Dean's Discourse

Department(s):

The Business School

While Thanksgiving in the United States conjures images of Pilgrims and Indigenous peoples gathering for feast and fellowship, the practice of acknowledging and giving thanks for the bounty of the harvest far predates the commemorations of the 1600s. In the Business School we too are celebrating the harvest, but it’s not a bumper crop of squash, corn, or potatoes. Our harvest is based on the progress that we have made as a school, and we are grateful.

If you read my remarks last month, you know that we celebrate the continuing growth of our research enterprise. Our research output has nearly tripled in the last four years, and it is because we planted seeds. We planted the seeds of encouragement, encouraging our faculty to create labs. We shed the narrow perspective that a lab had to be a physical space to make mental space for a lab as a virtual, digital space where collaboration could abound. We sought opportunities to partner with others – faculty, academic institutions, and industry – so that through those partnerships, we could explore common research interests. We engaged students so that they would have the experience of research, especially during their undergraduate years. The growth of our research confirms that we are reaping the harvest and we’re grateful.

AY23-24 has the makings of one of the most successful new student recruitment years we have ever enjoyed. Eighty-four new students started our graduate programs in the fall. While it is early to know what spring enrollments we will be, we do know that we have more accepted students for the spring than we did in the fall, which is a Business School first. Significant sowing of seeds has yielded these results. It starts with offering programs that capture the interest of prospective students and promoting them to the marketplace so that people recognize the value. We have our faculty, programs team, and marketing partners to thank for sowing those seeds. Then it takes international partners and aggregators who recruit and generate excitement among the talented students who express interest. It also takes our student ambassadors who participate in virtual meetings, field phone calls, and respond to texts so that those interested and excited students are also motivated to apply and enroll. Many hands have contributed to this harvest that we are beginning to enjoy, and we are thankful.

And when I think of the new initiatives and partnerships that we have created, I am again filled with gratitude. When I became Dean, I understood that the Business School was a gem. The issue, as Professor Ed Gonsalves noted, was that the signal to noise ratio was such that our message was not being received so others did not know we were a gem. It was not uncommon for me to hear in Worcester, “WPI has a Business School?” When your school has been awarding Business degrees for over 70 years, but the community in which you reside does not know thatyour signal is being lost.

But things are clearly changing and again, I must express appreciation to the amazing faculty, staff, and students at the Business School because the world is taking notice of what we are doing. I have shared the new international partnerships that we have entered with universities in India. I have talked about the new labs that we have whose funding has come through partnerships. We received a gift from an anonymous donor in support of our WPI Means Business course because they were so impressed with this innovative new offering. We have expanded our network of partners as people are hearing our story. Just this week, a visiting partner to our campus said to me, “You have something special here and I want to work with you.” Those kinds of accolades come because the seeds that have been sown and cultivated are yielding a harvest and it is making a difference.

In the story of the Little Red Hen, a hen finds a wheat seed that she learns will grow and once ripened could be turned into flour to make bread. When the hen asks the barnyard animals whether they would help her plant the seed, “Not I” was the unanimous response. So, she planted it herself. As the wheat grew tall and required harvesting, the hen asked her barnyard mates whether they would help cut the wheat. Again, all said, “Not I.” So, she harvested the wheat. Of course, the wheat needed threshing and when the hen asked for help, she was met with a chorus of “Not I” from her peers. Now the wheat needed to be milled into flour and again no one would help the Little Red Hen. The barnyard animals were nowhere to be found when time came to make the bread either, so she did it herself. But when the delicious aroma of bread wafted through the barnyard and the hen asked, “Who will help me eat the bread,” everyone responded, “I will!” But the Little Red Hen said, “No you won’t. I will.”

I shared this story as a contrast to the experience that I have had at the WPI Business School. Unlike the barnyard colleagues of the Little Red Hen, everyone in the Business School is helping to sow. Everyone is helping to cultivate. And now we are realizing the harvest that comes when we work together to make our school great. At this time of Thanksgiving, I simply want to thank you because the harvest we are realizing results from your support. I give thanks to you with a grateful heart.

Blessings, 

Dean Debora Jackson