B-School Deans Share 2019 New Year’s Resolutions

Ah, January. The year is new, and so is everyone’s resolve to change for the better. In this, business school deans are no different from the rest of us — except as the ultimate go-getters, they are probably more likely than the rest of us to stick to their resolutions and succeed in their goals for change.

Our money is on Bill Boulding to succeed, for example, when he resolves to “double down on my efforts as dean of Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and chair of the board of GMAC (the Graduate Management Admission Council) to explain how business education can help develop the kind of leaders who can use business to improve society.” Or on Jonathan Levin when he touts multi-disciplinary thinking at Stanford Graduate School of Business and resolves to “launch new initiatives in partnership with our fellow Stanford schools, in order to strengthen our faculty, MBA, Ph.D., and MSx programs and … further our mission of nurturing the next generation of leaders who will change lives, organizations, and the world.” It’s a safe bet, too, that when Cornell Johnson’s Mark Nelson says he wants to “continue to build on our two-campus, one community model, leveraging new facilities, faculty and innovative programming on both the Cornell Tech campus in New York City and the Cornell campus in Ithaca for the benefit of all of our students” — that it’s going to happen.

Here, in no particular order, are resolutions from eight deans from the most elite U.S. schools.


Michigan Ross’ Scott DeRue. Ross photo

The turn of the calendar is a wonderful time for reflection and renewal. It is a time to reflect on our progress, setbacks, and lessons learned. And it is a time to renew our commitment to the values, ideals, and aspirations that define us. To not reflect and renew is a missed opportunity on the journey to discovering our best self — as individuals and as business schools.

As I write these resolutions, I am on my own personal journey of reflection and renewal — an expedition in Antarctica where a team of good friends and I are skiing to the South Pole and climbing Mt. Vinson, the tallest mountain in Antarctica. The hours of solitude combined with daily displays of team spirit offer a wonderful environment for reflection and renewal.

I have incredibly high expectations for business education in 2019! At Michigan Ross, we have three defining resolutions for the coming year.

First, we will take smart risks in service of innovation. For example, we will expand our new Ross Experiences in Action-based Learning (REAL) in ways that will redefine how Michigan Ross educates students and engages companies for years to come. Additionally, we will establish a Business+Impact Studio, an incubator to translate research insights from Michigan Ross and the University of Michigan into practical business solutions. The goal of the studio is to support students as they evaluate business ideas from faculty, students, and community members, and to make recommendations on how to turn such ideas into viable business options. The business school of yesterday is no longer. Business schools must be action-oriented and the educational experience must resemble a curated concert between faculty and students embedded in the real work of leading companies around the globe.

Second, in 2019 we will launch the next phase of digital innovation at Michigan Ross. We will provide more flexible and accessible business education to exceptional students through online offerings, including our new Ross Online MBA program. We will also develop digital capabilities to offer a more personalized experience to every student who is part of the Michigan family.

Lastly, we will discover new ways for our faculty and students to use their unique talents to make a positive impact in our communities, locally and globally. Whether it is addressing the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, or addressing the declining percentage of women in India’s labor force, our faculty and students will develop innovative ideas and learn new skills as they improve our communities for future generations. Each and every day in 2019, we will renew our commitment to the mission — building a better world at the intersection of business and education.


Stanford GSB Dean Jon Levin. GSB photo

In 2019, I resolve to strengthen the GSB’s collaboration with Stanford’s other world-class schools and institutes. The greatest challenges in today’s world require different types of thinking, and leaders who can work with different types of people. Business schools are inherently multi-disciplinary: we expect students to master a broad range of skills, and to collaborate with peers from diverse backgrounds and industries. At Stanford, we want GSB students to develop close relationships with each other, but also to engage with students and faculty from engineering, medicine, law, education, the sciences, social sciences, and the humanities.

Some of the most innovative thinking on our campus comes from these interactions, whether in multi-disciplinary classes, through joint degrees, or in pioneering research. We will expand on these efforts in 2019 and launch new initiatives in partnership with our fellow Stanford schools, in order to strengthen our faculty, MBA, Ph.D., and MSx programs and initiatives such as Stanford LEAD and Stanford Seed, and to further our mission of nurturing the next generation of leaders who will change lives, organizations, and the world.


Rice Jones Dean Peter Rodriguez. Rice photo

I make a habit of setting big goals a few times a year. Once a year just isn’t enough. But, I do always make resolutions for the New Year. Usually, I go on the record sometime around the midnight champagne toasts and take pen to paper to make them stick.

What I like most about New Year’s resolutions is the invitation to clarify my focus on the big picture. Looking back at another year’s passing and all it brought invites valuable reflections like no other moment. I’m incredibly excited for 2019 and expect the year to be a watershed for Rice. We are in an enviable position for growth and impact because of the strategic investments made by my predecessors and so many others. To honor their vision, we must resolve to have the courage to play the long game with our strategic decisions, and that means being bold enough to take sizable risks and embrace the sometimes daunting challenge of change. At the same time, we must recall our fundamental belief that the purpose of organizations is to solve the world’s problems, and resolve to advance it through all our efforts. We do so by staying romantic about the power of an education to transform a life and to empower a leader to create change for good. And we do so by finding and fighting for truth in our research.

Finally, I like to recall a favorite mantra: Good thoughts, good words, good deeds. It’s a reminder to fill my mind with the best knowledge available, strive ever harder to communicate with clarity and honesty, and pledge to act for others more often.

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