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Dean Steenburgh, Guiding Owen Beyond Business as Usual

Driven by a keen interest in nurturing growth and his innate curiosity, Vanderbilt Business' new dean aims to tap into Nashville's unparalleled opportunities

By Lacie Blankenship

Taking on new challenges and creating novel things is something Tom Steenburgh, Ralph Owen Dean and Professor of Marketing, isn’t shy about. In an introductory Q&A from his first month in the role, Steenburgh noted that he was most looking forward to “meeting a new set of people, thinking about the world differently, and creating some things that I haven’t had the ability to do yet.”

Pictured: Dean Steenburgh in his Vanderbilt Business headshot.

Tom Steenburgh, Ralph Owen Dean and Professor of Marketing

Seenburgh’s first 6 months in the role consisted of listening, learning, and immersing himself in various community conversations and events. Steenburgh has already prioritized building new connections in Nashville, nurturing existing relationships, uniting with venture capitalists, and the concept of lifelong learning. Learn more about his background and vision below.


Who is Dean Tom Steenburgh?

Dean Steenburgh is an expert in business-to-business marketing and sales, advocating for the fusion of academic insight and industry collaboration to drive innovative research and tackle real-world business challenges. He earned a PhD in Marketing from Yale, an MA in Statistics from the University of Michigan, and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Boston University.

Before coming to Owen, Dean Steenburgh served as the Richard S. Reynolds Professor and Senior Associate Dean of the Full-Time Program at the Darden School of Business. He had previously served as the Senior Associate Dean of Faculty Development and the Senior Associate Dean of Executive Education and Lifelong Learning. He was also the course head for first-year marketing. Before joining Darden, he was on the faculty at the Harvard Business School, where he developed electives and led executive education courses in business-to-business marketing and sales. Dean Steenburgh is a co-founder of the Thought Leadership on the Sales Profession conference, a unique event that brings together leading academics and senior business leaders to discuss cutting-edge ideas and practices in sales.

Owen attracted Steenburgh because of 2 things: “The first and primary, the people,” nodding to the incredibly talented people he has worked with over the years. “You can only create educational experiences with the help of others.” The second initial draw for Steenburgh was the unparalleled growth opportunity at Owen. These 2 attraction points for Steenburgh continue to play an integral role in developing his goals and vision for the future of Vanderbilt Business.


Embracing Regional Prosperity

Harmonizing with Nashville’s Key Sectors

Pictured: Dean Steenburgh is standing at a podium in front of a microphone.

Dean Steenburgh addresses alumni at the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Reception

Dean Steenburgh’s vision for Owen focuses on identifying and capitalizing on high-potential growth areas. The ideal high-potential growth areas are industries already thriving in the surrounding regions; positioning Owen to be synchronous with Nashville’s landscape of industry dominance in sectors like entertainment and healthcare is an opportunity that interested Steenburgh early on.

“Nashville is a booming growth market; it’s a really special market in terms of business creation, job potential, and it gets people’s attention because it’s teeming with economic activity,” says Steenburgh. “We [Owen] should have something to say about these areas of the economy that are growing like wildfire, like AI, real estate, entertainment, and healthcare, and we should take advantage of what’s happening in our local backyard.”

Contributing to Nashville’s Growth

Steenburgh aims to align with and foster relationships with the region’s key players, such as AllianceBernstein, Oracle, Google, etc., to leverage the Nashville network and open doors for Vanderbilt Business to meet and serve professionals where they already are.

“The growth of these influential companies allows us to support the longevity of their employees’ success and help them invest in their people,” says Steenburgh. “With Executive Education, companies can either bring in a team of people and help them progress in a leadership development program, or individuals can come to our Programs for Individuals where they can refresh and learn new skills.”

Additionally, Steenburgh shares that Owen is happy to serve as a convening place for business community events and conversations. Vanderbilt Business recently hosted a kickoff event for the Greater Nashville Venture Capital Association, where Steenburgh noted his commitment to the local entrepreneurial ecosystem while delivering welcoming remarks. Hosting events like this have the potential to foster stronger ties between Owen and the surrounding communities.

Venture Connections & Empowering Entrepreneurship 

Pictured: Dean Steenburgh is standing with a group of people in the lobby of Management Hall. Steenburgh is laughing. The other people are turned toward Steenburgh, not facing the camera.

Dean Steenburgh kicks off the 2023 Owen Orientation at the Coffee with the Dean event

Steenburgh’s innovative nature seamlessly intertwines with his dedication to nurturing entrepreneurship at Vanderbilt Business.

“I believe that we should be investing in and creating more connections for venture capitalists and entrepreneurship,” says Steenburgh. “We should do more in the venture capital space with our alliances; we’re not doing enough yet.”

In his eyes, the evolving landscape of careers demands a shift for educational institutions to support the growing number of student entrepreneurs. One of Steenburgh’s new initiatives involves the establishment of the “Vanderbilt Ventures Fund.” This developing fund will allow students to act as venture capitalists and invest in other students’ startup businesses. This program is a unique opportunity that teaches and showcases both sides of the industry, being a venture capitalist and an entrepreneur. In addition to initiating the Vanderbilt Ventures Fund, Steenburgh notes an area he’s investing in the development of coursework at the undergraduate and graduate levels, where students interested in starting businesses can learn more about entrepreneurship in a startup business while in school and have opportunities to have business ideas funded.

“We should serve as a connecting point between our students and alumni in the venture capital and startup space,” says Steenburgh. “We should aim to create a truly immersive ecosystem; Vanderbilt Business is in the perfect position to catalyze innovation within our community.”

Fostering Collaboration

In October, Vanderbilt announced that the Hoogland Undergraduate Business Program (Vanderbilt’s business minor) will fall under the leadership of Owen beginning next fall. This pivotal shift in leadership allows Owen to explore new areas of business education and will lead to new collaborations across campus. Central-campus student and career services will continue to serve undergraduate students, but they will now have seamless access to their business courses, faculty, etc., helping them to thrive in their chosen career paths.

“The goal is for all students to not only be prepared upon graduation, but they should also feel ready to go,” says Steenburgh. “There should be no question that this is a wonderful place to get an undergraduate education and that you’ll be really well prepared for business after obtaining your degree.”

The adoption of the Hoogland Undergraduate Business Program is only the most recent vessel through which Vanderbilt Business meets professionals where they’re at. Stay tuned to newsletters for more information as plans continue to develop regarding the business minor.


Let’s Get Personal: Meet Tom

In July, Tom Steenburgh told us that beyond business, he was most excited about the food and music in Nashville. Who can blame him? Since living in Music City, Steenburgh has enjoyed discovering independent artists at The Listening Room Cafe and enjoyed seeing the “iconic” Lucinda Williams at Ryman Auditorium with his wife. The “surprise element” of the Chef’s Choice menu option at Butcher & Bee received his glowing endorsement.

Outside of exploring Nashville’s food and music scenes, Steenburgh values time spent with his family. His daughter is a junior at UCLA’s theater, film, and television school, and his son is a senior in high school on the crew team. “I spend as much time as I can with my kids, and I like hanging out with them and my wife,” says Steenburgh.

Steenburgh is also an avid runner; he ran a half marathon last December. Steenburgh hopes to continue finding time to keep up the miles as he adapts to his new role and new life in Nashville.

Check out the New Dean Q&A on the Vanderbilt Business website to learn more about Dean Steenburgh, or follow him on LinkedIn. We at Vanderbilt Business are excited for the coming chapters of Owen and are honored to witness the continued impact of Dean Steenburgh’s leadership.

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