It’s always an exciting time at business school when a new dean is hired. It means, among other things, that change — which so often happens glacially in academia — is in the air.
That’s what is underway right now on the campus of the Mendoza College of Business at Notre Dame University. Martijn Cremers, a long-time finance prof at the school, was named dean in March, and he immediately began the time-honored process of upending the familiar. Speaking to Poets&Quants in the spring shortly after his elevation, Cremers hinted at the changes to come, including a stronger focus on experiential courses and analytics across the curriculum and a drive to cultivate the three C’s: “contribute to human betterment, cooperate in solidarity, and compete in excellence,” both externally in the marketplace and also internally “toward the best version of oneself.”
What’s underway at Mendoza, then is nothing less than an elevation in the quality of students and their experience across the B-school entire journey, from enrollment to graduation and beyond.
Clearly Cremers, like all new deans, has ambitious plans for his school, perhaps most importantly some big proposed changes to its organizational structure. And like all deans he will need the help of smart and driven people to accomplish his designs. One of those people is Tim Bohling, Mendoza’s chief marketing officer and a teaching professor at the college, who has been tasked by Cremers to spearhead an overhaul that will “create a better experience from the prospective students’ perspective across their journey, their enrollment journey, if you will,” Bohling says.
MOVES MADE WITH AN EYE TO ‘ELEVATING AND STRENGTHENING OUR GRADUATE PROGRAMS’
Notre Dame Mendoza is ranked 26th in the latest U.S. News ranking of MBA programs in the United States, and 29th in Poets&Quants‘ ranking. The school currently has about 120 students in its two-year, full-time MBA program, with an average Graduate Management Admission Test score of 671 and an average undergrad GPA of 3.37. The current crop of MBA students is 24% female, 14% minority, and 36% international, with 21 countries represented. Mendoza’s acceptance rate is 47.8%.
So what changes are in store at Notre Dame? How will the school distinguish itself among its peers?
“What we’ve just announced is the creation of a new team that integrates the marketing organization and the admissions functions that have historically been in four different groups,” Bohling says. “So we’ve had marketing, of course, and then we’ve had admissions in three different areas. We’ve had what we call our GBP programs, our business programs, if you will, our executive ed programs, and then our nonprofit program.
“In essence, the objective here is really to drive an elevation in the quality of students and their experience across the entire journey, whether it’s the MBA program, the executive MBA program, our specialized master’s programs like the master of science and analytics, master of science and finance, our business analytics program, and so forth. We’re excited about the new organization and really kind of elevating and strengthening our graduate programs, which play such a crucial part and role not just in the college, but with respect to the mission of developing leaders to truly impact society for the better.”
Perhaps learning from other schools’ missteps, Mendoza made student feedback a major part of the changes, Bohling says.
“Students are always in play, no doubt about it,” he says. “Their perspective matters a lot. We are really looking to elevate our relationships and deepen them across the entire journey, so if you think about it, students start from an awareness perspective and then move into a consideration set, considering a few different options, and then they inquire.
“And traditionally in schools today, that awareness, consideration, inquiry state is done by the marketing team. And then it’s handed off. Once an inquiry is made — a potential student raises their hand and then they create an application — it then moves over to an admissions team. Here at Mendoza we’ve had three of those teams, right? One for the created apps, submitted apps, deposit and enrollment. But what we’ve done now is create something I think is very special, and Martin’s asked that I lead this: a combined marketing and graduate enrollment team that in essence is on point to be very student-centric across the entire prospective journey. It’s pretty exciting, I think.”
MANY OPTIONS FOR STUDENTS TO CONSIDER
What changes are in store or being contemplated for the MBA program? The school is interested in “elevating the distinctive components of it,” Bohling says. Among the first investments: expansion of Business on the Front Lines, a popular elective in which graduate students and faculty work directly on projects in formerly war-torn regions, partnering with international humanitarian organizations and others. Another key push: infusing the curriculum with analytics
“Business on the Front Lines is a big kind of distinctive investment, if you will, that we’re looking to expand beyond the historical numbers of students that can participate,” Bohling says. “In fact, doubling it. And the infusion of analytics is of course another very, very important component as we move forward.
“In the MBA, with respect to this new organizational structure, another kind of key benefit is the ability to guide the students to the program that best meets their needs. Today, there’s three different admissions teams; that the opportunity to really kind of guide the student, help them in their discerning of course, now that it’s under one team, we can really look at that student journey.
“We’ve got 12 programs. There are many options for students to consider, we’ll say it that way!”
ONE FOOT IN ACADEMIA, ANOTHER IN THE BUSINESS WORLD
Bohling, who officially joined Mendoza on January 1, 2019, is uniquely qualified for his role as Cremers’ lead change agent. Prior to joining Notre Dame he was a marketing professor of practice and the chief marketing and communications officer at Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University. He is also an accomplished business leader, having held several vice president and C-suite positions “leading marketing transformation and entrepreneurial business building at IBM, HCL Technologies, Stratasys, and Georgia State University,” according to his Mendoza bio. He has also published several research papers in top scholarly journals and is the founder of a marketing consulting company “dedicated to elevating the growth and greatness of his clients.”
“My background and my role’s a bit unique in the following sense,” Bohling tells P&Q. “I have a doctorate, have had one foot in academia for over 20 years, but at the same time have had one foot firmly planted in business.”
Bohling joined the Mendoza faculty at the beginning of the year to teach digital marketing in the Marketing Department as well as leading the digital marketing minor across the university after it was introduced for non-business students, a move that led to a surge in interest and applications — “far beyond what most people expected, which was so nice,” Bohling says. “So, I joined with one hat being from a faculty member perspective, teaching digital marketing, leading the digital marketing minor, and at the same time Martin asked if I would serve as the school’s chief marketing officer.”
It was the latter role that expanded significantly after Cremers was named dean in March, Bohling says.
“I was delighted to take on the role of chief marketing officer for Mendoza,” he says, “and now (Cremers) has asked me to expand that remit, if you will, to lead the admissions functions as well. So I will be professor on the marketing side, really leading digital marketing and strategic marketing, and in addition to my faculty and research responsibilities I will be leading marketing and graduate program enrollment. After 20 years in industry, really what I’m going to be doing here is applying best practices from industry and education industry to really elevate the brand value and reputation of Mendoza, and of course our graduate programs as well.”
ALL ABOUT ‘STUDENT-CENTRICITY’
With a new dean and a plan to shake things up for the future, it’s an exciting time at Notre Dame Mendoza. So what’s the mood on the ground?
“I think the vision that Martin has laid out quite well is being received extremely well,” Bohling says. “We’ve got currently a number of changes, such as the one we’re talking about here from an organizational perspective, but his focus very much is the right one and being received quite positively. As you said — new deans, there’s a lot of kind of renewed energy. Well, I haven’t been here at Notre Dame that long. What I’ve seen has been received very, very well. Martin’s focus on the notion of really reinvesting and revitalizing the graduate programs is beginning to take place.
“The key thing that I would stress is that this new organizational focus is really all about student experience. It is about being student-centric. It is about being analytics-driven and outcome-focused. And what do I mean by that? As we think about student-centricity, it’s about deeply engaging with prospective students across the entire enrollment journey to really engage them across the awareness, consideration, inquiry, and then the application process from create, submit, deposit to enrollment so that student-centricity is the key benefit here.
“It’s important today to be analytics-driven, right? We’re leveraging best-in-class analytics to optimize the efficacy of our efforts here, which is again bringing into academia the best practices from industry, the ability to really understand how we resonate with prospective students in a meaningful and a personal way. That personalization matters. And again, it is about being outcome-oriented, if you will. That’s an important aspect. And it’s important to have clarity on what we’re trying to achieve, which is about really elevating and advancing and strengthening our graduate programs all on behalf of the students.”