1988. He has a blue-chip academic background, having earned his master’s and bachelor’s degrees in business from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and a PhD in marketing and statistics from the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business. At Michigan, he taught the core marketing course in all of the business school’s degree programs. While he recalls “a run-of-the-mill teaching career,” the evidence suggests otherwise: he won the Faculty’s Teaching Leadership Award and was nominated several times by students for teaching awards. 

In 2000, Anderson’s career took a significant turn when he was asked to take over the creation of the Ross School’s first executive MBA program. His predecessor had started the effort, but Anderson was called on to lead the initiative’s actual design, development and launch. It was not a simple assignment. “Michigan was a latecomer to the executive MBA field,” Anderson says. “There were already a lot of programs at other schools out there, and some of them had been in place for decades. It was a very established and competitive market, which created some challenges. We had to create something that was truly distinctive and differentiating.”

Anderson developed a curriculum specifically for senior managers, with a strong emphasis on leadership development. Being late to the executive MBA field had one benefit: computer-based distance learning was just coming into use at the time, and Anderson and his team took advantage of the latest technologies. “We created a unique format that used a hybrid of distance learning and in-class learning,” he says, explaining that while computer-based learning was unusual in a high-level executive MBA program, it fit well with the schedules of the target executives. “They basically needed to take only one day away from work each month, which they found very appealing,” he says.

It wasn’t long before the Ross School’s program achieved a national ranking alongside other, more established programs. For Anderson, the effort provided valuable experience in building programs and driving change and innovation. “Up to that time, I had been a faculty member, worried about teaching my course,” he says. “This gave me an opportunity to build a staff, to make things happen, to get involved in everything from the mission to graduation — the whole soup-to-nuts array of activities.” 

Anderson was hooked, and in the ensuing years he shepherded a number of other changes through at the Ross School. He spearheaded the revision of the full-time MBA program’s core curriculum — “the first major curriculum change approved by the program in 25 years,” he notes.  He also led the transformation of the Ross BBA from a two-year to a four-year program. In 2010, he became senior associate dean for academic affairs, overseeing all faculty and student affairs and degree programs. 

Anderson’s experience in managing change was a big part of the attraction for the dean search committee and the UM administration.  

“Gene brings a combination of factors to the business school here in Miami,” says UM Provost Thomas LeBlanc. “He’s an outstanding scholar, highly regarded in his field. He’s an experienced administrator, having been the No. 2 person at a very distinguished business school. He brings to the table a number of concrete accomplishments in academic administration.” 

Frances Aldrich Sevilla-Sacasa, who served as the School’s interim dean prior to Anderson’s arrival and is now an executive advisor to the dean, agrees. “Dean Anderson’s impeccable academic background and experience will help the School move forward [and] ensure its top-tiered programs keep their momentum,” she says. “We want the best and the brightest students to learn from our top-notch faculty in innovative programs that incorporate practical application both locally and internationally, and Dean Anderson shares this vision.”

LeBlanc also points to Anderson’s experience with cross-disciplinary programs, which continue to be an important priority for the School. At Michigan, he helped revamp the Nonprofit and Public Management Center, a collaborative venture of the business, social work and public policy schools; create dual-degree programs combining business with education, music and public health; and develop a Master’s of Entrepreneurship degree in partnership with Michigan’s College of Engineering. 

At UM, Anderson has a clear opportunity to put that experience to work, LeBlanc says. “One of the things we’ve been doing here is helping the whole of the University become greater than the sum of its parts,” he says. “There are many opportunities here for doing that in the business arena. Business and health. Business and music. Business and law. Business and engineering. Almost everywhere you look there are opportunities, and in some cases existing programs, that involve business collaborating with another field. We think the business school can be an enormous source of leverage in that regard, and I think Gene sees it that way as well. And certainly his prior experience shows both commitment to and a facility with cross-disciplinary, cross-school programs.”

 

A UNIQUE FOCUS ON EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING

Faculty and students are also excited about Anderson’s experience with hands-on learning. He had a leadership role in the Ross School’s well-regarded experiential, action-based learning program, which placed teams of MBA students in companies to tackle real-world consulting challenges. Named the school’s first academic director for action-based learning, he oversaw the program’s partnerships with more than 100 corporations, startups and nongovernmental agencies (NGOs) around the world, with projects involving everything from growth and innovation to sustainability and social enterprise. He later created a similar program for undergraduates. 

“It’s no longer enough to just understand the basics of accounting and finance and marketing,” Anderson says. “We have to provide students with opportunities to see how what they are learning applies in practice, to learn real-world critical thinking skills, and to test and develop their leadership skills. We have to give students an understanding of how organizations really work and how things get done in the real world.”

“As an alumnus and a parent of a student, I am pleased to see that [Anderson’s] focus is not just on technical academics but also on really preparing students with the soft skills that are required to be successful in business,” says Brian Rice, executive vice president and CFO of Royal Caribbean Cruises and a member of the School’s Board of Overseers. “He’s interested in teaching students how to think and how to interact. I often see a real distinction in business between those who really succeed and those who tread water, and that focus on the softer skills can be critical in making the difference.”

Anderson expects there to be no treading water. “Both the University and the business school are on a great trajectory,” he says. “Of course, I’m a competitive guy, and I believe that the students we are producing here will continue to be well-prepared — and better prepared than most — to succeed.” 


DEAN GENE ANDERSON'S RESEARCH - MARKETING SCIENCE

Much of Dean Gene Anderson’s research has focused on customer satisfaction, in one way or another. His widely cited research into its link to business performance examines topics such as customer satisfaction and shareholder value, the satisfaction-profit chain, and whether customer satisfaction provides information that is useful to corporate bondholders. At Michigan, he worked as part of a university-wide team that developed and used an extensive research database of hundreds of corporate profiles. That led to his involvement in the creation and launch of the American Customer Satisfaction Index, now a familiar national economic indicator. 

His work has led to a long list of papers published in leading academic publications, including the Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Research, Marketing Science, Marketing Letters and Management Science, and several awards, including the Marketing Science Institute/Journal of Marketing Competition and the FedEx Excellence in Service Research Award. 

READ MORE ABOUT DEAN ANDERSON’S DEVELOPING MISSION AND VISION FOR THE SCHOOL <<

FOLLOW DEAN ANDERSON ON TWITTER <<

 

Fall 2011
issue01
issue02
issue03
issue04
links past

Are companies too risk averse right now?