When Gene Anderson left his hometown 50 years ago, few would have bet any money on Pittsburgh. By the 1970s, the steel industry had one foot over the precipice — and the jobs, people, and economy supported by steel began to disappear.
This fall, Anderson returned to a very different Pittsburgh. It is a city ascending, in the middle of an impressive transition from a post-industrial economy to one based on knowledge and innovation. In 2018, Bloomberg’s Noah Smith declared Pittsburgh as a model that other Rust Belt cities should emulate: “Pittsburgh is hot. A growing mecca for millennials, Pittsburgh regularly earns a place on the list of ‘best cities to live’ and ‘coolest neighborhoods in America.’ It’s being hailed as the next tech industry hotspot, and even old-line manufacturers like Alcoa Corp. are moving back to the city.”
“It’s done incredibly well, and the universities are an important part of the ecosystem that made that happen,” says Anderson who on August 1 took over as dean of the University of Pittsburgh’s Pitt Business programs.
“For me, coming home, it’s an opportunity to have an impact, to be a part of the renaissance,” he tells Poets&Quants. “The University of Pittsburgh is central to what’s going on in the community.”
A NATIVE WITH A LOT OF DEAN EXPERIENCE
Pitt Business includes its undergraduate program through the College of Business Administration. Enrolling about 350 freshmen per year, the program ranked 29th in P&Q’s latest ranking for best undergraduate business schools and 34th in U.S. News’ latest list. Pittsburgh’s curriculum features seven different business majors, two double degree programs, and six business-focused certificates. Its first destination placement rate for graduates is 96%.
Graduate and executive programs are offered through The Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business. Its full-time MBA program most recently ranked 43rd by Poets&Quants and 55th by U.S. News & World Report. It also offers a part-time MBA, a series of joint MBA degrees, and a STEM-designated MBA in business analytics. It was the first business school to offer a one-year accelerated MBA in 1963. It also offers a variety of Master of Science degrees. Katz’s Executive EMBA ranked No. 18 in our annual composite ranking of the best U.S. programs. It also offers an EMBA in Healthcare, an executive DBA, and a portfolio of micro-credentials and other exec ed offerings.
Prior to the University of Pittsburgh, Anderson was dean of the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University since 2017 and dean of the University of Miami School of Business Administration from 2011 to 2016. He began his academic career at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business where he was the D. Maynard Phelps Professor of Business and held a series of leadership roles. He is a highly respected scholar whose research on customer satisfaction has received more than 5,000 Social Sciences Citation Index citations and over 43,000 Google Scholar citations.
When he started at Pitt Business on August 1, Anderson embarked on a listening tour to get to know students, faculty, alumni, and the Pittsburgh business leaders. Poets&Quants spoke with him last week to learn more about his return to his hometown and his visions for its future.
Why the move from Syracuse to Pittsburgh, and why now?
Well, I’m a native of Pittsburgh, and it was kind of a combination of people, place, and potential. It’s a terrific faculty, just wonderful students, loyal and successful alumni. A lot of the fundamentals in terms of people are already here.
And, the place I think is really, really interesting. If you were looking for great examples around the world for how to make it in a post industrial world, to transition from a manufacturing economy to a more knowledge and innovation based one, you’d be hard pressed to find a better place than Pittsburgh. You put those two things together, and I think there’s a lot of potential to do something special here.
Were you looking for a change, or did this opportunity kind of materialize?
No, this actually was quite a surprise. There was no notion of making a change, and then I got a call in late April. By the end of May, I was looking for housing.
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