Once upon a time, before earning his Ph.D. in industrial engineering from Stanford University, Keith Rollag was a product development manager at Procter & Gamble, one of the world’s biggest and best-known corporations. Now the newly appointed dean of Babson College’s F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business will oversee a program best known for its innovation in the smaller arena of entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurship is Babson’s bread and butter. In 2018 the Olin School was named the top spot for an entrepreneurship specialization for the 25th year in a row by U.S. News & World Report, despite Babson ranking only 83rd overall in the full-time MBA standings. That’s a quarter-century of fending off the advances of what Dean Rollag calls “well-endowed” challengers like Harvard and Stanford.
“It’s certainly an honor to be No. 1 and also to have a 25-year streak,” Rollag told Poets&Quants in March. “Especially when our competition is MIT, Stanford, and Harvard who perennially are battling for No. 2, you can imagine that very year we get a little nervous.”
‘AN ENTREPRENEURIAL MINDSET CAN MAKE BUSINESS AND SOCIETY BETTER’
There seems little reason to be nervous. Entrepreneurship is Rollag’s bread and butter, too: He has taught the startup business at Babson for 17 years.
Rollag, a management professor, said in a news release announcing his appointment that “The core of what makes Babson special is our belief that an entrepreneurial mindset can make business and society better. I am inspired every day by the Babson community, by the businesses and change initiatives we are building, by the sense of purpose we all bring to our work, and by the positive impact we are having in the world.”
Entrepreneurship, Rollag told P&Q, is part of the school’s DNA.
“Not only do we teach entrepreneurship, but it’s really Entrepreneurial Thought and Action, which is actually a trademarked term we have,” Rollag said. “Basically, it’s learning quickly through acting that we’ve built into our entire curriculum, both undergraduate and graduate.”
PART OF BABSON’S DNA
What puts Babson over the top in Entrepreneurship, year after year? Part of it is the “first-in-the-door advantage” the school enjoys as one of the first schools in the country to focus on entrepreneurship in the 1970s, “when it was something that few people did,” Rollag told P&Q. Babson launched its eponymous research conference in 1981, and the Symposium for Entrepreneurship Education in 1984 — “back when it wasn’t even really a discipline.” Nearly 5,000 educators have been through the latter program, Rollag says, helping to further Babson’s mission to promote entrepreneurship education globally.
How will Babson stay atop the U.S. News entrepreneurship ranking for a 26th year? This fall the college will open a new campus in Miami, Florida, in an effort to strengthen the school’s connections with Latin America. In 2019, Babson will celebrate its centennial. And in the meantime, the school will continue to “reimagine” its MBA, exploring ways to “make it more entrepreneurial, more relevant, more adaptable for the future. As the market for graduate education is evolving, we’ll make sure that our MBA is evolving with it.” That will include the school’s continued efforts to strengthen its focus on family entrepreneurship, including hiring more faculty and expanding into the Babson Institute For Family Entrepreneurship.
“So far we’ve been blessed with the No. 1 in Entrepreneurship,” Rollag said. “Because the ranking is a peer ranking, a lot of it is reflected in the fact that we’re known for training entrepreneurship educators and being at the center of a lot of the scholarship that happens with entrepreneurship as well.”
‘KEITH’S LEADERSHIP WILL ENSURE BABSON REMAINS AT THE FOREFRONT’
Rollag is a former chair of Babson’s Management Division. His teaching focuses on organizational behavior, teamwork, and leadership, and his research focuses primarily on newcomer socialization and training, organizational culture, social networks, and leadership development.
“We are thrilled to welcome Keith Rollag to his new role as Dean of Babson’s F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business,” Babson President Kerry Healey said in the news release. “Keith’s leadership will help ensure that Babson remains at the forefront of business education and continues to innovate and educate entrepreneurial leaders who will have a positive impact on the world.”
Rollag’s book, What To Do When You’re New: How to Be Confident, Comfortable, and Successful in New Situations, was named by Success magazine as one of the 10 “Best Books of 2015.” and was a featured “New Non-Fiction Release” at Barnes & Noble stores nationwide. Rollag also has published articles in the Harvard Business Review, MIT/Sloan Management Review, Organizational Dynamics, Journal of Organizational Behavior, Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, Journal of Management Education, International Journal of Management Education, Business Horizons, and the Journal of Innovative Education. His research and thoughts also have been featured in The New York Times, National Public Radio, Fast Company, Forbes, Fortune, and Cosmopolitan, among others.
He lives in Millis, MA, with his wife and two children, and in his spare time enjoys blues guitar, racewalking, kayaking, and learning new languages, according to the news release.