Dean’s Letters


Ukraine—March 21, 2022

Reflecting from March 21, the global order is much changed. Three weeks ago, Putin did the unthinkable and invaded Ukraine. He justified it as a defensive act to protect Russia from NATO and liberate people of Russian descent who are “trapped” in Ukraine. His justifications have been dismissed by the world community and seem to be increasingly challenged among Russians. He has driven the NATO nations together and focused them on supporting Ukraine. The people of Ukraine have united in vigorous defense of their nation, with unexpected success.

As the dean of a business school, I am particularly struck by the importance of leadership in this conflict, by the power of commitment and community, by global interdependence and by the role of the supply chain in supporting initiatives.

Leadership

Ukraine’s President Zelensky has emerged as a remarkable, inspirational leader. His early words ring out: “I need ammunition, not a ride,’’ he responded when offered assistance in escape to personal safety. Early predictions of Russian dominance, based on the assembled forces and weaponry, and Putin’s history in Crimea and elsewhere, have needed constant revision. Zelensky has been a powerful image on the world stage. He reflects the bravery and determination of the Ukrainian people and has also focused their energy and channeled their courage. Zelensky has been in the streets in Ukraine and in the halls of government worldwide, consistently communicating the Ukrainian commitment to self-rule, their willingness to die for their country, and their need for support from the world community.

President Putin has emerged as an isolated powermonger with an inflated image of Russian power and his own invincibility. His control of the Russian media continues to limit the awareness of people in Russia to the actions in Ukraine. Nonetheless, protests in Russia against the war belie his efforts to frame it as a humanitarian mission. Desertions by Russian soldiers, who say they did not know why they were in Ukraine killing civilians and inflicting massive destruction, underscore his leadership failure. It may be that his decision to invade and his failure to succeed on his timetable were due to massively inaccurate feedback from his subordinates and advisors. It appears that he overestimated the readiness of his forces and underestimated the strength and commitment of the Ukrainian people¬—additional indicators of ineffective leadership.

Commitment and Community

As the dean of a business school, I have my own lens on these moments: our students. Speaking with four Ukrainian students at UConn has afforded me a new, more personal perspective. These four students share a pattern of immigration to the U.S., while cherishing their Ukrainian roots: language, culture and family. They talk regularly with family still in Ukraine, hoping they are alive, and knowing they are suffering. One of our students shared that her grandmother was wearing four pairs of pants to remain warm in a basement in a city without heat and power. It makes the suffering excruciatingly real. This human spirit unites the Ukrainian people. They are a family. They would die for each other and, sadly, they are dying for each other.

Worldwide, people are sharing their pain. Poland has welcomed some 1.5 million refugees. Another 1.5 million have found other homes. The world is opening doors for the refugees and provided resources for their defense. Providing financial aid is not surprising, but the size and broad sourcing of that support expands the notion of a community of nations. The efforts to find ways to deliver high-tech defensive weapons goes beyond the financial. Veterans from many countries are converging on Ukraine to join the defense. They are from all corners of the world, ranging from Afghanistan to the USA.

Global Interdependence

Ukrainian suffering and Putin’s flaunting of international law have created an unexpected and compelling unity among nations. He who sought to weaken NATO, has ultimately strengthened it. He who doubted the possibility of collaboration among nations is facing a united force taking action. Trade restrictions are understood as a normal course. But these sanctions are massive, coordinated, and aligned among nations. Three weeks ago, closing off international banking was not seriously expected because it required complex agreements. It is now in place and is only one example of fast, powerful and unprecedented collective action. The United Nations just held its first emergency session since 1982, reprimanding Russia and directing its military to cease fighting and withdraw. Out of 193 members, 141 deplored Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, with 35 members abstaining.

The current sanctions have raised awareness. For example, most aircraft flown by Russian airlines are rented, with ownership in the hands of western companies. The massive disruption in the value of the ruble and restrictions on currency flows imperil corporate Russia’s ability to pay their bills. Some global owners of aircraft will lose in this instance, but their losses pale beside the losses and human suffering in Ukraine.

Equally unexpected was the action by many global companies to withdraw from the Russian economy. Many believe that the corporate world is “profits first and profits only,” but the actions of many to withdraw their services from Russia belie that conventional wisdom. It is hard to know if it is simply a principles-based decision to do the right thing; or is it a risk- minimizing decision driven by fear of corporate Russia’s illiquidity and her unreliability in a world-wide, rule-of-law environment?

Supply Chains

As a business school we are interested in supply chains, and it is instructive to realize that Russia has overreached. Russia has supply chain problems. In Ukraine, the Russian military don’t have fuel where needed. They don’t have enough food for their soldiers. Some speculate they don’t have enough cigarettes or vodka. Such deficits are leadership breakdowns. Russian troops are not committed to their mission. Troops were told they will be welcomed as liberators and instead face unrelenting resistance. Russia has under-performed and morale is crumbling. Strategists disagree on the core reasons. Some suggest that the 20-mile parade of weaponry was under-supported and doomed from the start.

Conclusion

The last decades have been years of enormous global growth. Measured by human longevity, violence, educational opportunity, etc., the progress is real, although it has been accompanied by growing economic gaps between the richest and poorest. Putin’s war underscores the interrelated nature of economic activity worldwide. His country is a classic example of the disparity between rich and poor, where he and his oligarchs have extracted huge wealth from their country. Worldwide prosperity is built on the rule of law and global engagement. We are witnessing how a rogue nation can disrupt those relationships, but also how a common enemy, in conjunction with the inspirational leader of Ukraine, has galvanized the power of the global economy.

We stand at a moment in history.

UConn has long been focused on human rights; and the Business School proudly supports a Business and Human Rights Initiative. Our University-wide focus on Human Rights grew out of the Nuremberg Trials of war criminals. There are war crimes underway in Ukraine. We must, and will, engage in these issues through our teaching, our research, and our actions.

As we unite as a world to resolve this crisis, we must also engage to improve our collective future. Within the business school we are focused on efficient allocation of resources, but also on how leaders can make a difference, how teams can be more effective, and how individuals can be motivated and supported to reach their highest potential. The traditional business topics remain relevant, but today’s classrooms are richer for the attention to technology, to coding, to branding, to social media. The list is long. We focus also on CSR (corporate social responsibility), ESG (environmental, social, and governance) issues, and the UN’s Global Compact. These and other world views are inspiring our current students, their future employers, and the future companies these students will launch. My sincere hope is that they will build a more peaceful world with less war, brutality, destruction, and fear.

Back to the Dean’s Corner


MBA Your Way

After a decade or so of study, of listening to our students and corporate friends, we launched our new, fully online MBA program in Fall 2021. Our experience with COVID and with this new program has led us to fully rethink our MBA programs. Our new approach is captured in the phrase: MBA Your Way. It places the learner, the student, at the center of the experience and properly grants the student enormous flexibility in selecting how to earn the degree.

The easiest way to envision the change is to realize that there were previously three programs and, once a person engaged in one program (Online, Part-Time or Full Time), it was hard to take courses in the other programs. We are removing the artificial barriers between those programs. We are in the process of modifying the UConn course catalog and admissions materials to reflect this, but operationally it is effective now.

Course modality no longer matters. Accounting, taught face-to-face or online, daytime or nighttime, synchronous or asynchronous, is still accounting. Students must still have proper preparation, but how they prefer to learn is up to them.

Many of our students are adult learners who must blend work and study. They sometimes prefer face-to-face learning and sometimes need the flexibility of online or mixed mode delivery. We want them to be free to integrate their learning into their lives. Thus, we will often offer the same content in multiple formats.

It is also true that some content is well suited to a traditional 15-week semester with two classes each week. Other content is well suited to three-hour sessions on consecutive days. MBA Your Way is constructed to make offering such options easy and transparent.

We will be holding open sessions to discuss these changes and updating our website to communicate about them, including frequently asked questions. One question which has emerged already is: what about existing students in the current two-year, full-time MBA program? We will continue to offer the courses and opportunities that our existing students expect and need to complete their degrees. They will be fully served, while we re-shape the UConn MBA for maximum flexibility going forward.

Back to the Dean’s Corner


What A Year It Has Been!

This month I am pleased to announce the release of the 2021 Dean’s Annual Report that celebrates the year that was. It highlights many of our students, staff, faculty, alumni, and friends, with particular attention to the ways they have made the business school a better place. They have contributed time and treasure to launch new programs, to create new companies, and to make life better for others. I have been privileged to know and work with so many of these inspiring individuals whose words and accomplishments adorn these pages. Continue Reading


UConn’s Commitment to Human Rights

Hundreds of faculty, staff, students and friends joined President Joe Biden and former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd in celebration and rededication of UConn’s Dodd Center for Human Rights on Oct. 15.

The assembly witnessed powerful comments from a host of luminaries including current Senators Murphy and Blumenthal, Governor Lamont and many others, culminating in a compelling speech from President Biden. Not present, but powerful in his absence, was the long-serving former U.S. Senator Thomas Dodd, the father of Chris Dodd, and a distinguished prosecutor in the Nuremberg trials. Continue Reading


Education by Intention

Years ago, driving through Oklahoma, I stopped for gas. In those days, attendants pumped your gas, and my attendant was a high school student heading for college. When he learned I was a college professor, he asked if college would be better than high school. I asked what motivated his question and he cited discipline problems and unruly behavior by classmates who hated high school.

My own high school experience was in sharp contrast to his, but, more importantly, I could assure him that I had never had a day as a professor when I felt I was more of a guard than a teacher. I encouraged him to anticipate four years of enthusiastic growth with other highly motivated, hard-working, and interested students.

As we enter the Fall of 2021 at UConn, I am pleased to say that I believe our new and returning students face that same optimistic future that I envisioned for him. Our students are not only interested, but interesting. They come together from different places with different specialties and goals.Continue Reading


Will Connecticut, and the United States, Remain a Beacon of Educational Opportunity for International Students?

The recent U.S. Census informed us that population growth was essentially flat in the last decade, and more detailed analysis in the last year suggests that the birth rate has been declining, the death rates have been rising, and immigration has declined.

A trifecta.

GDP growth derives largely from population growth and thus projections for GDP growth are minimal in terms of long-term trends, while better in terms of recovery from the negative effects of COVID-19.

As the dean of the School of Business at UConn, I am particularly concerned about the effects of these trends on our School, our University, and our state. All of the national trends affect us, but they are exacerbated by the emigration reality. Within the USA people move, and the long-term pattern has been emigration from the Rust Belt and the Northeast to the South and West. Continue Reading


Business Programs Lauded by Three Top Organizations

In the business school we focus on strategic planning to guide future and continuous improvement as we implement our plan. The central theme is excellent education that allows our students to become their best selves. We design and implement a learning process that ensures that they emerge as well-prepared citizens and employees who advance their communities and drive the economics of the state. As academics, we explore important questions, convene important discussions, and enhance the practice and understanding of management.

In assessing progress toward our goals, we look outside for input. I will share three recent examples of external assessments of UConn and the School of Business: the Deshpande Symposium 2021 Award for Excellence in Curriculum Innovation in Entrepreneurship; a scholarly assessment of worldwide real estate programs; and our renewed accreditation by the international Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).Continue Reading


Master’s Degree in FinTech Is Latest Big Innovation at School of Business

In a recent newsletter, I announced the launch of a new, Online MBA program at UConn. The program goes live this fall, and we have almost 40 applications under review, and another 53 in process.

Today I am pleased to announce another innovation, the launch of a Master of Science degree in FinTech. Our UConn Board of Trustees approved this program on April 28. This graduate degree will prepare people to participate in the rapidly changing intersection of finance, technology, and analytics. Continue Reading


UConn, School of Business Embrace Life-Transformative Education

Tom Katsouleas, UConn’s new president, arrived with a clear vision, which included a university-wide commitment to life-transformative education (LTE).

The LTE Task Force started by asking: Why are we working here at UConn? The response: “UConn seeks to imagine what our University would look like if every one of our faculty and staff responded to that question with: ‘We are here to help transform the lives of UConn’s students.’ ”Continue Reading


UConn’s New Online MBA Program, Launching this Fall, Will Build on Proven Experience

I’m excited and proud to announce that we are launching a fully online MBA (OMBA): Excited because this new program is uniquely poised to provide a high-level academic experience that will prepare our students to be agile in the changing landscape of the post-COVID business world; Proud because of the laser-focused efforts across the School and University to bring this program to life. Continue Reading