Nearly five months into his tenure, the new dean of the business school said he is prioritizing the student experience and community engagement.
Anuj Mehrotra, who was hired in April, said he is still evaluating the current climate of the school, but plans to focus on enhancing the student experience, engaging alumni and boosting up faculty and research – in line with the priorities of the University’s top brass. He said specific goals and action items will take shape as he continues to familiarize himself with the school’s needs.
Mehrotra came to the school a year after former dean Linda Livingstone left to become the president of Baylor University. When Mehrotra was hired, he entered a business school that had a history of overspending, and into his first months as dean, the school missed enrollment projections and faced revenue shortfalls.
“Like any other school, one must constantly think in terms of what has been working best and how can we leverage that and expand on that,” he said.
Putting students first
Mehrotra said the business school will enhance the student experience – one of University President Thomas LeBlanc’s strategic initiatives – by breaking the traditional model of a pre-set program and focusing on building degree programs around how students can gain useful skills in their courses.
“We are working on, instead of thinking about a large degree program, to first think in terms of what is that smallest piece of programming that might be of interest to the real world and build around those modules,” he said.
Mehrotra said the business school will reassess the programs and degrees it offers to students over the next year, allowing students to build their own majors or certificates based on skills needed for in-demand jobs.
“We’re trying to leverage technology, leverage the online classes that we have, the different certificates that we have, to start thinking in terms of how to provide and be ready and agile,” he said.
He said the school is also expanding the Communities of Practice program, a mentorship program to help students enter the workforce in fields like marketing and consulting, to cover more professions.
“Our goal is to expand it further this year, so there’ll be more students and we are going to try and see if we can include both our graduate and undergraduate students in those Communities of Practice,” he said.
James Bailey, a professor of leadership and management, said if the dean wants to improve student engagement, he can sponsor student events and research opportunities. Student engagement is a top priority, and Mehrotra has made that known, Bailey said.
“That seems to be pretty widely held in the business school, it’s certainly at the top of his list,” he said.
Mehrotra said alumni can expect more opportunities to become involved with the school and its students over the next year through events like panels, speaker series, symposiums and online broadcasts geared toward the group.
“The community is large, and it’s not just the business organizations and companies, but also alumni, parents, and in today’s date, with how the education is evolving, our alumni consists of lifelong students of ours,” he said. “We need to be thinking about that.”
Mehrotra said the events and increased engagement between alumni and students will foster connections for networking, which can provide students with potential internships, jobs and mentors.
“We are fortunate being in D.C. that there are lots of folks who either pass through or are here, who are not just necessarily alumni, but they’re extremely good business leaders who are willing to share their expertise with our students and our alumni,” he said.
At Colonials Weekend, the business school hosted a Real Estate and Finance symposium, which featured experts in real estate and finance. The event welcomed 250 parents, students and alumni, receiving the best attendance of the weekend, Mehrotra said.
“The engagement of the alumni is why I’m on the road, it’s why I’m talking to a lot of our parents, it’s why we had a very successful, well-planned Colonials Weekend event around content,” he said.
Pradeep Rau, a professor of marketing, said Mehrotra’s goal to improve alumni engagement will address the University’s “historically low alumni involvement.” GW’s alumni giving rate has hovered around 8 percent in recent years, the lowest rate of all of its peer institutions – and LeBlanc, the University president, has also highlighted a need to improve alumni relations.
“If alumni are happy, they might have a better inclination to be involved with the school in every sense of the word,” he said. “Those goals are exactly what I think will help the school to check the enrollment declines and help with alumni engagement.”
Faculty and research
Mehrotra said he hopes to continue to attract “top faculty” in the school and promote collaborative research.
He said the department is trying to “aggressively” recruit talented faculty and researchers and build on current faculty by offering competitive benefits and salaries. Mehrotra said he hopes to promote and build on the current research-driven culture within the departments by inviting more speakers to events from the academic side of the department, not just the professional side.
“We’re thinking in terms of what are all of the concerts and symposiums that we are already hosting or participating in and how can we build on that to really make them impactful,” he said.
Lauren Peller and Meredith Roaten contributed reporting.