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Reflections on a Decade

Krannert Magazine: What do you believe were your biggest accomplishments as Krannert dean?

Rick Cosier: First, let me say that in order to discuss any list of accomplishments, it should be noted that many people were involved in making these events happen. I’m indebted to the outstanding faculty, staff, students, and alumni of this great school.

I think I would have to say that the biggest success was the funding and construction of Jerry S. Rawls Hall. When I arrived, it was "job one." I believe our ability to meet the funding challenge and get this marvelous facility built was a tremendous asset for both Purdue University and the Krannert School. My everlasting thanks and appreciation go out to Jerry Rawls and all of our wonderful donors who made this happen.

Another major accomplishment was the renovation of the Krannert Building and the dedication of the Webster Undergraduate Programs Suite, thanks to the generosity of alumni such as Steve Webster. It was evident to me that our tremendous undergraduate program needed better facilities than those located in the basement of the Krannert Building. It took several years, but we now have facilities on the third floor in line with the outstanding reputation and quality of our undergraduate management program.

We also have more than doubled our endowed professorships, from nine to 21. I’m very proud of that statistic, because these professorships are critical to recruiting and retaining some of the best senior faculty in the world.

KM: What have the addition of Rawls Hall and the renovation of the Krannert Building done for the school?

RC: I think there are two major benefits of having world-class facilities. First, they provide state-of-the-art learning environments for students through the latest in instructional technologies and welcoming physical space. Second, they reflect the quality and stature of the business school.

In a highly competitive time, I believe top-notch facilities are necessary for attracting and retaining the best faculty and students. We don’t take a back seat to anyone in that regard.

KM: You’ve often stated that creating a diverse environment is a priority. Are you satisfied with the progress in that area?

RC: Student, faculty, and staff diversity are extremely important to me. In fact, success in these areas is a personal passion. While I’m proud of the progress we’ve made, much work is still left to be done.

I was saddened during my tenure at the passing of our great leader in the area of diversity, Dr. Cornell Bell. The baton has been passed to Darren Henry, and he has done an outstanding job in continuing the legacy. We will continue to push forward in that important area.

Rick CosierKM: Scholarships are vital to students and their families. How does Krannert stack up against its competitors in that area?

RC: With rising tuition costs and expenses to attend college, scholarships are more important than ever. Purdue and Krannert have made tremendous strides in providing scholarship support for students, but it is an area in which renewed efforts are needed.

In order to attract the best and brightest, and to make our school accessible to as many students as possible, it is imperative that we maintain our focus on providing as much scholarship support as possible for current and future Krannert students.

KM: The Krannert School has expanded its global reach over the last decade and increased study abroad opportunities for students. Why is that important?

RC: The Krannert School’s strategic plan — in line with Purdue’s strategic plan — has made globalization a major priority. Our students likely will have careers that are global in nature. We believe it important that they understand all aspects of doing business in a global context.

One way to help students learn is to have them spend time in a country outside the United States. In that setting, they learn not only about international business practices, but also about the people and cultures that are part of the global economy.

Our GISMA Business School program in Germany, which is in its 11th year, is a tremendous success story. Recent efforts in Asia have proved to be fruitful as well, particularly the program we have for our master’s students at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, one of several opportunities we provide for students in that country and Taiwan.

Through our Global Supply Chain Management Initiative, and the generosity of alumnus Venu Srinivasan at TVS Motors, several students have visited India and learned about doing business in that emerging economy. And our CIBER center has become a model for international education, providing students and faculty with wonderful global learning and research opportunities.

KM: The school recently joined a consortium offering the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, or EBV. Talk about the program and why Krannert became involved.

RC: I’m very proud that the Krannert School was able to offer our inaugural EBV program on the Purdue campus last August. The program provides disabled veterans, post-9/11, with the skills and knowledge to establish and run their own businesses. It’s a noble cause for any business school. The program is completely privately supported, and I was thrilled that a number of Krannert alums quickly stepped forward with funding.

EBV participants received a tremendous educational experience from our dedicated faculty and staff. Afterward, I had many of our faculty tell me that it was one of the most rewarding experiences they have had in their academic careers. I know that the program will continue to have an impact on both veterans and our faculty and staff for years to come.

KM: Krannert has undergone several organizational and curriculum changes since you became dean. How have those moves made the school stronger?

RC: We recently officially established formal departments of Management and Economics. Professors Manu Kalwani and Jack Barron were selected as inaugural department heads, and both are doing tremendous jobs.

The departments help move decision-making responsibility and authority closer to faculty and students. That, in turn, allows more responsiveness and inclusion of key personnel in decisions.

Krannert is a stronger school because of the change. I believe proof of that is reflected in the recent revision of the master’s program curriculum and the effective recruitment of new faculty.

Rick CosierKM: You were the first director of the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship, and will soon reassume that position. How has the center helped advance the mission and goals of Purdue and Krannert?

RC: I was pleased to have been involved in the original proposal to the Lilly Endowment that created the funding for Purdue’s Discovery Park, which included the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship. I also was proud to be instrumental in securing the funding from the Burton D. Morgan Foundation for the wonderful facility, which is located in Discovery Park and was designed by the same architectural group that did Rawls Hall.

Entrepreneurship is naturally linked to any business school, including Krannert. I believe the school should play a strong role in determining the programs offered in the entrepreneurship center. Having recently been appointed to my "second term," I look forward to ensuring the strong ties between Krannert and the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship continue well into the future.

KM: During your tenure, the school has started the Krannert Leadership Speakers Series, co-sponsored the Purdue Series on Corporate Citizenship and Ethics, and continued the Krannert Executive Forum. How do these types of events and speakers enhance the student experience?

RC: One of the great opportunities for learning at Krannert is exposure to outside speakers who share real-world information. They lecture to students and faculty on a variety of topics, including leadership and ethics.

The Leadership Speakers Series has allowed us to bring world-class speakers, such as Tim Russert, George Mitchell, Bill Russell, and Elaine Chao, to a large audience. We also have been able to use the event to provide a venue at which we recognize some of our tremendous alumni for their contributions to the school.

Like diversity, ethics and social responsibility are extremely important topics to me. I believe corporate decisions affecting society are best made by businesses, rather than outside forces. Through our partnership with the James F. Ackerman Center for Democratic Citizenship in Purdue’s College of Education, we have been able to bring in a number of tremendous speakers who were able to explain to our audience members, many of them students, that profits and social responsibility can go hand in hand. We’ve drawn huge crowds for speakers such as Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes, Jerry Greenfield from Ben & Jerry’s, and Nobel laureate Lech Walesa.

The series has demonstrated how society depends on the business sector and the two are inextricably connected. Our partnership with the Ackerman Center has been a truly successful interdisciplinary effort.

KM: Rankings continue to be a hot topic. What role should rankings play, and how should they be viewed by students, alumni, and administrators?

RC: Rankings have certainly become prolific in our society. It seems like every other week, a new ranking pops up in a media outlet. It also seems that each ranking carries a different set of criteria and methodology, making them very challenging.

I recognize that rankings are important and are widely considered by faculty, staff, students, alumni, and others. I am proud of the success that the school has enjoyed in many rankings. We were ranked a No. 1 school in our category in 2004 and 2005 by The Wall Street Journal, and we consistently place in the top five in nearly every media survey in the area of production and operations management at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. We also are ethical and honest in our responses to these surveys.

Rankings are only one means of assessing the quality of programs, and should be placed in their proper context. Many important elements, including diversity and ethics, are not included in rankings. In my opinion, both are important facets of any business school.

Rick CosierKM: Describe your experience in leadership positions with AACSB International, the accreditation body for business schools.

RC: AACSB is the gold standard for business schools around the world. It was founded in 1916, and since then it has had a major impact on identifying and encouraging quality business education around the world. Today, there are more than 570 accredited schools, both inside and outside the U.S.

Being selected by my peers as chair was a truly high honor. During my three-year stint on the executive committee, I was proud to be part of several important initiatives. Some of the things we looked at included the impact of business school research on society, the reconciliation of quality standards with cultural differences around the world, and the streamlining and improvement of accreditation processes. It was a tremendous personal experience.

KM: What are some of the key challenges that will face the next Krannert School dean?

RC: I think the deanship here is a tremendous opportunity and a great leadership position at one of the top business schools in the world. Purdue and the Krannert School have wonderful academic reputations, boast a great faculty, staff, and student body, and have produced tremendous alumni.

I believe current economic challenges will continue to create stresses on the Krannert budget, which is currently balanced but underfunded for the needs of a great business school. It’s my opinion that attracting more private support and continuing the Krannert faculty expansion within the guidelines of the University will be critical to the future success of the school. I look forward to working with my successor to ensure a smooth transition and to keep our place among the preeminent business schools worldwide.