1-On-1 With Notre Dame’s Martijn Cremers

March 28, 2019; Dean Martijn Cremers, Mendoza College of Business. (Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)

Poets&Quants: Just looking at your past and your bio information and your CV, you’re a teacher and that’s very clear from everything you’ve done. So what is being dean going to do to that? How will that impact you? Do you intend to teach next year as well?

Martijn Cremers: Yes, I’m definitely committed to teaching at least one class a year where I will actually have my own class. I’ve seen that you need more flexibility. You need to make sure that someone is always available to the students. I think this year I’ve been able to be in the class more, teaching my class on Corporate Governance and Catholic Social Teaching, than I promised the students. I think I’ve missed a couple of classes. I’ve been there about 80%, and it’s been really fun. So I teach now once a week and it’s basically Monday afternoon I’m supposed to teach, and the rest of the week is administration stuff. That’s also been very difficult, of course.

Tell me more about the course. It sounds fascinating.

It’s an individual course, it’s trying to integrate the Catholic social division with business. It’s about business as a source for good, it’s Catholic with a small “c,” so it’s based on universal human values and the importance of recognizing that there’s a special responsibility of inclusion, making sure that business pays attention to those with the greatest need, who are the most vulnerable people. And also the sense of inter-human development where people can grow toward the best version of themselves.

This relates to the reasons that I came to Notre Dame. The first reason is, this is a place that is trying to always be excellent. Excellence permeates everything we do. The second reason is, it’s very collegial — it’s a community. And the third reason is the Catholic nature of the university — for business, that’s mostly Catholic with a small ‘c’ and that is integrated with the Catholic faith as well. This is a force for good. I like to talk about the three Cs to cultivate: the first is to contribute to human betterment, the second is to cooperate in solidarity, and the third is to compete in excellence, both externally in the marketplace and also internally toward the best version of oneself.

In serving as interim dean for the last year and now as dean-elect, have you consulted much with your predecessor, with Roger Huang?

Roger and I get along very well. He has been on sabbatical, so he has not been around, but yeah I have lunch with him, I send him emails and phone calls. He’s also been traveling a lot, he will be returning to the faculty this fall.

It’s a great resource for any dean to have his predecessor around to consult with, to talk with. When I started as interim dean I had limited administrative experience, so I did a lot of shadowing Roger. I learned how collaborative the school is and how important as dean it is to be accessible. And I learned that being dean is about service — it’s serving to the faculty staff and the students.

So what is your vision for what the school will look like in five years?

It starts in the division of business, if you like, the three C’s, and then it’s about three broad trends in business education. The first broad trend is analytics, the second trend I see is experiential learning, and the third trend is students looking for a program that is about positive impact, that a business has a big positive impact. I think that fits very well with this vision of business. To have our students compete well, I think analytics needs to be a simple component across all different business programs, not just analytics programs, which we have several. Across all business programs, analytics needs to be a simple component and also being integrated across different disciplines.

Second, we’re trying to significantly expand experiential learning for all our students, including some of those that are more like service, like doing short internships, but also courses that are about students serving as consultants. Finally, the positive impact of business is to make sure that our product is distinctive. The central point of the education is that we help our students become business leaders and they recognize that business can be a great source for good.

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