The Road to 2020
The task force started with a clean sheet of paper and a broad charge from Dean Huss: to reimagine Robinson for the 21st century. The college convened the group to draw up a strategic roadmap through 2020, and throughout the 18-month process, task force members and the Robinson Board of Advisors explored a fundamental question: What does it mean to be a relevant business school today and what will it mean in the future?
The question came on the eve of Robinson’s 100th anniversary, which it is celebrating this year. In its first century, the college has become one of the largest business schools in the nation, with programs ranked among the best in the world. Georgia State and the Robinson College have produced more of Georgia’s top executives with graduate degrees than any other school in the Southeast. Its faculty are among the nation’s most prolific scholars, graded “A” for teaching excellence by Bloomberg Businessweek. Each year, the college attracts 8,000 students as diverse in nationality and ethnicity as they are in business experience and educational background.
With such proven progress, why consider sweeping change? For one thing, external forces are coming to bear on all business schools, says Richard D. Phillips who chaired the task force and is associate dean of academic initiatives and innovation. Geographic barriers have fallen, and students have their choice of programs through online offerings. Additionally technology is having a big impact on every niche of business and the world is growing increasingly complex. Today’s challenges require professionals with cross-disciplinary skills, ones who can respond creatively and profitably to opportunities.
“For the longest time, Robinson has had the best part-time MBA program in the nation, but monopoly builds complacency,” says Phillips. “We have to continue asking questions and implementing answers to survive and thrive.”
As a professor in the Department of Managerial Sciences and its interim chair, Pamela S. Barr teaches students to think and plan strategically. She brought that knowledge to bear as a member of the task force, then as chair of Robinson’s strategic planning overview committee. In synthesizing feedback from throughout the college, she learned that “we have to be adaptable. What makes us strong now won’t keep us strong. We always need to be forward looking to continue to improve.”
The college’s Board of Advisors, most of whom have led strategic planning initiatives at their companies, were actively involved. W. Frank Blount was board chair at the time; he says it was a particularly important undertaking during his tenure.
“Working with Dean Huss and other Robinson senior leaders to provide major input into the development of the strategic plan is exactly the type of active role the board should play in the advancement of the college,” says Blount. “Robinson is a special place with a very bright future, and the Board of Advisors feels that the crisp execution of this strategic plan will truly distinguish the college.”
Robinson’s plan includes some initiatives that are underway while others will require the college to first build capacity. “It is forward looking, but not so out there that it’s hard to grasp,” says Barr. “It builds on the strengths and reputation that we already have while at the same time, it challenges us to stretch.”