Q&A: Georgette Chapman Phillips

Your mantra is "live in beta," meaning that you can’t wait for perfection before you make a move. How does that relate to your role as dean of the College of Business and Economics?

There is sometimes a hesitancy to move forward on things until it’s absolutely perfect. We can’t make this change until we’ve crossed every ‘t,’ dotted every ‘i,’ taken into consideration every possible contingency, played out every scenario. By then the opportunity’s gone. There’s this sweet spot in any kind of change. This is not a license for recklessness. We’ve done our due diligence. We’ve gotten input from all the relevant stakeholders. We’ve done our benchmarking. We’ve done our contingency planning. We’ve looked at it from every angle that we can think of, and now it’s time to move, because you’re never ever going to answer everything. So that’s what "living in beta" is—understanding that you have to wait for it to roll out, perhaps, to see a flaw. And then when you see that flaw, you can go in and you can fix it.

One of your first initiatives at Lehigh was the new Master of Management program. Why was it important to launch that program?

It fits right in between where we are and where we want to be. We have a very, very strong undergraduate program. We have to build out more robust graduate offerings. The Master in Management is for people who have just finished college. It’s a really important first step.

Where do you see the MBA (Master of Business Administration) program going?

We’re headed for a daytime MBA program. It will be a one-year MBA, following a calendar year, January to December. It would include an internship. The way that the faculty task force has put this together—I have to give them incredible kudos for innovation, creativity, thinking outside the box, thinking a totally new experience for students.

The MBA world is very crowded right now. So how do we add value to an already crowded field? Well, one year. But you don’t want to sacrifice quality. You want it to be a rigorous, pedagogically sound program delivered in 12 calendar months. We’re going to start faculty discussions this fall—what the program should look like, how to staff it. But it won’t look like anything else that’s being offered in the United States today. A lot of top-ranked MBA programs in Europe are one year. It’s innovative and creative, but it’s not crazy. The one-year programs in the United States are generally really for people who already have their undergraduate business degree. Our program will be geared toward people who are career changers, rather than career enhancers. You are going to be working very hard for 12 months. It’s not for the meek.

As Lehigh launches Data X, its new data analytics initiative, what do you see as the potential impact on the College?

We are a small business school, and we can’t be all things to all people, but we can be really good in Data X. So, all of our present partnerships with the engineering school, such as the IBE [Integrated Business and Engineering] and CSB [Computer Science and Business] programs, will be strengthened. We are working a data analytics perspective into, for example, the new MBA course offerings. We are putting together a certificate in business analytics. You’ll choose three classes, and you’ll have to take a computer science class. We’re saying, yeah, these are business students, and they are not going to be computer scientists, but they will know how programmers talk. They are not just in one narrow field. We want people to be broader than that. We want them to take finance, accounting, economics, marketing and business information systems, and choose among that.

What opportunities do you see with Executive Education?

We have an interim director of Executive Education who’s been doing a bang-up job. Soon it will be time to hire a permanent executive director. The key is to begin with better connections with the Lehigh Valley business community and then branch out from there. Learning doesn’t just happen on the undergraduate level or the graduate level. Hopefully, it’s what happens on a life-long basis. That’s what executive education is about—delivering learning to Lehigh Valley companies either through custom programs or open programs.

On the custom program side, we really want to partner with Lehigh Valley businesses. We ask, what do you need? And working very closely with our faculty, plus other faculty we can bring in, we teach that. On the open enrollment side, we figure out what types of programs we think we could offer to individuals, usually sponsored by their companies.

We’ve restarted the Breakfast Roundtables, bringing together industry professionals and industry leaders from across the Lehigh Valley to hear a speaker. It’s a networking event, because we want people to give as good as they get here.

You welcomed new hires for the 2015-16 academic year. What do they bring to the table?

Every department has a new assistant professor, except finance. They bring youth and energy, and they bring new research insights. You have to keep hiring on the junior level or else you become stale. You have to build your future, and you build your future by hiring the right junior faculty. On the senior level, we made two very good hires this year. One in accounting [C. Bryan Cloyd], and one in finance [Kathleen Weiss Hanley]. Both of them bring decades of experience and name recognition in the business and academic community as being top flight. They’re both very good teachers.

What are your plans for expanding Lehigh’s presence outside the United States?

It’s strategic. We’ve got to become much more global. We are starting, hopefully, a certificate in international business for our undergraduates.

I’ve been working hard, other people have been working hard, in beginning relationships with universities in Latin America for faculty exchange, student exchange, research, with ideally reaching a point where, if you want to study international business in Latin America or if you want do research on international business in Latin America, we’re the place to go.