Drive to ‘get things done’ defines Senior Vice Dean’s time at Fox School

March 19, 2020 //

Northeast Philadelphia native and Senior Vice Dean Debbie Campbell enrolled as a student at Temple University in 1985; she’s been there ever since

Debbie Campbell photo

It’s Monday morning of spring break week on the campus of Temple University. Campus is mostly quiet, as one would expect, but that’s not the case in room 364 on Alter Hall’s third floor.

Inside, Debbie Campbell is completing paperwork for B4USoar, an outreach program of Temple’s Fox School of Business that introduces neighboring high school students to high-quality business education by enrolling them in a college-credit entrepreneurship course.

“This is kind of my latest thing now,” the senior vice dean says with a smile. “We’ve run the pilot for this program twice, so now I’m looking at how we can make this work long term. And how do we make it even bigger?”

While B4USoar may be Campbell’s “latest thing,” it’s just one of many projects that she’s been the driving force behind in her time at the Fox School. And, like many projects before it, it’s been Campbell’s tenacity that ensures it gets off the ground.

Campbell is a higher education lifer. She understands the bureaucracy of the system. She also understands that, sometimes, you just need someone to get things done. 

“I’ve never been a fan of when you’re in a meeting, and then it just goes nowhere. Once I hear the same thing five times, I just do it. My mentality has always been, tell me what you need me to do, and I’ll figure it out,” she says.

The Northeast Philadelphia native first arrived at Temple as a student in the mid-1980s. After graduating with a degree in economics and marketing, she was hired at the university in December 1988 in a customer service role within parking services. Three years later, she joined the Fox School, then known as the School of Business and Management, as an academic advisor.

Over the next several years, Campbell honed her craft as a higher education professional. There’s been one consistent trend along the way: when an opportunity presents itself, she doesn’t say no.

When they needed an advisor to meet with prospective students on weekends, she did it. When they needed someone to work with the College Council to create more student professional organizations (SPOs), Campbell did that, too.

“It’s funny, I look back to when I first started, and I used to be an introvert. I certainly am not an introvert now,” she says. “If I see something that I think is going to make an impact or solve a problem, then I’m willing to jump in and take that on. I’ve always been able to risk failing to see if I could make the school better.”

In 1996, Campbell was promoted to director of Enrollment Management before being named executive director of the Fox Undergraduate Programs in 1999. Then, in 2003, she was named assistant dean of Fox Undergraduate Programs.

One of the primary reasons that Campbell has been so successful is because of how past supervisors trusted her, allowing her to thrive in autonomy. That’s become a staple of her own management style.

“Debbie is an excellent problem solver and an incredibly supportive manager. She is adaptable in the face of change, which is an important quality for anyone in business or higher education today,” says Tiffany Sumner, director of communications at the Fox School and a direct report of Campbell’s. “Thanks to her leadership, Fox will continue to pave the way as an innovative business school.”

Campbell’s rise at Fox has not been easy. She was and is an outlier as the vast majority of business school faculty members and upper-level administrators are still male.

But with every victory, she’s gained confidence.

In 1997, she helped organize volunteers for the Presidents’ Summit for America’s Future, a national summit organized by President Bill Clinton that was held in Philadelphia. A few years later, someone from President George W. Bush’s staff contacted Campbell to see if she could once again organize volunteers, this time for the Republican National Convention.

“That was a big turning point for me,” she says. “The White House told someone else in a different party to call me. My confidence level just changed.”

Campbell also counts the role she played in helping the university become a Yellow Ribbon School among her other chief accomplishments at Temple. 

“Debbie’s leadership and influence has been undeniable here, for 30 years now,” says Charles Allen, assistant dean of Undergraduate and Honors Programs and a colleague of Campbell’s for nearly 20 years. “When there wasn’t a path, she created one. When there was an obstacle in the way, she figured out how to move it. That fearless attitude has helped thousands of students continue pursuit of their dreams here.”

Campbell admits that other institutions have courted her throughout the years. However, she remains fiercely loyal to Temple and the Fox School.

“This is my school. It’s been my school since 1985,” she says. “Yes, I can go do great things for someone else, but why would I not want to do those things here? That’s always been my mantra.”

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