While the fall semester may not be how we had envisioned it, activities like SPO meetings, lectures and professional development sessions are in full swing. To ring in the new academic year, the Fox School editorial team caught up with Dean Ron Anderson to see how he’s been staying optimistic over the past few months and what his thoughts are on the Fox online educational experience today and moving forward.
What brings you enjoyment during these challenging times? What has helped keep you positive?
I really do enjoy being around the students, even though it’s a bit harder in a virtual world. Right now, it’s good to see the students. They’re remaining optimistic. They’ve been really resilient through this.
I think the other thing is that I’m an outdoorsy person. I’ve still been able to hike a lot, and I can take my dog, Porter, for walks in the woods.
But I am a bit of a foodie—I miss going out to restaurants. I also really, really miss traveling. As soon as it’s safe to travel again, I want to go back to France; I lived there and I love it. I love the culture, the food, everything.
How did the Fox School prepare to provide an exceptional online experience to students?
The Fox School is very advanced in the world of virtual and online education because we’ve been offering it since the late 2000s. Before COVID-19, most of the Fox community was already accustomed to teaching and learning in a virtual environment. So, from that perspective, the transition from a face-to-face world to a virtual world was easy for us.
We’ve made big investments in technology, and we have beautiful studios to record lectures and teach in. We have amazing technology in the classroom, and that’s true whether that classroom is a virtual or in-person space.
At the Fox School, we have a wonderful team dedicated to online and digital learning led by Carly Papenberg. Along with providing support for students with online classes, Papenberg’s team provides training and support for faculty. All faculty members have, or will in the near future, completed our online teaching certificate as well.
A year ago, when you first became permanent dean of the Fox School, you mentioned that stability was one of the most important factors for success moving forward for Fox and STHM. How has the leadership team at the school worked to maintain that stability despite the COVID-19 pandemic?
One of the things that we’ve really done well is learn how to work as a team. The faculty, staff, administrators—we all are part of the team. Voices are heard; people are empowered to speak up. They have direct access to me and the rest of the deans. We have also decentralized decision making, which has been critical to building stability.
Another thing that has been important over the past seven months is our commitment to transparency. Once I have information to share, we get together for virtual Town Halls. We are consistently communicating with every person that has a stake in the future of the Fox School and STHM. As part of that communication plan, we are collecting feedback from various groups within the Fox community. That’s been really important to me.
What is your proudest achievement since becoming dean?
I think there are three major things. The Strategic Plan 2025 is definitely number one. When I first became interim dean, the Fox School needed to redefine itself in order to move forward. To achieve this, in October 2019, we launched a plan that would chart the course for the Fox School over the next five years.
The second is the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) extending the Fox School’s accreditation.
The third is how well our transition went from a face-to-face world to a virtual world for faculty, staff and students. I think what made us so successful is our incredibly committed faculty and staff, and our students, who are extremely agile and adept with technology. The other thing is, when you look at our staff, they are so student-oriented. They made sure that students didn’t miss a beat during the transition to online.
With increasing social justice movements, how will leaders need to embrace change? How are you embracing change?
We all need to be awake and aware that diversity and inclusion matter for a lot of reasons. We need to be much more cognizant of these issues and their role in our decision-making.
Here at Fox, we’ve deepened our commitment to DEI. We need to make sure everyone in the Fox community has what they need to grow and thrive in their careers. This includes making sure that underrepresented voices are heard and included in our decision making. We continue to add faculty and staff to our team that is more representative of our student body. We want students to be able to come to them for guidance that is applicable to their experiences.
What do you think the lesson is about embracing the virtual educational environment?
Infrastructure—including beautiful architecture and buildings—is one of the primary ways higher education and universities have been competing for the last decade or so. The pandemic has shown us that we need to stay more on the cutting edge of technology. That’s the key for delivering the best possible educational experiences.
What advice do you have for students right now?
At this point, I think the most important thing for students is that they know we’re here. We’re here to help you. We’re here to do whatever we can to help you learn to make this experience as positive as possible. If you need help, reach out to us.
We are here for you.