By M Johnson
Fifty years ago, Vanderbilt University set about finding the first dean of its graduate business school, which would open its doors in 1969. After evaluating 250 potential candidates, the provost settled on Igor Ansoff, a professor at Carnegie Mellon with a sterling reputation in the professional and academic worlds.
Ansoff would go on to build a curriculum with a focus that varied from the norms of the day. While the school shifted toward a more traditional model than initially envisioned by Ansoff, his legacy continues to live on at Owen in big ways and small. (Read the story beginning on page 14.)
Organizational behavior lay at the core of Ansoff’s curriculum, and that commitment to the study of organizations continues today. For example, Assistant Professor of Management Tae-Youn Park’s work on the impact of unions for employees on maternity leave was covered recently by The Atlantic; The Princeton Review ranked Vanderbilt No. 2 in the “Best MBA for Human Resources” category as part of its annual Best Business Schools report; and Melissa Thomas-Hunt, vice provost for equity, diversity and inclusion and a professor of management at Owen, has an extensive body of work on the impact of status on team performance. You can read more about her work on page 12.
Ansoff’s module system was carried forward as well, affording students the chance to explore different areas of study and undertake experiential opportunities. The Global Business Association traveled to Japan during fall break to soak up the culture and meet with alumni. BrandWeek saw companies like KFC and IMG Sports visit campus to work with students on a variety of marketing-related projects for their brands. Healthcare Immersion Week brought students into the belly of the health care delivery system, visiting emergency rooms, making rounds with doctors, and hearing from executives on the challenges and opportunities the industry faces.
One of Ansoff’s central goals was to “produce professional managers who are attuned to the needs of society.” The Turner Family Center—supported by the family foundation of former trustee Cal Turner Jr., BA’62, who shares his father’s story of starting Dollar General on page 8—offers students numerous chances to understand those needs, with projects and trips around Nashville and abroad. Recently, students embarked on a “Beyond Broadway” trek, visiting local businesses and learning about the impact of gentrification on the Music City economy. The center is launching a Social Enterprise Consulting Class in Mod 3 for students who want consulting engagement experience with local or regional social ventures.
While Ansoff may not have fully realized his vision for Vanderbilt’s graduate business school, he left a mark that has benefited students since the beginning. I’m grateful we’ve been able to carry on his dream of a collaborative community focused on building the leaders of today and tomorrow.
All the best,
M. ERIC JOHNSON Ralph Owen Dean Bruce D. Henderson Professor of Strategy