‘Relevance’ Before Rankings At Wisconsin

Anne Massey assumed the deanship at Wisconsin School of Business on August 7. She spent nearly 21 years at Indiana University in the roles of professor and vice provost

One of Anne Massey’s main areas of expertise during her more than 20 years at Indiana University-Bloomington was how technology impacted the performance of teams. Now she’s taken that knowledge to work for her new team: Massey assumed the role of dean at Wisconsin School of Business on August 7.

Formerly the dean’s research professor of information systems at the Kelley School of Business, Massey’s research has focused on technology-driven innovation processes and strategies, and more recently on the role of information technology on team and business performance — think enterprise social media and 3D virtual environments. Her three degrees all come from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York: a bachelor’s degree in management, a master’s in industrial engineering, and a doctorate in decision sciences and engineering systems. Given all this, it should come as no surprise that Massey brings a boundless enthusiasm for tech to WSB, known mostly as a destination for those headed into the accounting, marketing, and supply chain/logistics industries.

“The changing nature of higher education — and in particular the changing nature of the expectations that students have when they come to us for their education — is affected by technology,” Massey tells Poets&Quants. “And when I say students, I’m talking about students from our undergraduate students, to our graduate-level students who are returning from a stint in industry, to the people that we want to engage over their careers. And so the use of technology to provide both access and education — we need to be in that space.

“But I don’t want to just be in that space. I want to lead in that space.”


Indiana Kelley and Wisconsin School of Business actually have a lot in common. Both are public schools, both are not known for large minority populations, and both are highly regarded by recruiters, according to the 2017 U.S. News & World Report ranking. Both schools’ most recent cohorts had similar average GMAT scores (669 for WSB, 670 for Indiana Kelley) and undergrad GPAs (WSB’s 3.42 versus Kelley’s 3.34). But the two Midwestern schools have even greater differences. Kelley is a much larger program, with 370 MBA candidates enrolled to Wisconsin’s 196 (per the latest available class profiles), and much more successful in terms of outcomes: At graduation, 83.9% of Indiana Kelley grads from the Class of 2016 had jobs; 76.3% of WSB grads could say the same. (Kelley’s number bumped up to 94% three months after graduation; WSB’s climbed to 88.2%.) Finally, Kelley grads make a lot more: Their starting salary-plus-bonus figure is $128,637, significantly higher than WSB’s $110,756.

Anne Massey: “This is a pivotal moment for business education”

For these and other reasons, Kelley is ranked higher than WSB, and pretty much always has been. U.S. News puts the Indiana school at No. 21 and WSB at No. 34, while Bloomberg Businessweek‘s most recent ranking puts Kelley at 26th and Wisconsin at 40th. It’s not just at the MBA level, either: Poets&Quants‘ inaugural undergraduate ranking last year placed Indiana Kelley at No. 7 and WSB at No. 29.

So Massey’s circumstances have changed, and with them the challenges she’ll face. Her predecessor, Francois Ortalo-Magne, now the dean at London Business School, may have achieved a lot — including a much-ballyhooed overhaul of the curriculum — but nevertheless saw Wisconsin MBAs’ three-month employment rate drop from 91% when he took over in 2011. Meanwhile, despite his emphasis on the importance of rankings, during Ortalo-Magne’s term WSB failed to rise, going from 24th in 2011 to 30th in 2016 in P&Q’s composite rankings.

Massey says she’s not focused on rankings — not yet. Foremost on her mind is relevance. “We can take advantage of the lessons learned by others and then hopefully do some things where we are leapfrogging and entering areas and doing it in a way that maybe others haven’t done before. And technology will play a huge role in that, obviously.

“We pay attention to the rankings because they are one indicator of how the market perceives us, but my feeling is that we are not going to be driven by the rankings,” Massey says. “That’s not the be-all, end-all. What I want us to be driven by is relevance — we want to be relevant in our curriculum, relevant in our research, and to do that we have to be agile. We have to be able to move quickly and respond to this acceleration that we’re seeing, and that coupled with our innovation will further advance us in terms us being significant.”


Under Ortalo-Magne, WSB organized its MBA experience into five learning “dimensions” known as KDBIN, which stands for Knowing, Doing, Being, Inspiring, and Networking, a framework designed to create consistency and purpose throughout the curriculum. The overhaul was hailed as a next-level innovation, but Massey says it’s too early to know what parts of KDBIN will be kept, what parts enhanced and built upon, and what parts — if any — are jettisoned.

“A week in may be a little too early to give you the details before we change it,” Massey says. “But a lot comes back to this notion of the changing expectation of the students and what we need to deliver. The learning outcomes in the KDBIN, that effort was significant, and I think that’s also true across what AACSB is expecting, and what other universities are doing: We have to be thoughtful about that transformational process. It’s that notion of ‘What ends are we trying to achieve?’

“As we start to have these conversations in the school about changes in curriculum, we must ask ourselves, ‘How do we prepare our students going forward at all levels for the workforce of tomorrow — the workforce of the future?’ And when I say ‘the future,’ the future is tomorrow. The acceleration that we are living in right now of technology and globalization demands that we respond. Learning outcomes is part of that, as will be collaboration with other units on campus. Working across disciplines has always been important in my career, and it will be essential to us being able to deliver a workforce that is ready for the demands that we’re experiencing right now and tomorrow. ”


In gaining Wisconsin’s deanship, Anne Massey takes over the leadership of a school that has an annual budget of $69 million and comprises approximately 80 tenured and tenure-track faculty, 220 professional staff, and 40 university staff. She won approval from a 17-member search committee over two other publicly announced candidates from the University of Miami School of Business and the College of Business at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign: Gene Anderson, a marketing professor at Miami, and Raj Echambadi, who helped to bring to market Illinois’ pioneering online MBA program with Coursera, had both wanted the job and presented on campus for it.

In her first week on the job, Massey — the recipient of the IU Board of Trustees’ Distinguished Teaching Award and Kelley’s MBA Distinguished Faculty Teaching Excellence Award, and an Outstanding MBA Faculty Member according to Businessweek — set the bar high for herself and for the Wisconsin School of Business in coming years.

“If we are looked to as a leader in business education, a leader in problem solving, a leader in collaboration with other disciplines, the rankings will follow,” Massey says. “That will happen as a result of all that. I’m very much driven by us being significant. I’m not going to sit here and worry about pushing this lever or that lever, hoping that the rankings will follow. If we do these things, they will follow — it’s a natural flow.” 


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