Baruch College Alumni Magazine sat down with Dean Huss on Aug. 14—seven weeks into his new position—to learn about his experiences, his philosophy, and his plans for leading the Zicklin School of Business.
What attracted you to Baruch College and the Zicklin School of Business?
Of course, I had known about Baruch College for many years and was aware of the great progress that it has made. But, once I seriously considered the position of Willem Kooyker Dean, I did my research, and the first thing that caught my eye was the type of student Zicklin serves: bright and highly motivated.
Also I like being part of a public school in an urban setting. In these environments, schools—particularly professional schools like business schools—are positioned to have the greatest impact. It’s exciting to be part of that.
The Zicklin School’s Strategic Plan for 2014–19 lays out ambitious, detailed plans to move the School forward. How would you summarize its overarching goal?
To build a premier urban-based public business education program. The three words that I use to describe how such a program looks are excellence, partnerships, and global. If we can execute on those three dimensions, we will be properly preparing our students.
Our focus has to be on delivering the very best academic program we can. But academic rigor has to be complemented with experiential opportunities for professional development. If that’s an internship, that’s terrific. But in addition to internships, there have to be chances for students to connect with people who can guide their professional development. Strong relationships/partnerships with the business community create those channels. And on the academic side, we have opportunities to partner within the Baruch/CUNY community and with universities across the world.
Do those worldwide partnerships segue to the global aspect of Zicklin’s strategic goals?
The higher education market has become a world market, especially for graduate education. Where better than New York City to be a player in this market? Additionally, with its long tradition of excellence, Zicklin couldn’t be better positioned.
Let me give you an example: This afternoon I’m speaking with the director of a graduate business program in Beijing. He’s in New York and wants to explore partnering with Zicklin. Those are the kinds of opportunities that we have because of the strength of the School and because of where we are located.
Are there plans to expand programming?
Initiatives are already under way around degree programs in data analytics and risk and compliance. We also plan to develop nondegree executive education programs. That’s important for two reasons: (1) for our business model and how we fund ourselves and (2) to keep the School connected to what’s happening in the business community.
What are your ideas about leadership, specifically business school leadership?
An effective leader asks the right questions and nudges in the right directions. He or she engages that conversation so that people think through tough questions like, What does this issue mean for me, and what does it mean for the organization? A good leader drives that conversation, but not always the result.
Leadership understands the strengths, needs, and ideas of all the participants, in this case, faculty, staff, students—especially students—and alumni. From these groups, the School comes to understand the shifts that are happening right now in business and society.
Could you give us an example of one of those shifts in the business world to which Zicklin must be responsive?
There’s a recognition that business students need a much broader set of skills. Of course, they still have to be skilled in the fundamentals of business and master their specific field, but they also need to have a broader understanding of how business interacts with society.
The best term for this I know comes from former Coca-Cola CEO Neville Isdell: connected capitalism. Basically this means that business and capitalism are part of society and have to engage with it. Therefore, business grads need to understand something about government, nonprofits, and civil society and see how their specialization connects with what’s happening in society.
Is there something from your personal history that helps you connect with the classic Baruch/Zicklin student?
Well, I come from very modest means myself. I sometimes joke that I certainly wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, and it was many decades before I saw one.
I know the importance of an education and how it can change your life. For me, a university education meant the difference between doing what I do today and working in a textile mill, which is how I paid for my undergraduate education.
What role do alumni play in your vision for the future of the Zicklin School?
Alumni are our partners. They are our voice in the community and the best evidence of why Zicklin makes a difference.
They can advise current students on a path through the process of earning a Baruch degree. They are also in the best position to advise faculty and administrators about what’s happening outside the university, which affects the direction the School should take. We need that information coming back to the School.
Tell us about adjusting to life in New York City.
It’s been great. I love the city. I’ve never lived here, although I’ve visited a lot. It’s an exciting place. And this is the first time since I was 16 years old that I’ve been without a car. I love that.
What final thing do you want alumni to know?
How important they are to the success of the School and how proud we are of them.
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ABOUT DEAN HUSS
Born: Lincoln County, N.C.
Professional career began at Family Dollar Stores
Describes himself as “down-to-earth” and “straightforward”
Electronic device he can’t live without: Smartphone
How he unplugs: Reading murder mysteries; favorite author: Stuart Kaminsky
Meet the Dean: In the coming months, Fenwick Huss will travel throughout the country to meet alumni, including visits to California, Florida, and Georgia. Check with the Office of Alumni Relations for details.[/box]
Photo top: Students with Dean Huss (from left): Brendan Lukas (’15), Marcel Beswick (MBA ’17), Ying Li (MBA ’16), Tara Atwood (MBA ’16), and Maunil Shah (MBA ’16). Photo by Elena Olivo.
“Corporate Social Responsibility” (Dean Huss contributes to the Huffington Post)