In July 2018, Ronald Anderson became the eighth dean of the Fox School of Business. 2018 not only marked a momentous year for Dean Anderson himself, but it was also the 100th anniversary of the Fox School. A lot has changed over the last 100 years, and over the dean's five-year tenure, it often feels that the speed of that change has multiplied.
This summer, Anderson will end his time as dean of the Fox School, but his legacy will live on as a stable, capable force that led faculty, staff, students and alumni into an unknowable future.
To celebrate the next phase of his career, the Fox Focus editorial team sat down with Dean Anderson to discuss what is on his mind, lessons learned and what he is looking forward to in the future of his career.
Cheers for five years, Dean Anderson!
What's on your mind as you end your time as dean?
What is on my mind right now is getting the school well positioned for the future. One of the things they don’t tell you about being dean is that you don’t work on what is going on today. I work on what is going to happen next year or the year after.
What we are seeing now is that prospective students are questioning the value of the college experience more and more, so that is a real paradigm shift for us. We’re seeing people going into the job market right out of high school. Employers love experiential work—but blended with education, that makes a real difference. So, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to articulate that.
On a more personal level, I have a bit of trepidation stepping away from the role of dean. I run 60, 70, 80 miles an hour right now, all the time. Suddenly, I’m going back to being a faculty member where I teach and write papers.
What are you grateful for?
The last five years at Fox have been a challenge for the faculty, staff, students, alumni and other stakeholders. Through all of this, I’ve been so grateful for the steadfast support of the entire community in meeting and successfully overcoming these obstacles.
As I walk through the halls and classrooms of Alter, Speakman and 1810, the students are enthusiastic about their courses, programs and education. With our excellent faculty and staff, we are doing good work in educating and preparing our students for successful lives and careers.
I am also deeply grateful for our alumni, who appreciate their education and the opportunities that it provides. They support our students by giving their time, talent and treasure. Through their support, they allow us to be successful!
What are you most proud of, looking back on your time as dean?
I’m so proud of the Fox community’s achievements in its Strategic Plan. We have an innovative and robust curriculum that prepares our students for success. Our research excellence makes an impact on industry and business. Our culture has become much more diverse and inclusive. We engage with our neighbors, near and far, in a way new to Fox and our community.
We have achieved and overcome much in the last five years. I cannot overstate how proud I am of the students, faculty, staff and alumni in achieving our success.
How have you changed?
It's going to sound a little funny, but through my role as dean, I have become much more comfortable in front of people. Whether it's public speaking or a one-on-one conversation, I'm very comfortable. I am a private person, but I'm much more open and transparent now, and I think that's good. I think it's helped my relationships and in life.
I think the other thing that's changed, though, is this has been a hard five years between all the different things that we have gone through as a school, university and the world. Under other circumstances, perhaps my time as dean would have been longer, but I know it is time for me to step down.
What was the moment when you realized it was time for you to step down as dean?
I had the realization that the school will need someone with a new, or renewed, vision. I've given everything I have over the last five years. The challenges were big, and we stepped up and had great success in so many different areas.
And I have the greatest job in the world waiting for me as a full professor: writing papers, researching and working with students.
What lessons have you learned during your time as dean that you would like to pass on to others?
Everybody appreciates an authentic, genuine human being. I think being yourself and letting people know who you are and what you stand for is very, very important in our environment. You want to keep people well-informed and be transparent.
What are your plans? What are you looking forward to?
I am looking forward to going back and doing research and teaching. I love to travel as well, so I'm hoping to do a bit more traveling. More generally, though, I miss working with students a lot. Even my research is about working with students. So, I'm looking forward to that.
Have you given any thought to what your legacy will look like?
I think people will remember I had a tough go of it! But it's been wonderful. It's been an amazing personal growth experience. I feel very, very good about that. From a legacy perspective, what I want our community to feel is that they have been empowered.
Learn more about Dean Anderson's final semester in the Spring 2023 Fox Focus