Exit Interview: Dean Ronald Anderson on the Temple Fox School of Business Suite

Fox School of Business at Temple University.

On Tuesday, Temple University announced that its current business school dean, Ronald Anderson, will resign in June 2023 and return to teaching and research.

Anderson was first named acting dean of the Fox School of Business in July 2018 following the rankings scandal that ultimately led to a conviction in federal court of his predecessor, Moshe Porat, for knowingly submitting false data to a leading magazine to boost the school’s online MBA, EMBA and part-time MBA programs. Porat was sentenced in March to 14 months in federal prison; Porat is currently out on bail as he appeals his conviction. (Lily: New Dean of Temple Fox: Ranking Scandal ‘Could Never Happen Again’)

Anderson was appointed full-time dean in 2019. Poets&Quants connected with him this week to talk about his decision and what’s next for the Fox School; interview has been edited for length and clarity.

For starters, why did you decide to retire?

I think there are three elements: The first is that we have largely overcome the classification problem. It’s not quite done playing out in the sense that the United States Superior Court Third Circuit Court is reviewing some exhibits from Moshe Porat’s appeal, so we’ll probably have that, hopefully d end of the year. That said, we’re still dealing with some of the reputation fallout, and that’s a longer-term rebuild. It takes a lifetime to establish trust and two or three minutes to destroy it. From that perspective, we’ve probably got three or four years of continuous rebuilding of our reputation until it’s beyond us. From an undergraduate perspective, students don’t care too much anymore. Graduate students are doing it, so we still have a little rebuilding.

I think the second big thing is that it’s been a tough four years, and between the rankings, the pandemic, and the demographic challenges we’re facing in the Northeastern United States, I’ll just say I’m tired. I think it’s time for a new voice, a new energy in the dean’s office, so it’s a good time to transition. We’re sort of going in a new direction, rebuilding programs and so on. Much of this has been established, and all that remains is to complete this process.

Ronald Anderson

Finally, as you get older, your interests change. I’ll be 64 in October, and being a dean of a top business school is, frankly, a 24/7, 365-day job. I would like to move on to another phase of my life. Return to teaching and research, then look forward to the next steps.

Can you elaborate on some of the demographic challenges you mentioned?

In the Northeastern United States, we have a lot to do with the aging population. This is what has been happening for two or three years: the number of final year students graduating from secondary school has decreased by around 2 or 3%. It’s especially prevalent in the Pennsylvania area. If you project, it looks like in 2026 we’re actually going to see a pretty big drop in demographics. If you go back 18 years from 2026, that takes you back to the financial crisis of 2008. There was a big, big drop in the number of births, so we’re probably going to see a drop of 6 or 7% (from number of freshmen of university age). What this really means is that we are all competing for a smaller pool of students. In universities, we compete on two dimensions: quality and reputation, and fair price. It gets incredibly competitive.

How would you describe the Fox School of Business in 2022?

I think we provide cutting-edge education; We place great importance on student achievement. And when I say student outcomes, I mean does the education we provide get students where they need to be in the corporate world, do employers love our students? All the data tends to suggest it. Our undergraduate students. 91.6% of them are placed within six months of obtaining their diploma. With our (full-time) MBAs, 94% complete their placement within three months of graduation. Our specialized master’s students are doing just as well. We feel that on the education side, we are doing very well.

On the research side, if you look at the UTD (University of Texas at Dallas) research rankings for business schools, in the last four or five years we’ve gone from 38th to 33rd internationally. I have the impression that we are doing very well.

The other thing I’m particularly proud of is the engagement we now have with our alumni and the community through corporate partnerships. This is something we didn’t pay much attention to before. But right now, each of our MBA students receives a corporate executive or retired corporate executive as a mentor when they arrive. They meet with these mentors at least once or twice a month, and it’s fun to watch that because I think the mentors like it as much as the mentees. You know, the CEO of Kyndryl, the IBM subsidiary, will be one of your mentors. It makes a big difference for graduates, the community and our students as well.

In terms of fundraising, we are back where we left off. We’re on the right track and we’ve set ourselves some pretty ambitious goals to get where we need to be.

Finally, culturally, we have a much more genuine and authentic environment here now. I would say the culture of fear is completely gone, people are much more open, people are allowed into my office whenever they want. I have an open door policy. And so I think our culture is more representative of what you would see in the corporate world than what we had here before, which I have to say was a culture of fear.

What are some of the immediate challenges that Fox and other business schools are currently facing?

I think the most immediate challenge is to stabilize undergraduate and graduate enrollment. Everyone sees these declines in MBA programs. We are seeing the growth of specialty masters, which I think is a good thing, so finding the right portfolio in specialty masters is really important.

The other thing is how we, as universities and business schools, because it will take a partnership between the university and the business school, how we decide to deal with the drop in enrollment in the first cycle. From my perspective, I think this is a good sizing exercise. Business schools will probably be a bit smaller than they were five or ten years ago.

Interesting. And what are some of the opportunities you see at Fox?

The big opportunity we are pursuing right now is data science and business analytics. The idea that data is so pervasive that our students have to learn it, they have no choice. One of the things that we’re going to be starting this fall is to have all of our first and second year students embark on some form of data analysis. If coding is your thing, then you’re going to learn Python; If marketing and presentation are your thing, then you’re going to do business analytics.

The other thing that I think is extremely important, when I talk to business leaders and our alumni, interpersonal skills are always incredibly, incredibly important. If we can find a way to combine them – you’re a data-savvy person and you’ve also developed strong people skills during your program – I think that’s what American companies will need. I think that’s the skill set that we need to give to both our undergraduates and our graduate students.

Let’s talk about your plans after your term as Dean ends in June.

So I missed the teaching; I’ll just say it up front. I also hope to be able to resume my research journey. I kind of kept it alive for the past four years, but it’s hard when you’re working 24/7 doing research. I think the other thing that’s important to me is that now that I’m managing at this level and so on, I see some of the things that our MBA and our masters students need better access to. ‘a financial point of view, because I ‘I am a professor of finance. I would love to start private equity, venture capital courses and network our students more in this area, not just from a classroom perspective, but from an experiential learning perspective.

What do you want to do in the last year? What are your goals for your final year as Dean?

I want to streamline our portfolio of specialty masters. I think we’ve expanded too much and need to streamline this a bit. I want to help the university find the right person to come to Fox. Those are the two biggies for me. We just streamlined our undergraduate programs last year, so I feel pretty good about that.


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