Dean's Discourse


The Business School

In the Western Christian tradition, December marks the season of Advent, a time of waiting and anticipation. During this four-week season, advent reminds us to wait with hope, a sense of peace, joy, and love. Reflecting on 2022, I am experiencing each of these virtues as Dean of the WPI Business School (WBS).

I have hope in our academics and the advances we are making. In WBS, we have worked diligently to ensure that we have the programs needed right now by our learners. For example, our undergraduate major in Management Engineering, the oldest business major at WPI, is now STEM certified. Not only is it the perfect blend of disciplines for the technically minded business leader, but it also prepares these leaders for roles in product or project management and consulting. With the addition of Professor Kwamie Dunbar, we have expanded our competency in Fintech, recognizing the distinctive role WBS plays at the intersection of finance and technology. From new Fintech degree programs, funding for our Fintech Labs, a MQP with the Boston Blockchain Association, collaborations with the Massachusetts FinTech Hub, and media attention resulting from the bankruptcy of FTX, we are a recognized player in the Fintech space.

I have hope in our research enterprise because WBS scholars are some of the most productive and prolific researchers in the academy. Professor Bengisu Tulu received $4.2 million in grants and submitted several research papers in 2022. Professor Andy Trapp received more than $2 million in grants. Professor Soussan Djamasbi received critical recognition for the productivity of the UXDM Lab at our recent UXSYM. Professors Joe Sarkis, Joe Zhu, and Sara Saberi are constantly recognized as top referenced scholars in their fields. Professor Steve Taylor released a book length editorial and wrote a new play (how’s that: a business school playwright). And Professor Farnoush Reshadi published her first A* journal article on gift giving behaviors, right in time for holiday shopping.

WBS Faculty are also at the heart of meaningful partnerships on campus. Professor Michael Elmes led impactful collaborations between the New Zealand Project Center, the Global School, and the Business School. Professor Rosanna Garcia collaborated with the Office of Technology Commercialization, and Dorchester-based Innovation Studios to launch AMP! (Advisors, Mentors, and Partners) a partnership to support STEM-based entrepreneurial doers as they prepare for commercializing and funding their enterprises. Professor Rob Sarnie coordinated efforts with WPI Professors Marcel Blais and Wilson Wong to launch a partnership with Wellington Management. Professor Sarnie was also instrumental in our collaboration with Boston Fintech Week and the Massachusetts Fintech Hub. 

I also have hope because our faculty are making a difference as Major Qualifying Projects advisors for our students. Professor Nima Kordzadeh advised a Business Intelligence solution for Clark University (speaking of collaboration) and a Donations Analytics System for Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Central Massachusetts and Metro West. Kenny Ching advised a project that studied managerial foresight in sports analytics. Professor Elizabeth Long Lingo advised a project titled “Transdisciplinary Design of a Blood Pressure Monitor for Pregnant Women in Ghana at High Risk of Developing Preeclampsia.” Professor Sharon Johnson advised projects on process optimizations, including WPI’s Workday system. Professors Diane Strong and Jim Ryan advised efforts to create an online community for Veterans for Clear Path New England. And Professor Wally Towner advised a total of five MQP projects, demonstrating a continuing care and support for our students.

While these numerous efforts in 2022 fill me with excited hope, they also fill me with a sense of peace, knowing that we are moving in the right direction. In these first two years of my Deanship, WBS faculty and staff have been planting seeds that are now bearing fruit. Updated programs, an active research focus, increased collaboration: each of these initiatives represents areas of intentionality for WBS. Add to it our efforts to support and promote the well-being of our students, an initiative that began during the pandemic and has continued. WBS has invested thousands of dollars to increase socialization, thereby improving the mental health and well-being of our students. Our students, WPI, and the broader community, have reaped the benefits. Consider the care that Laurie Stokes provides as she helps students remain on track academically, or the advising that Professor Adrienne Hall-Phillips provides for our students. Consider the Ukrainian people who have been helped by Professor Renata Konrad or the refugees resettled because of the work of Professor Andy Trapp. I have peace because what we are doing is making a difference in the world.

Of course, this is a reason for joy. When I was an undergraduate business major, we were taught that business was supposed to provide a return on investment to shareholders. There was little consideration paid to any other constituency. Now, we teach that business is to be a force for good. While there is consideration for the shareholders who fund our enterprises, we also must be good stewards for our employees, communities, and our environment. Businesses must make a meaningful and positive impact in the world. We teach the importance of such impact in WBS, but we also model it for all to see. For that, I am overjoyed.

Finally, reflecting upon the Advent virtues, I am filled with love, but I am not alone. At WPI and WBS, we have affection for our students: our north star and reason for existence. Within WBS, our mutual affection is also evident as we support one another in the work we do to fulfill our mission and vision. So, thank you, Professors Mike Ahern, Sebastien Bossu, Liz Cavallaro, Chris Chagnon, Micah Chase, Paul Delvy, Marty Ferguson, Ed Gonsalves, Olga Klochkova, Jed Lindholm, Bob Lombardi, Jim McKenna, Fabienne Miller, Haadi Mombini, Daniel Treku, and Vance Wilson. Thank you, Assistant Deans Brent French, and Sandhya Balasubramanian. Thank you, Sandy Wellinghoff, Erin Wickman, Lorelle Tross, and all others previously named. Words cannot adequately express my affection and gratitude for each one of you. 

If Advent is a season filled with hope, peace, joy, and love, I am living fully into these virtues as Dean of the WPI Business School. Moreover, if Advent is a season of anticipation, then I cannot wait to see what we will accomplish in 2023.

Seasons greetings and a happy New Year to all.