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Our New Students: ‘They Take Your Breath Away!’

It does feel like a return to normal. After two years of COVID and virtual accommodations of various types, we are mainly face-to-face, and full of energy and innovation. My colleagues and I have been deeply engaged with new students in many of our programs.

The undergraduate students are arriving in record numbers with high accomplishments behind them and noble ambitions for their futures. They are accepting our challenge to be intentional about growing and learning in the next four years. I should say 4.1 years. That is the average time to earn an undergraduate degree at UConn. It is an extraordinary accomplishment that makes us a national leader in time to earn a degree. It does not happen by accident. We must provide them with the courses they need, when they need them, and we do. But that’s just a piece of the puzzle. We guide our undergraduate students, from the earliest days, to think about their education, their goals, their interests, and the ways they can develop leadership, knowledge, and industry experience. As a result, they become distinguished candidates in the job market.

Our graduate programs have become more diverse and complex. Last week, I was privileged to welcome students into multiple programs. The Online MBA (OMBA) and the MS in FinTech (Financial Technology) are new additions to our portfolio, aiming to be responsive to the needs of our students and to the needs of industry. Our corporate partners say they need every FinTech graduate we can produce, and the incoming students see those opportunities with crystal clarity. Our Online MBA provides flexible pathways to learning. During the COVID years we evolved our virtual learning delivery capability and can now deliver world-class learning opportunities to the students who want and need this flexibility.

Our well-established programs continue to attract talent, and it was wonderful to be with them again for in-person orientations and welcome. To remind you, we have multiple targeted graduate programs that continue to attract and serve high aspiration students: MS BAPM (Business Analytics and Project Management), MSA (Accounting), MS HRM (Human Resource Management) and MS FRM (Financial Risk Management).

On another morning I had the privilege of welcoming 10 new Ph.D. students. Each of our five academic departments added two students this year. And they take your breath away! They are intelligent, accomplished, and focused future faculty members. I told them they are ‘junior partners in the firm.’ And they are. They will open new avenues of thought. They will partner with our faculty to help advance ongoing learning and growth. We are very fortunate to have the ability to attract young people with their energy, enthusiasm, and promise.

There is a narrative out there about the irrelevance of education; a claim that nothing is changing and investment in one’s human capital is misspent. I find it confusing. When I look at what we are teaching and researching today, and compare it to 20 years ago: Wow!

Just look at the names of some of the degrees we offer today: Business Analytics, Financial Technology. My colleagues in the Marketing and Information Systems department are busy scraping websites to glean important insights into human behavior. The technology and the understanding of human behavior for this work did not exist 20 years ago, and today our students are expanding and defining it every day.

Some of the young people are talking about prior events as being at the end of the last century, and they are right. Twenty-some years into the new century, the future is rich and exciting, and UConn is contributing to our understanding of this world and preparing our students to thrive in it.

 

Back to the Dean’s Corner


Global Pandemics Are Incompatible With Widespread Prosperity

As viewed over the long arc of history, there are lessons to be learned from both pandemics and vaccines that inform our understanding of global prosperity. Good health and longevity are cornerstones of prosperity.

Seventy years ago, in 1952, polio cases exploded in the USA. Grade school students felt the brunt as they were kept at home, unable to play with friends and kept out of swimming pools, all because the consequences were so dire. If it sounds reminiscent of 2020 and COVID-19, it should. Fortunately, the iron lung had been invented to aid breathing for the sick. Unfortunately, there were not enough. People died. Bodies were deformed.

In 1955, Jonas Salk created a vaccine, and became a hero. In a televised broadcast he was asked who owned the patents to the vaccine. He famously answered, “Well, the people I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

It took almost no time for a fearful community to accept the vaccine. Shortly thereafter, in the spirit of continuous improvement, Sabine refined the vaccination process. Children returned to playing together and swimming.

But this was not an American story. Polio did not respect national boundaries. Nor did the rapid vaccine adoption in the USA describe a global response. Vaccinations cost money. Distributing vaccine is a supply chain challenge. People are not all receptive to the good intentions of a “Western remedy.” The United States and the United Nations and other organizations championed a global response, funded a global response, and ultimately achieved most of the goal: decades later.

By 1979, the U.S. was declared polio-free. Yet globally, in 1980, only 22 percent of one-year-olds were vaccinated against polio. This increased to a coverage of 86 percent of the world’s one-year-olds in 2015. Cases of polio have fallen dramatically over time. In 1980, there were over 50,000 reported cases of polio worldwide. By 2021, this number was below 1,000 with various small estimates from different sources.

In his book “Enlightenment Now,’’ Steven Pinker focuses on public health and childhood mortality improvements such as the Global Polio Eradication Initiative as examples of global improvements in many aspects of life. By 2015, polio was very rare outside of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria. Germ theory, antibiotics, vaccines, and other medical interventions substantially increased life expectancies in the last century. In 1840, life expectancy was about 40 years; in 2020 it had risen to 75 years. Reduced childhood mortality was the major explanation.

In this context, an article in The New York Times (July 16, 2022) headlined ‘Sharp Drop in Global Childhood Vaccinations Imperils Millions of Lives’ catches our attention. A vaccination rate of 94 percent is generally thought sufficient to create herd immunity. From 2019 to 2021 vaccination rates for DTP3 fell five points to 81 percent. While UNICEF continues to be a major supplier of vaccine addressing a broad array of diseases, people must engage with programs to make a difference. There is reason to fear that the loss of herd immunity across an array of childhood diseases will allow them to remerge.

The 1918 flu epidemic, and the 2020 COVID pandemic both briefly shortened the pattern of increased life expectancy. Decreases in global herd immunities may do so again. In recent days, NPR, the AP, The Washington Post and The New York Times have all featured news of the first polio case in the U.S. in almost a decade.

How does all of this affect the UConn School of Business? It reminds us of the importance of history, of understanding human behavior and decision making, and of the global interconnections of lives today. Our students take about 50 percent of their coursework in the liberal arts and sciences. We seek to educate global citizens, as well as prepared professionals. The AACSB, our accrediting body for high aspiration business schools, refers to our collective mission as supporting global prosperity. It is important to frame that goal as a quality-of-life goal, not a personal wealth goal.

 

Back to the Dean’s Corner


Widespread Literacy: Key to a Functioning Democracy?

Dateline Scotland, UK, Summer 2022

After more than two years of virtual living without benefit of vacation, we landed in the UK for holiday. It created an opportunity to read (“Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis,’’ by Jared Diamond) and explore history up close and personal.

Diamond’s book explores crisis and change in seven countries over many decades: Finland, Japan, Chile, Indonesia, Germany, Australia and the USA. A notable quote is: “Fundamental to any functioning democracy are widespread literacy, recognition of the right to oppose government policies, tolerance of different points of view, acceptance of being outvoted, and government protection of those without political power.”

These words evoke the notion of the Scottish Reformation, a process that led Scotland in the late 1500s to grow a Protestant tradition and move away from Catholicism. It led to a commitment to universal education. Schools were built and the university system was reformed.

“Upheaval” and Reformation created a fitting backdrop for exploring the area around Stirling, the former center of Scotland, and to visit the nearby Innerpeffray Library. Innerpeffray is the first free lending library in Scotland dating to 1680. The library kept careful records and today many people visit to learn what their relatives from centuries ago were reading and learning. Lara Haggerty is the Keeper of Books, a title associated with the library for hundreds of years. She oversees the 5,000 titles still managed in the library. As Lara points out, “Scotland became a real literary nation. This place was a little spark that started the flame burning.”

Lara shared some wonderful stories with us. We held some very old books, including “Cookery and Pastry’’ as taught by Mrs. MacIver (1787).
Reading that early cookbook, I should not have been surprised that it did not include cooking temperatures and times, since cooking was not done in devices where you could specify the temperature. It was surprising that recipes did not include quantities of ingredients, and the typesetting was strange. It seemed that there were two versions of the letter “s.” One of them was much like this “s” and one more akin to an “f”. Lara explained that it was a response to early printing presses where the traditional “s” had a tendency to attract blobs of ink and become illegible, especially when adjacent to another “s” or “e” or “a.” The larger “f” form did not suffer that problem, so this innovation made books more legible.

Their records allowed them to learn that the most popular books dealt with history, and many people were frequent borrowers. She shared the history of one borrower, John Barclay, who as a young man read history, went on to begin study as a minister, and then shifted his focus to natural science. He ultimately became a professor in the university system. As Lara and I talked, I imagined a borrower bringing a book home and during the month or so that books typically were outstanding, the borrower and the family would have read, perhaps together, perhaps out-loud. They would have discussed the material and have become the educated electorate needed for Scotland’s reformation and for Diamond’s notion of an effective democracy.

When we visited, they were celebrating innovation, and had on display a working model of a passive heat-dissipating device, a close-cycle heat engine, developed by one of their readers and patented in 1816. It was created by Robert
Stirling, hence its name, “Stirling Engine.” Over the years, refinement and redesign have made it faster, better and cheaper. It is now an element for temperature management in some laptops.

And of course, the very existence of Innerpeffray arose because of the invention of the printing press. The printing press was introduced around 1450 and was adopted rapidly. Jeremiah Dittmar of the London School of Economics has demonstrated that about half of the 100 largest European cities adopted printing technology. Early on it was a craft and early cities that adopted it not only grew the printing activity but had significantly higher, broad economic growth than non-adopting cities. Indeed, Innerpeffray Library was only possible because the printing press had enabled large-scale production of books at “affordable” prices. By 1680, David Drummand, the founder, had collected a library which could and did support the reading needs of a community.

The Scottish Reformation and Innerpeffray Library seem to exemplify Diamond’s quote above: “Fundamental to any functioning democracy are widespread literacy, recognition of the right to oppose government policies, tolerance of different points of view, acceptance of being outvoted, and government protection of those without political power.” At UConn, and in the School of Business, we champion free inquiry and access to information.

It was great to explore how those themes played out hundreds of years ago. Today, there are those who want to ban books and control information, but Innerpeffray exemplifies the right idea: share the books, encourage reading and exploring ideas. Who knows from whom the next revolutionary ideas will come? Reading and debating will prime the pump. I am privileged to work with faculty, staff, students, and alumni who believe in ideas, and in investing today for a better tomorrow.

Back to the Dean’s Corner


Monique Domingo ’22, School of Business

UConn Today – While studying for her doctorate at the UConn School of Business, Monique Domingo sought to pay forward the support she herself had received throughout her academic journey by serving as a mentor to other students. She’ll be taking that Husky spirit and love of learning with her to Louisiana State University after graduation, where she hopes to guide and inspire the next generation of learners as an assistant professor of management.


Nicholas Willett ’22, School of Business

UConn Today – From a young age, Nicholas Willett has always been interested in processes, people, and building things. For these reasons, he chose UConn’s School of Business program, where he pursued his interests and engaged in various campus clubs and groups – all while working for a San Diego-based startup.


Alumni Spotlight: Stephanie-Marie Sullivan ’16

Stephanie-Marie Sullivan (UCONN Marketing , Class of 2016, MSBAPM 2023) recently spoke to the Business Connections Learning Community Marketing students about her marketing career journey since leaving UCONN. Stephanie entered the Hartford’s Early Career Marketing Leadership Development Program and completed rotations in brand, digital and customer experience, and found a real passion for consumer behavior and customer experience marketing. She recently moved to Sage Sure, a late-stage FINTECH start-up that focuses on high-risk home insurance, where she is heavily involved in understanding and improving the customer experience.

During her conversation with students she also touched upon important topics such as the value of networking and internships, as well as the highlighting the many different areas of marketing that students can pursue post-graduation. Stephanie answered questions that 1st and 2nd year students had from a marketing professional’s perspective, and gave students the direction and confidence needed to take advantage of the many opportunities that lie ahead at UConn. Her time and dedication to the UConn School of Business Marketing program is greatly appreciated and we are thankful to have such a wonderful alum as part of our Husky family.


Alumni Spotlight: Hannah Sugrue ’20: Enterprise Account Manager at Dell EMC

Hannah Sugrue‘s summer internship with Dell turned into the start of a career in sales with one of the largest tech companies in the world.

From an outsider perspective, tech sales is assumed to be a more male-dominated industry, but through her internship Hannah found that almost all of the leaders she met were women, something that still holds true today two years later. As a rising senior, seeing those women succeeding and leading inspired her to take a full-time role.

Hannah has a set of steps to consider when it comes to ensuring a successful start to your professional career while you are still completing your undergraduate program. First, she emphasizes the importance of listening, using the resources available in the School of Business and connecting with your professors. Additionally, learning is important, going out of your comfort zone to find a new area that sparks your interest. Finally, she says, “Lean in, when it comes to a job search, you get back what you put in, so raise your hand and get involved, do your research, attend a networking event, and get engaged.”

In Hannah’s current role as an Enterprise Account Manager, she can enjoy flexibility, with the ability to work from home, maintaining a work-life balance that works for her. She works with several field teams based in New York and New Jersey to support 12 Enterprise accounts. Although she works a normal 8-5, every day is different depending on individual customers and their needs.

Thus far, she has been able to get more involved in the inner workings of the company by joining several Employee Resource Groups (ERGS). Just recently, she was named a Pillar Leader for Future Women of Sales. In this position, Hannah organizes and supports mentorships between the women of Dell’s inside sales program and those in the field. Not only has this helped the group itself grow, but the mentorships have made a difference for so many women.

Finally, Hannah advises undergraduate students looking for internships or full-time roles to be open to different opportunities. “You might be surprised by what you you find,” she says, “it’s easy to be influenced by those around you so make sure to check in with yourself and allow for some self-reflection along the way.” She stresses the importance of asking yourself what you want out of your experience, what is the most important and what are non-negotiables. “There’s no wrong answer or justification needed when it comes to what you want,” she says, “Whatever it is, make sure you have your answer before you limit yourself or commit to any offer.”


Undergraduate Spotlight: Inside Whirlpool’s Real Whirled Sales Development Program

Last year, Anna Mecca ’22 began the Real Whirled Sales Development Program at Whirlpool, a multi-week immersion training experience that would prepare her for her a role in the company that would see her working with several teams.

As an intern, Anna was assigned to work with the Sales Execution Team on the Real Whirled Training Continuous Improvement Project. The main responsibility was discovering, creating, and implementing a new process for better delivery of training content to Sales Execution Representatives. While working on this project, her main goal was delivering training content in “digestible pieces” while elevating SER readiness and confidence in the market. She was able to make a lasting impact in the company, as her new approach maps out a two-part strategy that is applied over the course of 8 weeks, focusing on learning, enhancing, and applying knowledge obtained.

Aside from this main project, she was also a participant in the INNOVA Competition, a 3-day shark tank style competition where she worked with a team of 7 other interns to produce innovation that addresses sustainability and water waste in the home and laundry space. One of her biggest takeaways from this work was the importance of challenging oneself beyond the scope of project objectives. “Take ownership of your hard work and lay it all on the line,” she says, “it’s important to take risks and step outside your comfort zone to truly show your company what you are capable of.”

Anna worked cross functionally with the Sales Execution Team, Sales Execution Representatives, Channel Leads, Sales District Managers, and Field Merchandising Managers, exposing her to many people within Whirlpool Corporation. She speaks highly of her team, mentioning how supportive they were, exemplifying a positive company culture despite a remote work environment. With activities like virtual lunch and learns, coffee breaks, and other team bonding experiences, she was able to stay connected and engaged.

As for students looking for internships or full-time positions, Anna has several pieces of advice. First, “network, network, network!” Especially in a large company like Whirlpool, making connections is so valuable for future career aspirations. Next, she emphasized the importance of confidence and being aware that there is always a learning curve that comes with new experiences, “Be confident in yourself, landing the internship was the hardest part of the process, during it trust your experiences and be your true self!”


Undergraduate Spotlight: Mitchell van der Noll

Mitchell van der Noll is a senior Marketing major with an interest in sports and entertainment. This past summer, Mitchell interned at City Football Group, the owner of football-related businesses in major cities around the world, including Manchester City Football Club and New York City Football Club.

As a Partnerships Intern, Mitchell assisted his supervisor in reaching out to new partnership prospects and establishing connections. He would research companies and brands leading up to their meetings with his supervisor, and used this information to help in creating outreach emails to further establish a knowledge base on potential partnerships. Major projects are where he feels he learned the most, as himself and another intern went through the full process of researching 2 companies, Logitech G and Airbnb. Their research culminated in a presentation on CFG and partnership activations between themselves and other brands, given in the form of a roleplay to everyone on their team who gave them constructive feedback to help them in similar settings moving forward.

Mitchell worked with about 10 people regularly in his position, collaborating closely with his supervisor, the department head, and the Director, Partnership Sales. The team covered all the responsibilities associated with partnerships and sports, with tasks ranging from current partnership activations to social media and event marketing. Mitchell found himself welcomed in quickly, and found the team to be ambitious and passionate for what they do.

One of the biggest takeaways from Mitchell’s position was recognizing the value in asking for feedback and advice. Throughout his projects, there were times where he was unsure of next steps, but through connecting with his colleagues he was able to stay on track, and learned more in the process.

Outreach and networking were key factors in Mitchell securing this position, and he emphasizes the value of reaching out to people at brands you are interested in working for directly. “Completing an application is great, but it doesn’t establish a personal connection,” he says, “To anyone looking for an internship or job, consider finding someone in your department of interest and sending a short introductory email. It might lead to something more, and it might not, but if you don’t try, you’ll never find out.”


Alumni Spotlight: Katherine Maroney ’16

Katherine Maroney ’16 is now a Talent Acquisition Specialist at Enterprise Holdings, but she attributes her successful transition from undergrad to professional life to her time at UConn. She encourages students to get involved, whether that be in organizations that directly relate to your major or not. Katherine was involved in both a sales, marketing, and management fraternity as well as other clubs that helped her build skills in communication and leadership.

As for her path to her current role with Enterprise Holdings, she was first exposed to the company at the UConn career fair. She met with a representative that had graduated from UConn and within a year and a half with the company, was running her own store and driving a company car. As a senior, Katherine wasn’t sure exactly what type of career she wanted to pursue and was attracted to Enterprise because of the options that they had, allowing her to learn every aspect of a business and move her career forward based on what part interested her most.

In her current role, Katherine acts as a business partner to the hiring managers of Enterprise’s rental divisions and departments. She recruits and hires for Enterprise, National, and Alamo locations across three states, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Western Massachusetts, using reporting to assist hiring managers in determining staffing needs. In addition to this she attends career fairs and networking events on college campuses to recruit students for management and sales trainee programs, staff accountant roles, and auto detailer opportunities. Aside from recruiting and interviewing, she also coaches managers and employees on best interview practices, providing support for external applicants or interviews for promotions.

For undergraduate students looking for summer internships or full-time roles, Katherine advises them to get in front of as many employers as you can. “The more employers you include in your search, the more you can learn about exciting career opportunities you never knew existed,” she says, “the more you participate in career fairs and networking events the more comfortable you will become.” Follow up and engagement with different employers can set you apart from other students that are applying for the same roles, helping you secure that dream position.