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Public Elite: UConn’s Business School Helps Forge a Niche

GM News: Give us some context about the University of Connecticut and the School of Business.
Emeritus Dean Thomas Gutteridge: Storrs [the main campus] is very rural, but it is only 25 miles from the state capital and three hours from New York. UConn is really a rural/urban university, with regional campuses in Stamford, the tri-campus area (Waterbury, Torrington, Hartford), and other locations. A good proportion of students attend these campuses. Our business school has about 3,600 students, with 2,000 in Storrs and 1,600 on the regional campuses.

GM News: What kind of challenges did you face in your first years as dean?
Gutteridge: We were content until the 1990s to be a good but not outstanding public university. I have watched the Michigans and Indianas and Purdues [advance], but we didn’t have that [mind]set until a decade ago. Now we want to be a nationally prominent, top-20 public university.

I was hired to bring about a change in the [business school] culture. While we were this match of rural and urban, we really were not engaged by and large with the business community in 1992. It was particularly challenging here because public institutions in the Northeast do not have the same perceived cachet as in the Midwest and South. We’re home to a number of Fortune 1000 and Fortune 500 companies, but they could and did go [for expertise] everywhere in the Northeast and beyond: Hartford, MIT, Duke. We were an afterthought after 30 years in Hartford.

Now 10 years later, we haven’t won the battle but we are on the radar screen.

GM News: What helped jump-start the change?
Gutteridge: UCONN 2000, an investment that took place in 1995, issued [U.S.] $1.25 billion in bonds over 10 years for new buildings and a technological infrastructure. It passed within months of our women’s basketball team winning the national championship. We had never achieved that before. It put us on the map, and people said, “That’s not Yukon, it’s UConn.” That was an impetus for the legislature and the governor to say, “We’re now on the national map in athletics, and we want to achieve that in academics.”

One of building blocks for that [reputation] is infrastructure. We are not quite through those 10 years of UCONN 2000 and now, added to it, is 21st Century UConn, which represents a [U.S.] $1.3-billion investment.

Another piece of the change is, we were a back-burner university [in the early ’90s]. Over 50 percent of students graduating in Connecticut were going out of state; we were second only to Alaska up until this point of time. The state had been through very traumatic times, with heavy industry being outsourced. Our focus now is high tech and high service, which is why we needed to stem the out-migration of knowledge workers. We couldn’t allow this brain drain to go on.

GM News: How did you transform people’s perceptions?
Gutteridge: When I first arrived, we didn’t believe in marketing, or branding, or external fund-raising. Now the culture is one of engaging the business community in Connecticut, the Northeast, and globally around research and teaching related to very targeted areas.

Stakeholders, like alumni and trustees, had never been asked [for donations] before, and now they are giving at the level of the Michigans.

You’ve got to strengthen your curriculum and faculty. We’ve not expanded in a huge sense, but that is also true in terms of student body. The University of Connecticut is currently at 22,000 and will grow probably to 25,000 total, but much of that will occur on the regional campuses. Now we also have a much higher-quality student body.

GM News: What kind of costs are associated with trying to increase the school’s stature in the marketplace?
Gutteridge: The first major cost is financial. As a university, we’ve embarked upon a [U.S.] $300 million capital campaign and are close to successful completion. Our building [opened in fall 2001] cost $27 million; $22.5 million came from UCONN 2000, and $4.5 million, we had to raise. We had never, ever raised money for bricks and mortar, yet we did so in a two-year timeframe from companies, alums, and the Kresge Foundation.

When I arrived I had an endowment of [U.S.] $1 million; we now have an endowment in place of $25 million. That includes eight endowed professorships and chairs and several endowed centers. With the escalation of business school salaries, we had to meet the market salaries for new hires and to bring in chairs and professorships within our existing faculty. This funding has enabled us to go out and recruit the best and the brightest in targeted areas. We had a good faculty, and now we’re developing an outstanding faculty.

GM News: Besides financial costs, what others exist?
Gutteridge: Two: With opportunity costs, we have to look at what we don’t do. From time to time, there has been talk that we have in our backyard the most profitable casino on the Indian reservation. Talk has circulated about working with them to create a program in gaming management/tourism/hospitality management. I did not want to go there because it would take us in a different direction.

We also have to look at the human costs of focus, time, and energy available to the deans or faculty. Over 19 years of deaning, I’ve really come to understand the importance of weighing these other costs.

GM News: You mentioned centers. Do they help you woo talent and leverage support?
Gutteridge: Centers do two or three things: They allow you to build bridges between academicians and the professional side. They allow you to build synergy within the college and within the entire university to deal with challenging issues in a focused area. Business problems out there are not simply accounting or finance or marketing, they are multidimensional. Centers allow you to do things across departmental boundaries. We do it in healthcare, real estate, international business, and information technology.

GM News: Describe your “edgelab” partnership with General Electric, which launched in fall 2000.
Gutteridge: This partnership at our UConn Stamford location has a [U.S.] $7.5 million investment, which includes a $1 million operating budget. To get into this IT/e-commerce lab, you go through an optic scan. Who you find in there are our faculty and students from IT and marketing and other areas, and IT professionals from GE, working together on cutting-edge IT/e-business issues.”

GM News: When you recruit faculty members to head centers, do their responsibilities include fund-raising?
Gutteridge: Fund-raising is more centralized as fund-raising. Revenue generation is [a center director’s] responsibility—he is going out and getting projects by agreeing to provide services for a fee. We hired a new marketing professor interested in sales, and we created a sales and marketing institute. An investment in that center gives donors the opportunity to be consulted on the curriculum and the first opportunity to recruit folks for internships and career hires. They provide annual dollars in support of what will be of benefit to them. Centers will need to be self-sufficient.

GM News: How do you distinguish between fund-raising and revenue generation for stakeholders?
Gutteridge: Money is fungible. As a business dean, you have to be real [sic] cautious: What we’re trying to do is talk to these companies about investing in the hiring of our students, sending their employees to our programs, and getting our faculty involved in various issues. Typically, this kind of strong return-on-investment gifts comes from operating budgets, not philanthropic budgets. We have to have coordination [within the school and university foundation] but also be proactive. Professional schools have a greater responsibility around the engagement issue: how we bring our talents and expertise to bear on [the business community’s] real issues.

GM News: As you look at the diverse skills required of a business school dean, how would you prioritize them?
Gutteridge: Fund-raising and engagement are part and parcel of the same thing, and I would rate that number two for a new dean. Number one is strategic thinking. The dean is the point person working with all the different stakeholders to keep the focus on what the school is and where it wants to go, because if not, you could be raising money for the wrong thing.

—Gail Tyson

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