As three top business school officials exit, students question turnover

Duques Hall, School of Business
Two top undergraduate officials in the GW School of Business, housed in Duques Hall, announced their departures from the University last week. Hatchet File Photo

Updated July 21, 2012 at 2:52 p.m.

Three of the GW School of Business’ top undergraduate administrators announced this week they are leaving the University – the exclamation point on a year of high turnover that has business students scratching their heads.

Joelle Carter, director for undergraduate programs, and Larry Fillian, director of undergraduate advising and assessment, will step down this summer, while the business school is knee-deep in reshuffling its undergraduate curriculum and advising. Murat Tarimcilar, the vice dean for programs and education, will leave his deanship and continue teaching starting Jan. 1, 2013.

Their departures punctuate a year of personnel changes in the business school’s main undergraduate arms – the office of undergraduate programs and the advising center.

Almost the entire advising staff turned over last summer after the school adjusted advising roles to include teaching.

Former executive coordinator for undergraduate programs, Betsy Smith, left in January to work for LivingSocial. Four months later, undergraduate adviser Jason Sparks left for a career at Blackboard. The school announced replacements for both slots last week.

Carter and Fillian informed business students of their exits by email on July 12 and July 16, respectively. Tarimcilar sent an email to colleagues July 17, saying he has “questioned” whether he fits into Dean Doug Guthrie’s team.

“At this point, he needs a leadership team that supports his philosophy, vision and plans with unwavering conviction,” he said in an email obtained by The Hatchet. “In recent months, I have questioned whether I fit that role and have concluded that I owed him the opportunity to build his team — hence, my resignation.”

Some students said frustration is mounting with the departures of the school’s top undergraduate staff members.

Andrew Litavis, a senior business major, praised the relationships Carter forged with students, but added, “The high turnover [in the advising center] has hindered students from being able to foster these long-term relationships that make the decentralized advising model so effective.”

“The trend of leadership and administration departing from the business school is alarming and should be taken extremely seriously by both GWSB and the entire university. Leadership isn’t bred in a culture of high turnover,” he said.

One junior business major, who asked to remain anonymous because he often works with administrators, called Carter’s departure “the icing on the cake” to a year of exits by staff members who work closely with students.

Carter will head to Western Kentucky University, where she will take on an administrative position. While leading the office of undergraduate programs for two years, Carter expanded the school’s first-year development program and launched living communities for business students.

“Words can not express how honored and privileged I feel to have had the opportunity to work with so many intelligent and incredible students,” she told business students in a July 12 email. She did not respond to a request for further comment.

Fillian, who oversaw the advising center’s transition to developmental advising and worked at GW for six years, told students in an email Tuesday that he was leaving the school. He said in an email to The Hatchet that he is leaving GW for “personal and professional reasons,” and did not respond to a request to elaborate on where he will be working next.

“My departure does not, in any way, reflect the wonderful experience that I have had working here,” he told The Hatchet. “I am working with my colleagues to ensure a smooth transition for students.

Tarimcilar said it is common for leadership to have diverging opinions in complex academic organizations, but “the focus should never be about the individuals.”

“It should always be about the future of the school, which has been and will always be of utmost importance to me,” he said. “I believe, at this point, the school will be better served if I contribute as a faculty member rather than as a vice dean.”

He said it is difficult to see any members of the community exit, and that the school will “gather up and move on” after the inevitable “hiccup” such shifts prompt.

Guthrie, entering his third year as the business school’s dean, said Carter and Fillian were valuable employees and hoped this would be the only year marked by high turnover.

“I hope it’s an anomaly. Both Larry and Joelle have been here a long time and we hope to find replacements for them who will be here for a long time going forward. You want to find stability in the organization,” Guthrie said. He did not immediately return a request for comment regarding Tarimcilar’s announcement.

He added that he not spoken to Carter or Fillian about why they are leaving, but said the school has “the system and structure in place allows for these kinds of transitions to happen.”

The dean’s office’s has also seen a revolving door of undergraduate chiefs this year. Business ethics professor Tim Fort took on an interim role as associate dean for undergraduate programs this year after former associate dean Ken Singleton went on sabbatical last summer.

In April, finance professor Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou took on the permanent position as associate dean for undergraduate programs. Bajeaux-Besnainou said she was out of the country and unavailable to comment on Carter’s and Fillian’s departures.

The school’s undergraduate programs took a hit in the Bloomberg Businessweek annual rankings in March. The school fell seven spots to No. 66 – its worst standing since the rankings began seven years ago – and scored low marks in student satisfaction.

Geoff Gloeckler, a staff editor at Businessweek who compiles the business school rankings, told The Hatchet in March that student said in surveys that they were dissatisfied with communication with administrators.

– Chloe Sorvino and Priya Anand contributed to this report

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