The Journey Begins

From the Winter 2013 edition of Vanderbilt Business


It’s been 14 years since I was on faculty at Owen, and now that I’m back, things sure have changed. Beyond the plethora of great new restaurants and things to do in Nashville, Vanderbilt as an institution has solidified its place as one of the premier research and teaching institutions in the world.

As the new dean of Owen, I am honored to have the chance to help push that bar of excellence even higher. Former Dean Jim Bradford, whom I have gotten to know well during my transition, built a strong foundation for the school and set Owen on a productive path forward.

Many people have asked about my vision and plans for the school. It may be an unsatisfying answer right now, but I’m approaching my job very much like I would a research topic. First, I want to immerse myself not just in the challenges and opportunities facing Owen, but also those of top global business schools, as well as Vanderbilt as a whole. That involves talking to alumni, students, staff, peers at other institutions, recruiters and our partners in the business community. It’s an important and rewarding step that has filled much of my short tenure so far. Second, Vanderbilt University is undertaking its own strategy process this fall. We are very much a part of that process, with Owen faculty and staff actively participating in the debate. Later, the conversation will transition to Owen and the opportunities we face.

That said, as we develop a strategy for the school, which you will start to hear about in early 2014, I want you to be aware of three core principles that will inform my thinking.

Research and discovery are of primary importance

The idea of “buy low, sell high” may be an easy enough business concept to grasp. But to understand the mechanics of why that notion makes sense—and to show with real data that it, in fact, does make sense to companies—is a complex and important task. I am consistently wowed by the fundamental and relevant questions our faculty members take on and the analytical rigor they apply in answering them. I am also consistently reminded of the impact their work has in the real world of business as well as in the classroom.

Owen operates at a personal scale

When I spoke to incoming students and Owen alumni at events in Nashville and New York in June, I talked about operating at a personal scale. This is a scale where we get to know students one-on-one and their career goals and personal motivations for going to business school. It’s also a scale that allows for a nimbleness that will allow us to realize breakthrough transformations quickly. Owen’s collaborative culture sets it apart from many other schools. It’s one of the things that drew me here and I know it continues to be vitally important to many of you.

The Owen community needs you

Those who come to Owen appreciate the fact that it’s small. Many of you have built enduring relationships with professors and classmates that have enriched both your life and career. But our size also carries a responsibility for you to contribute. Be a mentor to Owen students. Help us recruit new talent for our programs. Look to our grads as potential hires. Give back financially. Attend events like CityOwen and Alumni Weekend. We will only ever be as vibrant as the people who make up the Owen community. I’m thrilled to be on this journey as dean and look forward to meeting you and talking about our future—together.



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

RSS Twitter @DeanEricJohnson