‘THE PERFORMING ARTS ARE VERY IMPORTANT, PARTICULARLY IN A BUSINESS SCHOOL EDUCATION’
When he was appointed to his deanship at Olin on May 17 of 2016, it was his birthday. When he was interviewed for the job on April 23, it was Shakespeare’s birthday. So when Olin celebrated its 100th anniversary this past April, Taylor thought it would be ideal to do it with a bit of Shakespeare that brought him on stage with his Dean’s Players troupe that he formed at the business school. “I was being economic because when we celebrated our 100th anniversary it was the very weekend of Shakespeare’s birthday, his 564th birthday in April. It seemed a shame not to use it to celebrate the Bard’s birthday.”
And so Taylor was able to merge two passions, his love of English Literature and his love for higher education. “Literature,” he believes, “really tells us a lot about human nature and the human condition. Thinking about those issues is a very important part of humanity and being an effective business leader. The performing arts are very important, particularly in a business school education. Being able to project, persuade, and get one’s views across is in one sense a part of drama.”
One early decision as dean was to shut down the school’s off-campus EMBA programs in Kansas City and Denver, largely to refocus resources elsewhere. The school started the Kansas City offshoot in 2010 and the Denver satellite campus three years later. But enrollment has lagged, with just ten students currently in each program. Having three locations, all in the Midwest, was inconsistent with a more global strategy, thought Taylor. The school expects to close those locations in January, with some students having to finish out their studies in St. Louis. That decision seems prudent, if nothing else, because Olin’s other executive programs are on a more solid footing. Olin’s St. Louis EMBA program typically attracts 70 to 80 students a year.
BIGGEST SURPRISE? ‘I FOUND OUT I WAS A HOTEL MANAGER’
His biggest surprise as dean? “Finding out I was a hotel manager,” he laughs. “A 66-room hotel and a restaurant is actually in my budget. I am putting myself in a hotel management course next year, probably at Cornell or Houston.” The Knight Center, the official name of that hotel, is used largely for executive education participants and the EMBA students but also welcomes guests for overnight stays, much like any hotel. Meantime, he is also doing refurbishments to the hotel and thinking hard about what is “the image, what is the brand and how does that link to the rest of the business school.”
At Warwick, Taylor introduced a portfolio of pre-experience specialized masters degrees and he expects to do the same at Olin, including a master’s in management. “I think the demand for general managers aged 23 and 24 is quite small,” he says. “So it would be a master’s in business in marketing or finance. It would give students an advantage in getting a job in marketing and finance.”
But it’s likely there will be a fuller array of such degrees, given their popularity today. Already, Olin offers specialized options in accounting, supply chain management, customer analytics, quantitative finance, corporate finance and investments, wealth and asset management, and global finance. Next year, the school’s business analytics master’s will open a trio of new tracks in healthcare analytics, supply chain analytics, and financial technology analytics. Analytics, of course, is the latest business school growth rage and for good reason: market demand. Olin’s customer analytics graduates last year had a 97% placement rate within three months of graduation.
‘I WOULDN’T WANT TO BE UP AGAINST ANY OF OUR GRADUATES IN THE MARKET, BUT WOULD WANT TO BE ONE OF THEIR COLLEAGUES’
Though many changes to Olin are expected in the near term, one change that is off the table for now is an online MBA option. “We don’t have any plans at present for an online MBA,” he says. “We have plans for thinking about e-learning in general and how that has to be integrated into all of our programs. I think that is just the way of the world. The question is not whether you have online content in your program but how much? Even our residential programs I see as having more and more e-learning content going forward just because there are more efficient ways to transfer knowledge.”
Still, he views technology as disruptive to higher education “to some extent. There are at least four basic things that universities do in general. They produce knowledge. They disseminate knowledge. They provide accreditation, and they provide a student experience. Pure online learning really only disseminates knowlege. There will always be those other three aspects that are very important, especially interacting with faculty and staff.”
And that leads to the kinds of students that Taylor wants at the school, whether in its top-rated undergraduate program or its MBA. “We are looking for individuals who are excellent and who want to pursue excellence. We are looking for people who have a strong values system and want to have a global outlook. Our vision is global and our thinking is entrepreneurial. The environment here is a very supportive one. I wouldn’t want to be up against any of our graduates in the marketplace but I certainly would want to be one of their colleagues.”
DON’T MISS: MEET THE MBA CLASS OF 2018 AT THE OLIN SCHOOL