With Owen sitting in the heart of Vanderbilt’s main campus, nestled among buildings that were constructed in the 1870s, it’s easy to forget that on an academic timeline, we are a young school. Owen, founded nearly 100 years after Vanderbilt itself, for much of its history has been the sapling surrounded by mighty oaks.
But, oh how we’ve grown.
Owen’s leadership network comes of age
One of the most remarkable things I’ve noticed since returning to Owen is that a wave of graduates, particularly from the 1980s and 1990s, has come roaring into high-profile leadership positions. This is happening at companies ranging from global Fortune 100 powerhouses to successful startups founded by Owen grads, and just about every size organization in between. You’ll read many of their stories in this leadership-themed issue of Vanderbilt Business, and of course there will be many more tales in the years ahead.
But what excites me most about this new generation of leaders—in addition to celebrating their many successes—is what it says about the growing robustness of the Owen network. In many ways, we are experiencing a coming of age. It’s not uncommon now for someone leading a large company or organization to share an Owen connection with a new graduate starting an entry-level management position.
To take just one example (of many), you can find Owen talent scattered in leadership roles throughout Emerson, a $25 billion global manufacturing and technology company, starting with CEO David Farr, MBA’81, who is featured in “Seven at the Top.” That didn’t just happen because those people have a degree with the name Vanderbilt in it (although that helps!). It’s because they’re smart, hardworking leaders who have proven they have the skills, and the mettle, to help move the company forward.
In other words, the real value of a Vanderbilt management degree doesn’t lie in the name itself, but in the fact that through an individual’s hard work and dedication, the Vanderbilt degree becomes shorthand for qualities like trust, talent, perseverance and the ability not just to get along with others, but to work collaboratively to achieve great things.
Shaping future leaders
Those of us within Management Hall—from the esteemed Owen faculty to our phenomenal Admissions and Career Management teams—take our jobs of shaping future leaders very seriously. This happens through small classes and a team approach, with the student experience, and in programs like our world-class Leadership Development Program.
Alumni have an important role to play in this as well. You can serve as a mentor to students or younger alumni, come back to campus to share what you’ve learned in your career, contribute financially, or engage with the Owen community on the school’s social media networks. The more we continue to nourish this emerging network of Owen leaders, the stronger we make it—and the school—for many generations to come.
M. Eric Johnson
Ralph Owen Dean
Bruce D. Henderson Professor of Strategy