Dean Joss envisions larger Business School role in multidisciplinary graduate education

Dean Robert L. Joss

Dean Robert L. Joss

The university is in the early stages of new developments in graduate education that will significantly engage and strengthen the role of the Graduate School of Business, Dean Robert L. Joss said during a Sept. 28 Business School communications meeting.

The event drew 165 faculty and external-relations staff members, as well as representatives from the university's multidisciplinary initiatives and development and communications offices.

Roberta Katz, university associate vice president for strategic planning, also addressed the group and outlined the university's four multidisciplinary initiatives and President John Hennessy's vision for graduate education—creating knowledge to solve complex, global problems in human health, the environment and international affairs, and to better integrate the arts and creativity on campus.

"We are somewhat unique in that we have incredible strength across all of our [seven] schools and we have a contiguous campus," Katz said. "There are not many universities of our caliber that have that, which makes crossing disciplines and working together that much easier."

Katz reported that the Commission on Graduate Education, charged in late 2004 with reviewing the graduate student experience across campus, will issue its report this fall. The commission is co-chaired by Mark Horowitz, the Yahoo! Founders Professor in the School of Engineering, and Charles Holloway, the Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers Professor in the Graduate School of Business, Emeritus. James Baron, the Walter Kenneth Kilpatrick Professor in the Graduate School of Business, also sits on the commission.

Katz said the commission has identified, among other things, the importance of leadership. "We realize that graduate students should have the expectation of going out and being leaders in their fields," she said. "We are training them substantively but not always training them in terms of leadership skills."

"Historically, graduate education has been about preparing students for academic life," Joss said. "But increasingly we find they need and want preparation for organizational life as well. More than half of them are not going into academic careers. It's important that we at the university think about how to prepare them and what it means to be an educated graduate student in the 21st century. Solutions to big problems are going to be more powerful when they fit in a market framework or are delivered by managed organizations."

The Business School, Joss said, can play a role that will benefit graduate students beyond those studying management. "Great ideas are a necessary condition [to solve problems] but they are not sufficient," he said. "Great ideas need to marry up with market momentum or a managed institution to really make something happen. Society has chosen managed organizations as its instrument to get things done. We're the school that's all about organizational performance. The initiatives around human health, the international dimension and the environment need us to be more effective. I am absolutely, 100 percent convinced of that. We also need the initiatives to give greater meaning to management and the fundamental purpose of our school."

Dan Rudolph, senior associate dean of the Business School, told the meeting that a number of the school's professors are already engaged in research and activities jointly with other university faculty. Most important, a number of new multidisciplinary courses already have brought students from around campus together to discuss and understand what it takes to tackle tough problems across different fields.

One course, Business and the Environment, is supervised by Business School faculty member Erica Plambeck, School of Earth Sciences Dean Pamela Matson and School of Engineering faculty member Jim Sweeney. Another course, Biodesign Innovation, taught by faculty from the schools of Business, Medicine and Engineering, brought students from all three schools together to identify, design and market devices that will address unmet medical needs. Classes like these give students an opportunity to work with people from other fields, much as they will in organizations of all kinds—both for profit and nonprofit—after graduation.

The Business School also is planning to develop and pilot a four-week management course for Stanford graduate students from non-business disciplines. The program, expected to be piloted in summer 2006, would be modeled after programs now offered to business executives as well as a 2-year-old Summer Institute for non-business undergraduate students, Rudolph said.

The Business School already has 31 courses cross-listed with other schools and departments at the university and has offered joint degrees with the schools of Law and Education for many years. Last year, the Business School made its first joint faculty appointment with the School of Education. In addition, the Business School recently approved key logistical changes in class scheduling to make it easier for students to enroll in both management and university courses.