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An Interview with John T. Delaney, dean of the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate School of Business

John T. Delaney became dean of the University of Pittsburgh’s Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business in 2006, the sixth person to hold the position since the school’s debut in 1960. Born in Rochester, N.Y., he earned a B.S. degree in industrial relations from LeMoyne College in 1977and A.M. and Ph.D. degrees in labor and industrial relations from the University of Illinois in 1980 and 1983, respectively.

After earning his doctorate, he immediately began his teaching career at Columbia University Graduate School of Business where he served as an assistant and associate professor. In 1989, he joined the management faculty at the University of Iowa. Four years later, in 1992, he was promoted to professor of management and served in that capacity until 2000.

At Iowa, he also served as director of the Industrial Relations Center, university ombudsperson, and chair of the Department of Marketing. In 2000, Delaney joined the faculty of the Eli Broad College of Business and Graduate School of Management at Michigan State University (MSU), where he served as professor of management and associate dean for MBA Programs until moving to Pitt in August of 2006 as dean.

In this interview, Delaney describes the students and faculty at the school, its admission policies and what makes Katz stand out.

Describe the typical student at your school.  What are the common characteristics that “fit” well in your school culture and community?

Katz students typically have some prior work experience, often in business or engineering. Most are relatively young, and seeking their MBA to help them to reach their career goals. We have a diverse student population, which is something we’re proud of. Our MBA is globally focused, so shouldn’t we look like a global school?

Our students mirror the Katz culture. They are highly motivated, entrepreneurial, inquisitive, strong-willed, and full of integrity. We encourage our students to be competitive, but not cutthroat. We place students onto teams because, in business, exceling in cross-functional teams is vital to success.

What is the strategic focus of the school now, and how has that evolved over time?  

We’ve given tremendous thought to how the role of the business school is changing. Global forces and new technology have reshaped the playing field. How do you teach business in a world that is constantly changing? Ultimately, we decided to make experience-based learning (EBL) the bedrock of the Katz MBA.

The beauty of EBL is that it gets our students ready for uncertainty. We are preparing them to become problem solvers who can handle unexpected events. Our students learn by doing; the classroom is a laboratory in which they test business principles and emerging research trends.

Of course, EBL is meaningless unless you have a strong foundation in business fundamentals. We start with that, and then use EBL to reinforce our strategic initiatives: collaboration, globalism, entrepreneurship, and supply chain and value chain management. Our Consulting Field Projects give students the opportunity to work as consultants on real business problems for nationally known client companies.

Describe the range of degrees and concentrations offered by your school(s). Why did you select these programs?

Katz offers MBA and joint-and dual- degrees in a full-time and part-time format. Our Full-time MBA program is offered in a traditional two-year degree or an accelerated one-year degree. Our Part-time MBA, since it’s created for working professionals, has evening classes and the occasional Saturday morning class. Our joint-and dual- degree programs enable students to combine an MBA with one of six types of master’s degrees, including law or engineering.

Our students choose from one of six concentrations: finance, information systems, marketing, operations management, organizational behavior and human resources management, and strategy, environment and organizations. Furthermore, students select a certificate area that gives them additional hands-on experience in a business area.

The different MBA programs appeal to people at all stages of their careers. Our curriculum gives students a strong foundation in business fundamentals, but allows for enough flexibility so they sharpen their skills in a particular field. Certificates help our curriculum stay relevant and introduce courses in response to market demand and fluctuating business needs today.

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.