Exit Interview: Dean John Quelch On What’s Next For Miami Herbert Business School — And The MBA Degree

John Quelch on Miami Herbert: Demographic and wealth shifts in the United States have created tailwinds that “have been very favorable and that no doubt has been helpful to us in terms of moving the brand.” Herbert photo

Poets&Quants: It’s customary in interviews with outgoing deans to ask how you feel about your term, the last five and a half years, and what you are most proud of.

John Quelch: I think perhaps three things come to mind. First, we’ve hired 28 outstanding tenured and tenure-track faculty, and significantly elevated the research performance and output of the school in terms of the FT 50 and the Dallas list as a result of that. I think the school is on an excellent trajectory when it comes to the research productivity of the faculty.

A second important achievement, without belaboring rankings, is that I think we have moved the undergraduate ranking of the school from 48 to 30. I’m not sure where it sits in terms of the benchmarking, but I think most people would regard that as a significant advance over a five-year period. That’s really a function of the dedication of our faculty to teaching, but also investments that we’ve made in career development and career advancement to ensure successful outcomes of the students in terms of placement.

A third thing which I’m personally proud of and hope will be an important legacy here is a degree program which I initiated one year after arrival, which was the MS in Sustainable Business. That is still the only, I believe, STEM-certified MS in Sustainable Business in the U.S. That has become, if you like, a beacon for the school inasmuch as we attract many students who don’t necessarily want to do that degree, but want to do their MBA or their MS in Finance at a school where those issues are valued highly. The way in which the MS in Sustainable Business is constructed, there are a number of electives that were developed specifically for that degree, but those electives are open to students from all of the other master’s programs. Every year we have a significant number of crossovers, if you wish, from other degree programs into these electives.

Commensurate with that, we have really wanted to ensure that we “walk the talk.” Just last week, our buildings here were given the platinum new LEED designation for operations and maintenance. Believe it or not, these buildings are actually the only buildings in the entire state of Florida that have the platinum LEED designation, which is really remarkable.

Then finally, perhaps, if I had to add one more: Non-degree executive education did not exist when I arrived here in any meaningful way. About eight weeks ago, I think in The Financial Times company-specific custom  ranking list, we were ranked No. 5 in the U.S. Of course, that’s a little bit generous because some of the top schools like Harvard did not submit that particular year because of Covid-related shutdowns. However, what we did was work straight through Covid. Actually, what we found was that in many companies, Covid gave the companies an excuse or an opportunity to unfreeze their existing relationships with entrenched executive education suppliers, other business schools, and opened themselves up to potentially considering newcomers like us. We were actually able to advance very successfully during Covid. This was a very important strategic choice, which most schools have not made. We only do company-specific programs. We do not do any open-enrollment programs. We’re just strictly in the B2B market, not the B2C market.

Talking of Covid, a number of deans and admissions directors and others who are leaving this year or at the end of the school year have suggested that they are doing so because there’s a sense that it’s safe to leave now, that the emergency is over and things are on a stronger footing. Is that how you feel?

Well, I think it would be, of course, dereliction of duty to leave in the middle of a crisis. I would support that particular point of view — though serendipitously my term ended on June 30th of this year, so it was really not an issue that I had to consider.

It certainly wasn’t an issue that you considered when you started as dean there. You couldn’t possibly have expected it to be as eventful a term as it was.

I think it’s fair to say we rose to the occasion. One of the important characteristics of leadership is, of course, not to panic in a crisis, but to provide a sense of calm and confidence to the community. As with many other schools, our faculty perhaps surprised themselves by their own resilience, and agility, and ability to adapt to hybrid and online delivery. That has stood us in good stead for executive education, as I pointed out before, but it’s also worth noting that we did have an online degree program presence prior to Covid, so there were a certain number of faculty members who were already versed in online teaching and could coach and help others to do so.

Are more online offerings in the works in Miami? Was that perhaps accelerated by the Covid experience or?

Yeah, so I think it’s important to note that we moved our online MBA program 2U, as an OPM, from an in-house delivery system. Our in-house delivery system, which is a university-wide system that was essentially responsible for all things online pre-Covid. We have still left them with the MS in Finance online. We believe that it’s useful to have a compare and contrast opportunity between 2U, as an OPM, and our in-house group.

We have, in addition, delved into certificate programs and boot camps with Global Alumni and with Trilogy, which of course was part of… is part of 2U. All of these initiatives are really to explore alternative revenue streams or supplementary revenue streams that will hopefully enable us to counter any downturn that might occur in, for example, a graduate degree in residence education. There are a couple of other online degree program offerings we’re exploring, but we haven’t announced anything yet.

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