If she had known then what she knows now about the challenges of being dean of Georgia Tech College of Management for seven years, Terry Blum says she still would have taken the job "in a heartbeat."
That's saying something considering that she wasn't sure she wanted the job in the first place. A faculty member of the business school since 1986, Blum stepped up in 1999 to become dean after outside searches failed to draw the right person. "I never aspired to college administration, so it was a really hard decision for me to make, but I can tell you that I developed a passion for the job," she says.
Over time, Blum's research interests began pulling her in a new direction, so she announced on June 30, 2005 that she was leaving the position one year later to create the interdisciplinary Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship at Georgia Tech. Her successor, Steve Salbu, started on July 1, 2006.
Blum is proud of the many great changes made at the College of Management during her tenure as dean, but she stresses that her successes can't be accurately assessed yet. Her reasoning stems from Jim Collins's book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't. "From the book, we learn that we won't know whether General Electric is a great company until we see if Jack Welch's successor, CEO Jeff Immelt, can sustain great results over time. And that's how I should be evaluated: Not according to where we are now, but based on where the next people take us."
Fortunately, Blum feels confident that Salbu is the right person to build upon her legacy, taking the College from exceptionally good to truly great status. "I couldn't be more delighted with the choice," says Blum of Salbu, who previously served as associate dean of the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas. "I have no doubt that he is going to take us to new heights."
When Blum became dean, the College of Management wasn't as well positioned for the future as it is now. The school, which had been under interim leadership for several years, had just emerged as an independent entity from a reorganization a decade earlier that had combined several academic units into the Ivan Allen College of Management, Policy, and International Affairs. "Terry provided leadership at a very important time for the College," says Georgia Tech President Wayne Clough.
Great things started happening soon after she assumed the deanship. Clearly one of the most visible accomplishments was the move of the College into its new home in Technology Square, a development at the heart of Atlanta's high-tech business community in booming Midtown Atlanta that also includes the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center, other educational and economic-development centers, and popular restaurant and retail establishments.
Construction began in September 2001, and the College moved into its new 189,000-square-foot building in July 2003. This state-of-the-art setting ensures that students have access to all the latest learning tools and technology and enables them to attend classes just around the corner from companies where they find fulfilling and challenging internships, co-op jobs, and careers. "The quality and sophistication of that space will help tremendously in continuing to recruit outstanding faculty, students, and staff," Clough notes.
Funding demands for the building shifted Blum's original timetable for her deanship. "I had gone into the job thinking I would do it for three years so that we could get things in order so that we could attract the kind of dean we wanted," she says. "I didn't realize when I accepted that we would have an opportunity for a new building in Technology Square."
Blum decided to extend her tenure until the building was paid for, an urgent concern given that the College had moved into the building before raising all the necessary funds. But within a year and a half of moving in, the College achieved its fundraising goal, receiving commitments for $47 million in private funding.
Six months after jumping that hurdle, Blum broke the news that she was ready to take a new road, starting her Institute. She agreed to stay on an extra year as dean at the urging of Provost Jean-Lou Chameau who wanted to avoid interim leadership. "It was a really good thing for the College, enabling us to attract a new dean and focus on the future without missing a beat," Blum says.
As dean, Blum definitely got a strong rhythm going for the school, expanding the IMPACT Speaker Series, Georgia Tech Business Plan Competition, and global education initiatives, among many other accomplishments.
"Terry was the right person at the right time for the College of Management," says Larry Huang, 2004-06 chair of the College's Advisory Board. "The College of Management is in better shape than when she arrived as dean, and we certainly hope to be able to say that about her successor. I've truly enjoyed working with Terry to shape the strategic future of this outstanding College. Georgia Tech has a unique opportunity to make this program one of the finest among all public universities. Terry played a critical role in getting us to where we stand today."
Blum is particularly proud of pulling an impressive array of star professors into the College's constellation, growing the faculty by more than fifteen percent. "The faculty we've been able to attract are absolutely awesome in their fields," she says. "I'm incredibly proud that the teaching effectiveness ratings by students are higher in the business school than anywhere else on campus."
"It's really the people who are the heart and soul of the school: the faculty, students, and staff who come together in this laboratory for the future," adds Blum, who will remain on the College of Management faculty, continuing to hold the Tedd Munchak Chair.
Her new university-level Institute, reporting to the provost, will work with the College of Management and other units throughout Georgia Tech to both bridge and increase the number of leadership and entrepreneurship activities available on campus. One of the Institute's many areas of focus will be investigating how values affect leadership. "We don't want to teach people what their values should be; we want to engage them in ways that will let them explore their values and the implications of those," Blum says. She hopes the Institute's work contributes to the creation of "sustainable, just, and caring organizations and societies."
Values and ethics are subjects that are also much on the mind of Blum's successor as dean. Steve Salbu, who was director of the business ethics program at the University of Texas, believes that all business schools need to devote more attention to moral principles, especially in the wake of scandals at corporate giants like Enron and WorldCom.
"We have an obligation to bring ethical issues into the class discussions we have with students on all subjects," says Salbu, who is also holder of Georgia Tech's Stephen P. Zelnak Chair. "If we incorporate ethics into the analysis while they are in school, they will build on that training to do the same when they enter the workplace."
Given his ethical bent, it's not surprising that the College of Management's growing focus on corporate social responsibility and sustainable, environmentally friendly business practices strongly attracted Salbu to the school. He was also lured by Georgia Tech's commitment to international education, technology, and innovation. "It was remarkable how good the fit felt," Salbu says. "It meshed so beautifully with my background."
Before pursuing the deanship here, Salbu had fielded numerous headhunter calls about other dean positions over the years. "I talked to so many schools that made me think, 'This is a suicide mission,'" he jokes.
But his closer inspection of Georgia Tech College of Management revealed tremendous promise. "This was one of the exceptions where I thought this school could really be brought to the next level of excellence and prestige," he says, noting such assets as great facilities and people as well as the high quality of other Georgia Tech programs. "The faculty, students, staff, and alumni of the College of Management are a remarkably talented community of scholars and professionals. They are highly motivated."
Several months before starting as dean, Salbu began holding extensive meetings with faculty, students, staff, alumni, and the business community in order to map out his growth strategy for the College of Management. "I'm getting as many perspectives as I can," he says.
In addition to ensuring the excellence of all the school's programs and substantially increasing the size of the faculty, building funding resources for the College is a major priority for Salbu. He's heartened that the enthusiasm of Georgia Tech alumni rivals that devoted to private institutions. "Alumni support is critical to everything a business school does," he says. "Many opportunities for business students come from alumni who are well-connected, high-level executives interested in helping our students succeed."
Traveling around the country meeting with alumni chapters was one of Salbu's favorite parts of his previous job as associate dean for graduate programs at McCombs School of Business, which he joined as an assistant professor in 1990. Among his biggest successes there, he counts increasing international opportunities for students and faculty, improving responsiveness to student concerns, and optimizing the quality and curricula of the school's MBA programs. Salbu joined the elite ranks of University Distinguished Teaching Professors in 1999 and was named the Bobbie and Coulter R. Sublett Centennial Endowed Professor in 2000.
A native of New York, Salbu holds a bachelor's degree (psychology) from Hofstra University, a master's degree from Dartmouth College (liberal studies), a law degree from the College of William and Mary; and master's and doctoral degrees from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (organization and strategy). He is past editor-in-chief of the American Business Law Journal and currently serves on the editorial board of Business Ethics Quarterly.
"His research expertise in ethics, his vision, commitment to teaching excellence, and deep understanding of the business world impressed the search committee," says Provost Chameau. "I am confident that he will lead the business school to new heights and catalyze Institute-wide efforts in global innovation and sustainability."
President Clough adds, "At this opportunistic juncture for our business school, we believe he is ideally suited to help us identify and build the next strategic directions needed to capitalize on the momentum that exists at Georgia Tech as a whole."