Q & A with Richard Klimoski, Dean of the School of Management

Posted: August 7, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Editor’s note: Over the summer, the Daily Gazette will publish interviews with 11 deans, 2 institute directors, and the vice president for University Life focusing on what was successful in their departments last year and what the George Mason community can expect this year. This is the seventh article in the series.

By Tara Laskowski

What were some of the highlights and successes in the School of Management (SOM) this past year?

SOM welcomed more than 700 new undergraduate students and more than 150 new graduate students this year. One unique and exciting project was the launch of a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program in partnership with Northrop Grumman, which includes an element of which I am most proud. That element is the Northrop Grumman Faculty Fellows Program that provides a select number of our faculty training in advanced teaching tools and pedagogies, and prepares them to use ClassroomPlus, our blended distance model of education.

Richard Klimoski
Richard Klimoski

One of our great success stories has been the minor in business, an exciting program that teaches core business skills to students with passions in other disciplines who are likely to be working in or starting a business. We have been working closely with Nora Olgyay in Art and Visual Technologies and Anne Marchant in the School of Information Technology and Engineering to connect the SOM minor with their specific programs. We hope to continue to form such partnerships with other schools within the university. The first student to complete the minor graduated with a degree in economics last January. Since the program’s launch in fall 2001, the minor has grown from 83 students in spring 2002 to 263 students in fall 2002 to 330 students in spring 2003.

Over the past year, we have also been working with the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business to reaffirm our accreditation. Only one-third of business schools in the world are accredited and must undergo a reaffirmation every 10 years. We will complete the review in October 2004.

We also continued our alumni outreach efforts with a series of breakfasts in Enterprise Hall and on site with business partners in the region. In addition, more than 20,000 of our business partners, alumni, friends, and other business schools received two more issues of the SOMTimes, our school magazine.

Our Advisory Board grew from 6 to 21 members and continues to provide us critical advice relative to our interactions with the business community.

Our relationship with the Century Club continues to flourish. Our Executive Master of Business Administration (E.M.B.A.) students enjoy a membership in the Century Club, where they have mentoring relationships with club members. In addition, our faculty serve as advisors to businesses involved in the Grubstake Breakfast Program. Karen Hallows, director of the E.M.B.A. Program, and I received the Century Club’s Diamond Partnership Award in June at the annual Century Club/George Mason University Celebration of Partnership. This award was also given to our partner Darcie Davis for working with the E.M.B.A. Program to set up a prototype and develop the partnership between SOM and the Century Club.

We also kicked off a senior executive breakfast series at the Tower Club, bringing together CEOs and other high-level executives to a series of Larry King-like discussions with leaders of locally based organizations who experienced critical transitions in the lives of their companies. Hosted by retired business executive Ed Bersoff, the series featured Phil Merrick, CEO of webMethods; Joe Kampf of Anteon; and Paul Lombardi of Dyncorp, which was recently sold to Computer Sciences Corporation.

Have the budget cuts over the past few years affected SOM?

Budget cuts have definitely affected us. We had already been one of the most efficient teaching units on campus–SOM has the highest ratio of students to faculty and the third lowest cost per student on campus–but with the cuts we had to find ways to become even more efficient. We deferred staff support for advising, teaching, and office support, which puts a great burden on SOM students and faculty.

We also had to delay a number of initiatives, including the launch of our new M.S. in Bioscience Management, modeled after our highly innovative and successful Technology Management master’s degree. We hope to launch the Bioscience Management Program this fall.

On the faculty side, we have had to ration resources for conference attendance and graduate research assistants. We have a goal to make our scholarship known at the national level, and the budget situation makes reaching that goal far more challenging.

At the regional level, the budget shortfalls continue to impact our ability to promote SOM through advertising and marketing. Competition among business schools in the region is fierce. Our limited resources profoundly impact our ability to market our programs the way our competitors do.

On the positive side, though, as a result of our outreach efforts to alumni over the past two years and with the work of Holly Davis, our new director of development, our fund raising has increased 100 percent. Our relationship with the business community also continues to flourish, leading to financial support and real opportunities for our students and faculty to engage with the business community.

What are some of your goals for the upcoming year?

In general, we have been focusing on six areas: ensuring and increasing student quality, building a life-cycle career management platform for our students, improving the quality of learning for our students, increasing funded research, increasing the visibility of SOM both regionally and nationally, and fund raising.

In addition to these areas of emphasis, we continue to focus on entrepreneurship and research efforts, evident in the grant we received this year from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to explore the creation of a master’s degree program in entrepreneurship using a community of practice model. I am working closely with the deans of the School of Public Policy, the School of Information Technology and Engineering, and the College of Visual and Performing Arts to form a dean’s working group to explore the wide range of entrepreneurship activities currently at Mason.

Finally, we have an ambitious research agenda for the coming year. A substantial number of our faculty are interested in the topic broadly defined as “managing intangibles.” This area of interest includes such applied problems as acquiring and developing human capital (that is, people), growing intellectual property, and preserving brand equity. We will be pursuing a variety of events and speakers in this area.

What are some of the challenges?

Our level of funding at SOM is a key challenge, especially because of the current economic picture. We have increasing competition at the graduate program level from other universities that have the same target market: working professionals. We face competition from both regional schools that have been here for some time and newcomers from outside the region that are opening up graduate business programs in office buildings around the area.

Historically, we were a leader in our efforts to offer high-quality master’s degrees with schedules that meet our students’ needs. We were among the first to offer degrees in management other than the M.B.A. Our M.S. in Bioscience Management is the only program of its kind in Virginia and among only 15 schools in the nation; our Technology Management Program has been in place for eight years, providing curriculum leadership for programs around the world.

We need to continue to be adaptable and promote our distinguishing characteristics, including our deep connections to the regional business community and our international residencies (we are one of only four institutions nationwide that require an international component in our graduate curriculum). We also think the Bioscience Management Program will attract a new type of professional student–the Ph.D. scientist looking to learn about strategic management. Our research reveals that once again we have something unique to offer, but we predict we will have competition here as well.

What is exceptional about the students with whom you interact?

I am continually struck by the diligence and passion undergraduate students bring to their studies and the business-related student organizations in which they are involved. The majority of our students work, which provides its own set of challenges, but they bring a great deal of professionalism to the classroom. I am also impressed by the diversity of our students–in every sense of the word.

At the graduate level, SOM students are extremely poised and collegial, traits that are reinforced by the cohort model we use in all our graduate programs. Our graduate students are selective–they come to us because of our high-quality service, curriculum enhancements, and professional development opportunities.

Where do you see SOM in five years?

We seek to become more visible and respected nationally. Although currently ranked among the top 25 percent of accredited business schools, our goal is to be ranked among the top 10 percent of all accredited business schools in the next three years.

Have you added any new outstanding faculty or staff members whom the university community should be aware of?

Eleven new faculty members joined SOM since last fall. They are distributed across Accounting, Decision Sciences and Management Information Systems, Finance, Marketing, and Management. We welcome back Gopal Krishnan, a faculty member in Accounting who taught at Mason from 1988 to 2000 and rejoins us after spending the past year teaching and doing research, which reveals a corporate perspective, in Hong Kong. His experience in Asia will be helpful as we look to further internationalize our curriculum and cocurricular offerings.

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