Eleanor Roosevelt is often credited with saying, “Do one thing every day that scares you,” which — though it mentions nothing about weight loss — might be the prototype for the modern New Year’s resolution. Scott DeRue, dean of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, cites the former First Lady in explaining his outlook, and that of his school, as 2016 gives way to 2017.
“I try to step back at intervals throughout the year to make sure that I am focused on the right things,” says DeRue, who was named Ross’s dean in May. “The turn of the calendar provides a reliable window of time to replant the stakes and review if I’m on the right track. One resolution I have is to keep asking myself and our team at Michigan Ross if we are taking enough risks.”
DeRue says he tries never to forget Roosevelt’s words, or those of Thomas Edison, who once said, “I have not failed, not once. I have discovered 10,000 ways that don’t work.”
“As a school, we can’t lose sight of the fact that we are a laboratory, not just for students, but for ideas,” DeRue tells Poets&Quants. “We must learn from the past but not enslave ourselves to what’s been done before. We have to keep taking risks in the way we operate as a university, and maintain an entrepreneurial mindset.”
DeRue says he was reminded recently about the importance of connecting with people we care about, and who care about us. That led him to another 2017 resolution: “In a day when people count friends by likes and retweets, it is easy to forget that we need to feel deeply connected to others. Yet, our data suggests the quality of our relationships drives everything from life satisfaction and employee commitment to customer loyalty in retail settings. I like the idea of making a list of the 10 most important people in my life. How much time and energy am I investing in each of these relationships? Then I ask myself: Whose ‘list of 10’ am I on, and how am I investing in those relationships?”
RELATIONSHIPS AND DIVERSITY
Relationships are on the mind of another new dean, Jonathan Levin of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, who plans to focus on relationships of the collaborative kind within the Stanford community.
“I resolve to foster greater collaboration not just within our school, but across Stanford’s seven world-class schools — Business, Law, Medicine, Engineering, Education, Earth, and Humanities and Sciences,” says Levin, who assumed the deanship at Stanford GSB in September. “With all of our schools in short walking distance, we have the opportunity at Stanford to enable exciting collaborations between faculty and to expose students to a diverse range of knowledge, so they can develop into business leaders with both deep management expertise and a broad perspective on the social, legal, political and technological context of their work.”
“Diverse” is a word that leaped to the minds of more than one dean who was asked to mull a New Year’s resolution. Rohan Williamson, interim dean at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, says, “All business schools should strive to reach out to all communities to make undergraduate and graduate business education available to more people. At Georgetown McDonough, we resolve to continue innovating the delivery of business education and its impact the student experience. As a diverse, inclusive, and collaborative community, Georgetown McDonough will seek out ways to share our mission to serve both business and society.”
Idalene “Idie” Kesner, dean of the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, vowed to create more opportunities “that show our students, faculty, staff, and alumni how their diversity enriches us all,” adding, “I resolve to help Kelley School students, faculty, staff, and alumni live our brand by showing them how to take individual moments and turn them into momentum.”
And Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business Dean Matthew Slaughter resolved not only to “continue to enhance those areas of strategic focus that make a Tuck education uniquely personal, connected, and transformative,” but also to “educate and inspire more of the wise leaders that our world so needs — people with the aptitudes of confident humility, who are empathetic toward the diverse ideas and experiences of others, and who have sound judgment about when and how to take risks for the better.”
FOCUS ON THE CLASSROOM
For all the big ideas as 2016 wanes and 2017 looms, some B-school chiefs are keeping their resolutions concise — and focused on the learning experience. “We resolve,” says Doug Shackelford, dean at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, “to continue to explore, experiment, and innovate in order to provide new and even better ways for students and executives to learn the knowledge and skills they need.”
Peter Henry, dean of the NYU Stern School of Business, endorses the “team of rivals” approach: “Seek out people and perspectives that challenge your viewpoint and way of thinking,” he says. “Some of the best ideas come from embracing difference.”
At Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, Dean Bill Boulding hopes to “Inspire our students to think about how we disrupt the concept of disruption, so that we are not just innovating, but helping folks displaced by our innovations,” as well as “find ways to continue to expose our students to viewpoints that are different than their own and foster the ability to bring different people together to work toward a common goal.”
Boulding further resolved to “continue the dialogue with top business leaders to better understand current challenges they are facing and how they are working to bring people together, and look for ways to foster and harness the transformational power of business in solving some of the world’s toughest challenges.”