Desperately seeking dean

Chico State’s business college looks to hire leader who can balance industry outreach, academics

BUSINESS BOOM: Chico State University’s College of Business, which holds many of its classes in Glenn Hall, reports an exceptional number of graduates who get good jobs right out of school.

BUSINESS BOOM: Chico State University’s College of Business, which holds many of its classes in Glenn Hall, reports an exceptional number of graduates who get good jobs right out of school.

Photo by Tom Angel

Apply yourself: Think you’re qualified? Send your curriculum vitae (that’s Ph.D.-speak for a rÉsumÉ, and if you didn’t know that you’re not qualified), five references, cover letter and published works to: Chair of the Business Dean Search Committee; Office of the Provost; California State University, Chico; Chico, CA 95929-0110.

Wanted: business dean. Must be able to glad-hand with industry, draw in dollars and keep things running smoothly in the home office. Short-timers need not apply.

Chico State University’s College of Business is between deans. And whoever is hired to fill the prestigious chair will likely match the new philosophy of business schools almost everywhere: The leader must be part scholar, part business networker.

As state funding for colleges continues to slip, universities are told to make up the difference by raising money on their own, and the way to do that is by getting out more.

Byron Jackson, vice provost for academic affairs and dean of undergraduate education, said, “If we had a priority in our candidates, it would be a person who combines the very strong academic skills [with] industry connections.”

Jackson is one of two administrators, serving with faculty and staff representatives from the College of Business, on the dean search committee.

The chosen dean will take over the reins at a long-respected college that recently rebounded from a disappointing loss of full accreditation.

Heikke Rinne, a likable man who came complete with helpful ties in the corporate world, quit the dean post suddenly in late December 2000 after only a year and a half on the job.

He left to take over as chief executive officer of eFruit International in Florida, a position he had previously held and that overlapped into his deanship.

Some faculty members noticed Rinne wasn’t around that much—kind of an “absentee dean.” Not that that was bad; just different from the olden days when deans were scholars first, not fund-raisers. Now, schools must provide their students with the latest technology and programs while at the same time being careful not to sell out to industry interests.

Rinne agrees that he wasn’t a stay-in-the-office kind of dean. “That probably is a criticism,” he said. “You can’t do both. Chico is not exactly the metropolis of the world. If you want to have contacts, you’re not going to get them in Chico.

“I probably should have focused more on the internal issues,” Rinne reflected in a telephone interview from Monterey, where he was traveling for business.

“For me, personally, I found it very beneficial—the experience in both the industry and academia,” said Rinne, who previously chaired a department at Purdue University. “It was easier to deal with the external industries having been there. … Business changes very fast, and having contacts provides access to research projects, [donations] and classroom materials.”

Rinne added that while he brought several “external contacts” with him when he came to Chico State, “I’m not sure that many of them stayed after I left.”

Still, the College of Business had and continues to have key relationships with firms like Cisco Systems, Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard and SAP America, Inc.

The university found Rinne after the previous business dean, Arno Rethans, decided to shift to more of a teaching role in 1998 and ultimately ended up as vice president for planning and resource allocation.

That was the year the College of Business was placed on “continuous review"—tantamount to probation—after failing to please the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Much of the criticism was that faculty members weren’t producing enough “scholarly works"—a bit of a slap in the face to a state institution where teaching is supposed to be the priority, but still the price to pay for being part of the AACSB.

Jim Owens, a management professor, said Chico State is just following national trends both in pushing research and publications and in seeking a tight-with-industry dean. “The can’t just be focused on internal. They can’t just be focused on external,” he said. “I think it’s a hard balance for any person to meet. You’re asked to be everything to everybody. … Most of us don’t know how to do it.”

Owens agreed that that previous succession of deans included more internal, scholarly types. To some degree, he offered, “the concept of colleges and departments have outlived their usefulness,” and there may come a day when there are no “deans” at all in the traditional sense.

Gail Corbitt, an accounting and management systems professor who is co-chairing the dean search committee, said what they’re looking for is fairly simple: “We want somebody who can build on our strengths.”

The job announcement, she pointed out, is “really similar” to what was put out last time, with the exception of the need to gain reaccreditation.

The ad states that the new dean will, with the help of an associate dean, lead the college’s three departments, which together serve nearly 2,100 students. Qualifications sought include “an ability to maintain and develop productive relationships with intra-university and external constituencies, and a record of and interest in external fundraising.” Also important are leadership, goal setting, mentoring and teaching skills.

Corbitt said the candidates would be evaluated based on how well they meet the criteria requested in the job description. After preliminary interviews, the committee will recommend five or six finalists. The goal is to hire someone by July, and get him or her in the office by Aug. 1.

“We’re trying to work very quickly,” said Corbitt, whose team started reviewing applications on March 26.

In the meantime, Stephen King, dean of the College of Communication and Education, is by all accounts doing an excellent job in the interim-dean role.

But Jackson acknowledged that, by definition, an interim dean “is there to maintain things,” not make long-term plans.

Jackson wouldn’t say how many people had applied for the position, in part because they’re still accepting applications.

There’s no word if internal candidates have thrown their hat into the ring. Management Prof. Marc Siegall won praise during his tenure as interim dean bridging Rethans and Rinne and received much of the credit for the college’s having secured full accreditation. But, point out his colleagues with a grin, Siegall, who is on leave, has a new baby and perhaps different priorities.

Jackson pointed out that many business colleges are seeking deans right now, and they’re competing with the higher-paying private sector for top candidates. “The larger business schools are able to attract CEO types,” he said. He couldn’t reveal a salary range, but confirmed “it’s pretty high"—more than deans in most other departments and at least $100,000.

“People come here to live here and because of the lifestyle,” Jackson added. “We hope that we get somebody who would stay a long time.”

Ultimately, he said, it’s the university’s president, Manuel Esteban, and provost, Scott McNall, who will take the unranked recommendations of the search committee and settle on the dean who will take the College of Business into the future.

It looks like there will be a lot of strong candidates, Jackson said.