Scott DeRue officially stepped into his role as dean of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business on July 1. Since then, his frequent flier miles have exploded.
DeRue has been traveling from London to New York, Chicago, Boston, and multiple cities along the West Coast, attending events and meeting with prospective students and alumni. “I couldn’t be more excited by the energy and the passion that people have for this school,” he says. “And that makes my job much more fun.”
Poets&Quants caught up with DeRue at the tail end of his San Francisco stop to chat about the changing landscape of business education, as well as his plans for Ross. Business education, he says, should be changing because business is changing. For one thing, he adds, technology is the new Wall Street.
THE CHANGING FACE OF BUSINESS
“Traditionally, our peer set of schools sent a lot of people to finance and banking,” DeRue says. “And we still send our share. But now you have a lot of students — maybe the majority — interested in going into tech.”
DeRue intends to keep Ross on the cutting edge of business education, saying they’ll adapt their curriculum to follow industry trends, exemplified by the move toward tech. And they’ll be looking around the corner to predict what other changes are on the way, he adds.
“I’ve been at this school nine years, and this school has offered me a lot. I came to Michigan because I believed that it was the best business school in the world,” DeRue says. “And at the time it was, in research and the ideas that came out of it.”
He says he intends to keep Ross among the elite, with three main, high-brow ideas.
A HOME FOR BIG AND BOLD IDEAS
First, DeRue wants Ross to be a home for “big and bold ideas” that shape important conversations about business worldwide. “That’s really a first priority,” he says. “And we’re figuring out how to source these ideas, how to put them together, and how we can communicate them to the world.”
Certainly, he says, ideas that influence businesses worldwide are coming from Ross faculty and the research they’re doing already. But DeRue also wants to help create and curate big ideas though students, alumni, and corporate partners.
A LEADER IN EXPERIENCIAL LEARNING
Second, DeRue wants every student at Ross to have access to four key experiences: starting a business, investing in businesses, advising a business, and managing a business.
Ross is already among the leads in applied learning. From the moment first-year MBAs step onto the Ross campus, they are thrown into real-world projects. The Sanger Leadership Center’s Ross Impact Challenge puts newbie MBAs in teams of 75 or so to write a business plan and launch a venture within a week—before classes even begin. Students might also participate in the 24-hour Leadership Crisis Challenge at the beginning of every spring semester too.
Then, all first-year MBAs at Ross are spread around the world in 85 different teams participating in the Multidisciplinary Action Projects (MAP), which is the seven-week course required of all full-time MBAs at Ross.
Even so DeRue wants to up its game in applied learning, even more. Among the top 15 business schools, all vying to be in the top 10, the business education market is very competitive and highly undifferentiated, he says. But what makes Ross stand out will be a focus on real-life scenarios. And DeRue doesn’t mean case studies.
He says each of the four key experiences — starting, investing, advising, managing — will be provided through programs and classes at Ross.