From the Spring 2015 edition of Vanderbilt Business

Dean Eric JohnsonIn my time at Vanderbilt—as dean and when I taught here as a professor in the 1990s—I’ve always considered the Owen School’s personal scale as one of its foundational strengths. To a prospective or current student, that benefit is immediately obvious. From the moment they step on campus, they’ll never spend a moment as some nameless, faceless being. Our corporate partners also grasp the importance of us operating on a personal scale—from aligning our curriculum with the most pressing issues facing business today to honing the leadership and team-building skills of each class of graduates.

For alumni of some business programs, the advantages of operating on a personal scale may not always seem as pressingly relevant. But let me assure you, the talented individuals that have graduated from Owen understand the personal scale advantage at Owen. Nowhere has that been more obvious to me than in my work over the past year with alumni on developing our strategic plan. For example, many graduates with whom I’ve talked want to ensure that we preserve Owen’s collaborative culture, but at the same time, work hard to maintain and expand our role as a core school among globally influential employers.

Similarly, hiring managers and alumni (many times, they’re one and the same) feel strongly that we should continue to instill and strengthen the ability of students to make a compelling, data-rich business case. The people I spoke to compare this trait to a kind of athletic conditioning. That’s a notion I’d thought about, perhaps in vague terms before, but it was certainly sharpened through my conversations with members of the Owen community. Along the same lines, many people I talk to go out of their way to tell me that, “the character of our students is, hands down, the best.” I couldn’t agree more.

Over the coming weeks and months, you’ll hear more about our strategic plan as we communicate and implement key elements. (For starters, check out this infographic. It features great alumni and employer input to a survey the Huron Group conducted as part of our planning process.) One alumni feedback-based strategic initiative that we are already implementing is broadening our immersion curriculum. As you’ll read in the feature stories, “Being There,” giving students the opportunity to put their classroom skills to the test in a real-world environment (albeit one geared toward learning) helps foster that business athleticism they’ll need in their careers. Another finding that dovetails with our immersion curriculum is our alumni’s fondness for Nashville and the growing business strength of the city. While there’s been no shortage of publications heaping their flavor of the It City label upon us, that cachet has brought with it a spike in the number of business opportunities flourishing in this community, as Rob Simbeck’s “Inside the It City” describes.

As we spend the summer gearing up for another great school year, I want to remind you that you’re a vital part of the Owen community and each class that enters benefits from those who have come before them. The reason I talk so much about the power of the personal scale is because that’s where transformational breakthrough happens—and I’m counting on alumni to play a role in helping set and ultimately achieve our goals.

All the best,

M. Eric Johnson
Ralph Owen Dean
Bruce D. Henderson Professor of Strategy