“It’s not one or the other,” explained Dammon, who vowed to prove that a Tepper School education provides an enduring framework that is applicable to business problems three to four decades beyond graduation. With only two years to educate an MBA for the rest of a career, the school’s rigor and, in particular, its emphasis on utilizing solid economic analysis to make better decisions are vital to the education’s longevity, he said.
“It is truly timeless, and I think it is what gives our students the advantage,” he said.
In a series of speeches to alumni around the world, Dammon introduced himself and presented a State of the Union-style summary of his upcoming agenda as dean, a role he won in the spring of 2011 as a successor to Kenneth Dunn. But while the job title is new, Dammon actually is a 27-year veteran of the Tepper School’s faculty, where he has won the George Leland Bach Teaching Award for excellence in the classroom a record three times.
“Many of you I had in class, and it was an honor for me to be one of your teachers,” Dammon told an audience at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. “It’s wonderful for me to see how successful my past students are.”
As a young finance professor out of the University of Wisconsin, Dammon noted that he had 13 job offers when he arrived at the school in 1984. The reason he chose Carnegie Mellon is the same reason he’s still here: “It had more intellectual excitement and energy of any place I had ever been,” he said. “I came here to work with people like Rick Green, with Chester Spatt, with Ken Dunn. These were people who were working on the forefront of their disciplines.”
His plan as dean is to leverage the school’s strengths by focusing on five strategic priorities:: emphasizing the intellectual value of rigor and relevance in teaching and research; leveraging cross campus collaboration; diversification of the schools revenue sources; expand global awareness of the school’s brand; and provide and exceptional experience and opportunities for involvement of all key Tepper School stakeholders.
In terms of intellectual capital, Dammon said he wants to hire and retain the best faculty, while simultaneously attracting the best and brightest students available.
“We want to give our students an experience that they can’t get elsewhere,” he said, specifically citing the school’s strengths in interdisciplinary collaboration with Carnegie Mellon’s computer, fine arts, and engineering departments. He cited the master of science in computational finance – a mashup of business, math, statistics and public policy that is consistently ranked among the best in the world -- as an example.
“We take the best from all of these units,” Dammon said. “Collaboration happens easier at Carnegie Mellon than it happens anywhere, and I want to take advantage of that.”
Another goal is to achieve a top 10 ranking, for which he cites two obstacles: finances and facilities.
“It’s no secret that in comparison to our competitors, we are actually doing more with less,” he said. For example, at just above $100 million, the Tepper School’s endowment is one of the smallest in the top 20 business schools. By comparison, Harvard Business School enjoys a $2 billion endowment.
Dammon aims to double the Tepper School’s endowment as a means for paying for the best faculty and to assist with scholarships in recruiting elite students. The funds also help pay for the operating budget.
To that end, Dammon cited the need for new facilities – specifically building space – as a priority. He believes it will help boost the school’s yield rate, or the percentage of admitted students who ultimately attend the school. When the University of Michigan completed its new building, its yield rate jumped from 40 to 70 percent, he said.
After completing a feasibility study, the school has identified a location for a new building: the Morewood parking lot on Forbes Avenue, directly across from the Heinz School. The proposed building, which would be the centerpiece of Carnegie Mellon’s master plan, requires approval from the city of Pittsburgh and funding, which Dammon estimated would range between $130 and $150 million.
In the latter endeavor, throughout his travels, he asked for alumni support.
“Just being here demonstrates to me your commitment to the school and your willingness to be involved with your alma mater,” he said. “Our faculty, our programs and our academic reputation are world renowned. We got the hard part accomplished. It’s just a matter of finding the facilities and the resources that match.”
John Sengenberger, executive director of alumni relations, echoed Dammon’s sentiments in seeking alumni support for meeting the goals ahead.
“As we like to say to our students: You’re students for two years, or four years if you’re an undergrad, but you’re alumni for a lifetime,” Sengenberger said. “You’re the true stakeholders, and your involvement is key in our success.”
Lee Diamond (MBA ’05) said he came away from Dammon’s San Francisco reception even more optimistic about the future of Tepper. “As a former student, I felt the same enthusiasm and commitment he brought to the classroom transfer to his new position as dean, and throughout his talk it was evident that his passion for the school runs deep,” Diamond said. “I appreciated his honesty in bringing awareness to the challenges we face and pleased to hear not only that he had a clear vision and plan to bring the quality of all aspects of the Tepper School to a higher level, but also how we as alumni can actively participate in shaping the school and supporting his efforts.”
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