In an effort to find a new dean, the School of Business hosted open meetings with the four finalist candidates from April 25 to April 28.
Sean Reid, former dean of the business school, left the School of Business in 2020 to become provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs at Providence College. Reid served as dean from 2015 to 2020. Alka Bramhandkar has served as interim dean of the School of Business for two years. The search for a new dean for the School of Business is one of three searches to find new deans for schools. The Roy H. Park School of Communications and the School of Music are also undergoing dean searches.
The first candidate, Murli Rajan, associate dean at the Kania School of Management at the University of Scranton, emphasized his focus on student and alumni connections and an international mindset at the April 25 open session.
With a competitive business market, Rajan said student-alumni connections would be one of his priorities.
“[A dean should] figure out ways to connect students to alumni,” Rajan said. “To me, that’s critical.”
Students from the School of Business also asked Rajan about increasing student enrollment. Rajan said the goal should be to keep enrollment at the business school above 500. The School of Business currently has 565 undergraduate students enrolled. He said that bringing students to campus could get them interested in attending Ithaca College, especially in an open house or event setting with current students and alumni.
Student connections was one of the attributes of the college that initially piqued Rajan’s interest in the school.
“I wanted somewhere with strong student connections and this was the place,” Rajan said.
Rajan also addressed the issue of budget cuts at the college. He said the school should consider alternative sources of revenue other than alumni donations and tuition. In the 2021 fiscal year, the college made $137,978,111 from tuition and room and board. The college relies heavily on student revenue; it made up around 88% of the college’s operating budget in 2019.
He agreed with students at the open session who said the budget cuts caused demoralization among faculty and students.
The second candidate, William Lamb, is dean for Graduate and Adult Learner Recruitment at EAB, Inc., which stands for “Education Advisory Board.” The company is a provider of consulting services to over 2,100 colleges and universities. Lamb also served as dean of the LaPenta School of Business at Iona College, Murata Dean of the F. W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College and an associate dean at Ohio University.
During Lamb’s open session April 26, he said he wants to focus on building student relationships, reinvigorating alumni and working with other schools on campus. Lamb also said he wants to help return the college to a state of normalcy amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He questioned the role of the pandemic amid decreasing business school enrollment. In the 2019–20 academic year, the business school had 652 enrolled undergraduate students, but that number has since fallen by nearly 100 students.
“It’s hard to know because of the pandemic how much of this is a temporary issue,” Lamb said.
In regard to student connections, Lamb emphasized building stronger relationships between faculty and students. If he were to become dean of the School of Business, Lamb said he would sit in on classes, attend events and club meetings, and be open to talk to students. He said a dean should always be open to a discussion.
“You have to be prepared to get out in front of the people,” Lamb said. “It’s about talking to people about the curriculum — talking to people about student services.”
Lamb did not give a plan for connecting with alumni, but he said the issue was one of his priorities.
The third candidate, Michael Johnson-Cramer, is currently a professor of management at Bentley University. He served as dean of business at the McCallum Graduate School of Business at Bentley from 2019 to 2020. Johnson-Cramer also served as the associate dean of faculty at the College of Arts and Sciences at Bucknell University.
During his open session April 27, Johnson-Cramer said he cared deeply about the connections between students and faculty.
“If you could ask me to wave a wand and make a school, it would be student-centered,” Johnson-Cramer said. “It’s just a genuine desire to open my door [to students].”
When The Ithacan asked Johnson-Cramer about his strategies for connecting with alumni, he said he wanted to prioritize alumni networks.
“I think alumni need to be a part of the learning process,” Johnson-Cramer said. “Alumni want a learning experience. … We’re selling [them] a membership in a community of people who are learning their whole lives.”
Although the college has been criticized by students and faculty in recent years for budget cuts and allocation of funds, Johnson-Cramer said it would be important to focus on what the college does right. He said a dean should connect with faculty and prioritize the programs that work.
“The dean has an easy job: figure out which things are cool and double their budget,” Johnson-Cramer said.
The fourth and final candidate, Kathleen Barnes, is currently a professor of management at the Bertolon School of Business at Salem State University. Prior to that, she was also the dean for the Bertolon School of Business from 2018–20.
During Barnes’ April 28 open session, she emphasized her prioritization of student connections, alumni connections and collaboration with other schools.
In regard to the decreasing enrollment in the School of Business, Barnes said the college could improve how it approaches the strategy of encouraging students to enroll. She mentioned advertising scholarships and connecting with local schools.
“We’re all looking for a place where we belong,” Barnes said. “[We need to] look for reasons to get together.”
The Ithacan asked Barnes about her interest in collaborating with other schools. Barnes said this would be a key issue for her.
“I think it’s critical,” Barnes said. “The success of the college will be [dependent] on the collaboration of the schools.”
Students from the School of Business expressed their concern with issues of decreasing student enrollment, decreased morale and budget cuts. Barnes said the college should consider emphasizing what it does well.
“We don’t necessarily need change,” Barnes said. “We need to fine tune more of what we do and publicize it.”