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28: Jenny Darroch on Confronting Realities: Helpful Observations for New Deans.

A peer-to-peer discussion with the Dean and Mitchell P. Rales Chair in Business Leadership and Professor at Miami University's Farmer School of Business.

Deans Counsel Podcast

Dr. Jenny Darroch, Dean of the Farmers School of Business at Miami University joins the Deans Counsel Podcast for Episode 28. In a conversation designed for dean’s that are starting at a new business school, Dr. Darroch shares her strategies for navigating unfamiliar systems, the data she used in preparing to lead one of the nation’s top public business schools and the one recommendation she has for quickly getting to know your new school’s brand.

“Really understand the essence of what the school is.” Said Darroch.

Dr. Darroch also sheds light on the challenging conversations she has faced since becoming dean, the benefits from being a trusted campus partner and the steps Farmer’s is taking for creating a world-class student experience. 

“Institutions have to be willing to evolve and respond to market changes. And I think that's quite hard for universities to do.” Said Darroch.

For current & aspiring deans, listen to this episode with helpful observations for new deans and more Insights for current and future academic leaders. Listen to Episode 28 to find out more.

About Dr. Jenny Darroch

Prior to joining Miami, Jenny Darroch served as the dean of the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California.

She earned her doctorate in marketing from the University of Otago in New Zealand. She has a master of commerce degree in marketing and international business from the University of Auckland an honors degree in applied economics from Massey University and a bachelor’s degree in marketing and economics from the University of Waikato, all in New Zealand, which is her native country. She moved to the United States in 2004. While at Otago, Jenny was the inaugural Director of Entrepreneurship and launched New Zealand’s first masters in entrepreneurship.

Jenny has authored three books, including “Why Marketing to Women Doesn’t Work: Using Market Segmentation to Identify Customer Needs” (2014, Palgrave Macmillan), and “Marketing Through Turbulent Times” (2009, Palgrave Macmillan). Jenny has published more than 30 refereed publications.

Photos courtesy of Miami Oh

Show Transcript

Dave  0:13  

Welcome to Dean's Council, a podcast aimed at supporting university leaders holding one of the more critical jobs on a university campus. Your panelists can Kring gemellus and Dave Ikenberry engage in conversation with highly accomplished Dean's and other academic leaders regarding the ever complex array of challenges that Dean's face and one of the loneliest and most unique jobs and the academy after serving one term as dean of the Peter Drucker School of Management at Claremont College, and also having served as dean of the graduate program at Claremont. In July of 2020, during the grips of COVID, Jenny Dirac was named Dean of the farmers School of Business at Miami University located in Oxford, Ohio. As a decorated scholar and marketing, Jenny with her global perspective brings insight into the challenges of Dini, both understanding the common issues and influences we face as academic leaders as well as appreciating and respecting our unique environments and circumstances. In this episode, Jenny provides helpful if not critical advice she has gained over her years of experience. As an academic leader starting to major Dean ships and overseeing graduate education. Her advice includes some of the early tasks she feels all new dean should embrace as they begin their appointment, the key observations she has obtained over time. We're

Jenny Darroch  1:37  

here today with Kenny DAF, who's the former School of Business at Miami University, Dean. Chani, we're delighted to have you. And looking forward to our conversation.

Great to be here. Thank you for the opportunity. So

beyond your current role at pharma, you've brought a very interesting background, which sort of leads us to be able to go in a number of directions of this conversations, but just sort of open with the uniqueness of being a two time dean at two very different institutions, when you came from Drucker School of Management at the Claremont Graduate University, very recognized international brand, graduate only private university to Miami University, which is a large, medium large public university in which the undergraduate population is significantly large, and the school is strong. Those are strange bedfellows, if you will, in terms of a breadth of experience you've had so maybe just to begin, give us a sense of sort of how this holds together in your own narrative of leadership across interesting institutions, particularly having been educated in New Zealand.

Unusual career path, it's certainly not a square peg square hole trajectory. And to your point, Kenny, I did start out in New Zealand, my qualifications are from New Zealand, I did run an entrepreneurship program in New Zealand at a comprehensive university that would be more like an r1. In the United States terminology. I came to the States in 2004 to the Drucker School. And we could probably fill the interview the podcasts and about the reasons why. But it was a very different experience. Even they're going from a large state run University in New Zealand to a very small private liberal arts college, but a tremendous gift and something I'm always most grateful for a that I got to work at the Drucker School I got to meet Peter Drucker, I had the privilege of meeting him, but I eventually rose up to be the dean and the challenges of leadership, I think is similar no matter where you are. But in this particular context, our greatest challenge was that Peter Drucker died in 2005, he died. And so when you're running a school named after not a donor but a thinker, the challenge there was, what do you do with the brand? And how do you peel back the layers of the brand to get to the brand essence, to make sure the brand is relevant to today's audiences. So that was something that we all worked on together and were excited about. Then I got to a point in my career after 16 years at the Drucker School that I just I felt it was time to do something different. And to test my leadership out in a different context, and I'm here I'm at the Miami school is the pharmacy school, sorry, at Miami University. And as you've rightly pointed out, couldn't be more opposite. I think when I look back to the transition, I am a COVID. Dean, I did come in on July 120 20. So that was interesting. I'm grateful for resume because at least I could learn people's names because your friends names are on Zoom. But I think the most difficult part I found was the acronyms and the familiarity people have with their own system the expectation that what was 184 is an all in It doesn't even show that it's a course. But that you know what these different courses are, and even the sequence of how things happen and what the policies are for this particular university, so that that was probably the most challenging part, there's an assumption that you somehow should know, because everybody else does. But I think outside of that, when you think about a dean does, we sit in vision, we're sitting strategy, we're external, we're networking with external constituencies, and really making sure the brand shines on the national and international front. That's the same. So in that sense, there's a lot of similarity. But there were certainly some differences.

Jim  5:35  

If you look at your first three months in the job, and we have a lot of new Dean's who are listening to us today, you know, how do you? How do you kind of synthesize what's going on within the school? Each one of those schools, they are so different? How do you? How do you pick it apart? And what do you use as a trick to learn exactly what the strategies have been, what the potholes and speed bumps are? And, and really what you've identified, I mean, it's, they are different than that, to get to the acronyms is one thing, but also get to just the people and kind of where the bodies are buried and those types of things. And how do you go about that?

Jenny Darroch  6:14  

I think that that's a really good question. And when I look back, because remember, I became the dean at Drucker and I was into an internal hire. So I knew the history enough. I certainly knew the 16 years of alumni that I taught, but but making that transition when you don't know and it's a very unfamiliar system. So I've got a few thoughts. And I thought I'd share I mean, on the wire, and I'm big on data. And I think that a minimum get hold of an AACSB report, and if the school is accredited and have a look at this, and then I mean, know, the standards, make sure you're familiar with the standards. But I think that's really important. I like to I'm data driven, I like to look at the data and what the data is telling me what trends are happening over time and see if I can see what's going on. I also think in this environment especially absolutely have to understand the numbers, the finances. And that's something that I think it's tricky. I've worked in different places. I'm on accrediting committees for AACSB. And the budgets aren't always what they seem. And so I think, when I'm when you talk to people, I think asking questions around the budgets around the different ways that revenue is profiled, and how revenue is shared. And I think RCM, many of us have our CLI, certainly with RCM now. But you've got to remember that ASEAN was set up at a time to reward entrepreneurial behavior. And at a time that universities were actually making money. And a lot of universities are financially constrained. And so now there are hybrid versions of it. And just to truly understand, I think I'd also with hindsight, something I wish I'd done here at Miami, I wish I talked to the admissions people and ask them for the presentation, they give prospective students. So I could hear how the brand was articulated to the market, that would have been quite helpful. And I wish I'd sat down with an advisor to advise these if I was a student, so I could understand the pathway through. And that would have been quite helpful as well. I also one thing I have learned, I mean, you've got to listen, you've got to really listen and believe like Miami, for example, has been around for 200 years, it'll be around for another 200 years. And so there's a path history that goes with these places, and you're coming in as a dean, with an expectation that you do write help write the next chapter of the institution. But you're not there to to rewrite its history or fundamentally change the nature of the school. So I think really understand the essence of what the school is. And I certainly could go on with a longer, less blow or pause there for a minute. But I think and then just getting to know the other Dean's and making sure you work well with the other Dean's I think we're in an environment. Right now we're working across subject boundaries, working across divisions in colleges and schools is really important. And figuring out a way to partner and especially as a business school, Dean, because that's where a lot of the growth opportunities for the university.

Getting we know you you, you think quickly you speak quickly, you populate the conversation with lots of ideas. How have you used your marketing expertise, your strategic expertise to match with sort of the cadence and pace of change in an institution?

Yeah, I mean, I want to answer part of part of what you said that you didn't ask the question of around pace and cadence. I'll answer that part. And then I'll talk about marketing. I do move fast and Kim knows me. Well, when you think of strategy, there's a cadence to strategy. It's about visioning. It's about planning and it's about implementation. And I as a dean, you're the immortal vision. And you've got a team of people around you who then will plan and then there may be other people who will be there for them to mentation. So one of the things I've learned as to pace that. And in higher education that can take two to three years between coming up with an idea for a new program and being in market. And while I as a dean might be on to the next idea, I've still got a team of people who are implementing the idea that we developed two or three years ago. And I remember one of my so my directors, Drakkar had the whiteboard with a lot of things going on. And he said, Can we have a conversation about the whiteboard? And I said, Okay, let's talk about this. There's just too many things. So, so that's something I really learned as around cadence and pace, and, and also being willing to walk away from ideas, because it may not be the right idea at this time, but just to store it away for a time in the future. So now let me properly answer your question, Ken, as a marketing person, I'm trying to look at the market to look at the outside to understand who are our customers, and what do they value or similar language, where to play and how to win. And I think that's been hugely beneficial for me as a dean. And as a university leader, to be perfectly honest, because we can't talk in an echo chamber, we've got to be looking at the market, understanding the signals that the market is giving us, and being willing to place our bets and change. And I think, when you look at universities today, I'm always grateful, I'm not the dean of an arts and humanities school, for example, because of declining enrollment there. But we do have to be market facing. And when you look at institutions, in fact, I went on a walking tour of Cambridge University in the summer, and just to hear their rich history over centuries around how they've evolved from, I think it was religion, law and medicine to truly global and interdisciplinary. And whereas institutions have to be willing to evolve and and respond to market changes. And I think that's quite hard for universities to do. But I think people with training in marketing, such as my own training, I think that's naturally how we gravitate and our thinking.

Jim  12:03  

Back to a very salient point that you made, talking about those early times. And just ask you to go a little bit deeper in this. And that is the fact that the Business School is looked upon by the other colleges at the University as kind of a pain. I mean, you raise more money than the rest of them do. You've got more active alumni than the rest of them do. You don't have declining enrollment like so many of them do. And yet, on the other hand, if there's a way to endear yourself to every single one of them, I always tried to at USC tried to make the business school that hub where I did a program with every single other school, just to make sure we were part of the deal. Now, how did you face that? Did you you walk in, and then you're the newbie. You got a lot of Dean's that have been sitting there for a long time. And you walk in with, Oh, I got all these great ideas. I think get yourself across so that they don't just go oh God, who is this? And set that up?

Jenny Darroch  13:03  

You are right. I mean, the Business School is the enemy often on campuses, and you forgot the part that we often get paid more than other faculty as well.

And you have nicer offices? Oh, yeah.

And the nature they we've got a gold trash bins here at the school.

Jim  13:20  

allegedly. Yeah.

Jenny Darroch  13:23  

That's what I heard from some of my students. But but you raised a really good point. So we had a phenomenal retreat. In fact, we've had a couple of retreats in the last two weeks. And our president gave us a briefing to come up with was three parts, how should he invest? We should invest in university, we should hear this in our school and the what are specific goals? And so I thought about how am I going to present myself in that audience to the President's executive cabinet, and also other Dean's knowing that I've got a full house, I don't have any capacity to grow the business school at this time. And they say hi, and more faculty. And we have a few other constraints as well. So the question is, what do I do? What do I do with that data point that I don't have much capacity. If a student wants to take a course and marketing in there, say an English major, there probably isn't much room for them to take a course and market it and they say declare a minor or a major marketing. That's kind of the pathway and and that's not ideal. And so I took the stance of the fact that we are a full house, but my request of the President was invest in the business school so that we can partner with and support other programs. So again, we've got a long list of ideas we're working through, and we'll pick our winners out of that. But just to give you a sense, we've seen more than double the number of students coming into a general business minor. So these are non business school students. We've seen a huge uptick in that. And so we're looking at ways we can add capacity. So our students in Arts and Sciences for example, could take a general business minor that would be an A other option. and these are our own internal languages and blockages if you will. But how do we set up CO majors? So a student could co major and say human capital management alongside the psychology major. So looking at those partnerships, so back today is how do we add capacity to the Farmer School right now so that we can allow more non business students? And then the second thing we're looking at as we should be, is how do we build a transdisciplinary interdisciplinary degrees? That would be some merging between making it up now engineering and business or psychology and business that makes sense to the market. So it comes right back to a question you asked before, to be very market facing about where the jobs are, where the opportunities are, reverse engineer that. And so now what makes sense if we come up with these combined degrees, so that was the conversation we had, and I'm pleased to report that it was received very, very well by the deans and we try and play well with others. I think I've achieved that mostly, and look at how do we collaborate? How do we partner so that the overall pie grows so that we see some uptick in demand for arts and science programs, especially arts and humanities, in particular? And how do we provide that kind of support to other students in a meaningful way? And that's what we're doing right now. And I'm quite excited about the conversations we've had, subsequent to that retreat in terms of what might be able to be achieved.

You know, I've been impressed with your comment, and a recent conversation about meeting the students where they are. We'd be curious to hear how do you know where they are? How do you what techniques do you use to find where they are?

Yeah, thanks for that question, Ken. It's a challenge right now, I think we read the same press. And we know that students are not well prepared for college and COVID is a thing. And then we look at Gen Z, I made. And then I support my faculty too. And I hear stories about how things have changed in the classroom, how things have changed with respect to how they interact with students. And that concerns me and so at the beginning of last fall, we actually had a students sign a statement of student expectations, and everyone was really excited by it. It was basic things like reminding them to show up on time come to class prepared, participate in class discussion, things that you would expect that people should know. But I think in the passage of COVID, some things were lost. And so we were excited about that. And then we got to spring, and we found that there was a little fall off the cliff moment that the students were showing up poorly, and the faculty were quite concerned. So what I did was actually that a number of different initiatives, where we had a number of our faculty held focus groups in their classes at different levels. So first year, right through up to senior levels. Our change management class actually took on and as assignment but how to what changes do we need to implement to fit deeper student engagement, I had some listening sessions with faculty because I wanted them especially to know that I support them that I'm listening that I'm here to try and help. And we made this as a topic for our retreat with my senior leadership team. And it's an effect just suppose on that one. And we also invited a marriage and family counselor and to speak to our senior leadership team, so that we can understand some of the social dynamics that were happening, for example, even the parenting dynamic that's happening. So for example, one data point that just really captured my imagination, is that more people are now going to therapy to get help in case things go wrong. And I thought that I hadn't I hadn't thought about that, because we've certainly got a lot of demand for mental health services at the moment. So a lot of worrying about did my did my child miss out on too much? How can I protect them through the college experience, and all of this together, we're not really helping our students, if we can't find ways to engage them and reengage them and our brand promise that the Farmer School is that we graduate beyond really leaders who can add value to any organization from day one. And we want to live up to that promise. So what do we need to do to make sure students graduate as they should be not almost beyond really, but beyond really. So that's been a lot of our focus. And I did write something and Inside Higher Ed about about treating students as knowledge workers, and listening to the students. So to your point, one of the things we heard was that students love to work on experiential client projects. They don't like to be in class, I don't like to listen to lectures, they want to see the connection between what they've been taught today and what they might need to do in week five. And you've got to make those connections a lot more explicit through our students coming back to the consulting projects piece. They would rather advise each other and have a client advise them and the models the role of faculty. So we're challenging ourselves on all of these different dimensions, and really encouraging ourselves to look at what we're doing, and how do we improve what we do And so that we have highly engaged students and they end up graduating? Well.

Jim  20:05  

Speaking of graduating, you sit in a small town where you don't have all the major corporations and the major employers and the people that are that are hiring your students. How do you incentivize those companies? To come your way to tell them about your students? Sir, anything you do differently than say you're sitting at in Chicago or sitting in Pittsburgh, or sitting in St. Louis, or Los Angeles or San Francisco? What do you do when you're not in a major urban environment to make sure that your students get the right look, from the companies get the internship opportunities from the companies to start with and even talking about the project? And how do you how do you go about doing that just to make sure that, that you're giving them the best opportunity to get the best jobs account.

Jenny Darroch  20:54  

So you've clearly been to Oxford, Ohio, and you know that we're now from anywhere, and there's a lot of cornfields and soy fields between us and any other big population. But we have many advantages. We have an incredibly engaged alumni, people who come here having a remarkable student experience, they make friends for life, they do business together, they look after each other. And we have this revolving door of alumni coming back, and wanting to speak to mentor to provide projects. So it's actually simpler than you think. We have about 400 employers come on campus to hire our students. All of our students have at least one internship and more than half have two. And we're actually top 10 in the country for student outcomes using poets and quants undergrad among public undergrad business schools. So we have really good outcomes. And I think there's something really special about a type of student who comes to Miami, they are smart, they sort of check all the boxes on test scores, and so forth. But there's a type of student who's really happy to come here to a highly residential campus and make friends and network and do well. And these students that they they're incredible, they're multi dimensional, and we do have employers lining up to hire them. And in fact, I ran some numbers, recently, about a third of our graduates get jobs and consulting firms or in consulting, like roles within major corporations. And I think that speaks to the quality of the student who comes in. But as a dean, to your to your question, it's something I pay really close attention to, because we know that outcomes, value return on investment are incredibly important criteria for our families and our students. And we do pay close attention to that.

It's always easy to open programs, and in this world of, you know, more highly curated student experiences is probably more demand for programs. How have you had to? Or have you had the the opportunity, if you will, to sunset programs? And how do you how do you say no? Or how do you say, Enough?

Yeah, we're lucky in a business school. For us, it's less of a problem for us all this for other parts of the university. So 70% of all students take one of 30 majors at Miami, and we've got in pretty well, all of them. Business majors. So we've been fortunate in that regard, I think we we've had the bigger need to pivot and change has been in the graduate space. So we do have a graduate portfolio. And we do have an MBA that's on ground. And we now have an online MBA had we not put the online MBA, and we may not have an on ground MBA. And now we've actually blended those two together. So it's more of a hybrid model where people if you sign up for marketing on ground, you stay with marketing on ground for that semester, but you can move between modalities. And so we've bought our enrollment back to where it was in 2015, for MBA. And that's been, that's been a challenge. As many programming abandonment to your point is really difficult. The other one that we've struggled with a little bit of full disclosure, we've got a essentially Masters of Arts and management, and we call it the Masters of Science and Management. So we've got that degree. And we've struggled a bit to figure out who the market is for that, again, remembering our location, the market should be a three plus one or a four plus one student, a non business student who takes that program and finishes well, because they've now got a different set of opportunities. But just finding that and getting that to stick has been quite difficult. So we've actually paused the online version of that, and we just stayed with the on ground and we remarked we try to modify it a little bit longer just to reposition a little bit and figure out some tracks within that. For example sales make sense as a trick. Human Resource Management might make sense. It's another trait Wealth Management might make sense as another trick and be really specific to job outcomes. And we've said if we can't make these programs work, we have to bold are willing to sunset them, pause them reposition them, because you can't and this environment where we can't keep throwing resources at things that just aren't working

Jim  24:59  

Got a big problem that universities in general have is that they just, I'm an old retail guy. And we we just always looked at it like take your markdowns, take your markdowns and get rid of it. And universities unfortunately just don't do

Jenny Darroch  25:12  

that. We're so bad at that as universities. And I think part of it when you look at our labor structure, too, we have this very rigid fixed costs called labor. And it's hard to reallocate resources. I was reading a McKinsey report recently about firms that have been agile and willing to reallocate resources outperform those who don't. And they, of course, quote The how much they outperform. But universities are slow to respond. And we have fixed costs that are hard to move. And if I look at our processes, and I'm sure that many who listen to this podcast will look at their own policies and look at what is required to shut programs down. It sounds long, long process and with good reason faculty are given some time to speak into the future. But it's difficult, it's really difficult. And I think that's one of the challenges that universities have that are very encumbered by a lot of history, to figure out how to make that work and how to reallocate resources.

Jim  26:08  

And that a lot of times back into the issues that everyone's talking about today. And that is rising tuition. If they were to cut the dead branches, they might be able to cut some costs by be able to keep the tuition in line. But that's a whole nother story. So I won't go into that one.

Jenny Darroch  26:24  

It's a really difficult and it's something look, I'm not I don't think I'm speaking out of tune to say we have those discussions here. And I'm sure that most other universities do when the Business School is growing and other parts are not at what point what do you do you there's a finite pool of resources, probably a declining pool, because of the discounting that goes on to bring the class at the moment?

Well, this sort of gets to the pace and cadence part of our question, which is, you know, sometimes you probably have to hear yourself saying the same thing over and over again, in order to beat the timeline.

And I'm a pragmatist, and how I approach my role. And there might be something you think makes perfect sense today, and you can understand why it doesn't get accepted. But you just sometimes just have to pause and pack the ideas and move on to something else. You, you realize on these roles. You can't some things don't always work the way you want it to work. And you've just got to be really patient and play and play the long game. Yeah,

Jim  27:22  

good point. Great. This has been terrific. It's been great. Really appreciate your thoughts on this. I, I actually have a I have a nephew who has two degrees from Miami. And he is he's a undergrad accounting and a Mac guy and he's anyone I've got a CPA is Mba, that guy's got more initials after his name than anybody I know. And he's a CFO of a company in Colorado and absolutely loved that experience that he had at Miami just loved it. It's great.

Jenny Darroch  27:52  

Wait my job easy. I've got incredible alumni deeply engaged, who without question can attribute their success to the experience and the education they had at Miami makes my job easy. It's a gift.

Thank you, Jenny.

Jim, that was a fun and informative conversation. What do you think?

Jim  28:18  

I love the fact that she comes out of a very different educational system. She analyzes the American higher ed system in two different types of institutions, and is successful in both coming with a completely different headset, this nonlinear, nonlinear career that she talks about having is indeed something that served her very, very well in the way she's approaching it. And, you know, she's got the Drucker School that's in a big metropolitan area, and she's got pharma that's in a very small, rural area. She's having to adjust to that. And yet she does it with such aplomb. She's just very, very professional in the way she approaches things. I think that we're gonna see that school really shine under her in so many respects. She's got great ideas. She's an innovator. I really enjoyed listening to what she had to say in her thought process.

Jenny Darroch  29:17  

Yeah, struck me she's a very quick study. I mean, to be able to make those sort of nimble, agile kind of adjustments and set herself up set an institution up for improvement. really notable. Yeah,

Jim  29:34  

very much. So very, the fact that she wants to partner with all the other colleges within the university and in wants to be a good team player, but at the same time understands that, that there's suffering from declining enrollments. She's not suffering from declining enrollments, but she still wants to be the team player because if the university isn't a university, it's not going to work. And all of a sudden the business school gets a bigger percent. A student population almost becomes a Trade Tech. And she does not want that to happen because she wants that to be a great university, which it is. And it's going to be around for another 200 years, like she said, so I really commend her for the great job she's doing and applaud what she's doing. Yeah,

Jenny Darroch  30:16  

I really liked her ability to also focus in on the students and student experience and a sense of meeting them where they are really recognizing that that's where the entire enterprise actually starts. That's a market that's a market sensitivity that we don't often see.

Jim  30:35  

Very much so and especially with a changing population, this student population is so very different than it was 510 years ago. And she recognizes that and tries to figure out how do we accommodate that like she says, We have a lot of students that are looking for mental health support work. Now we have students who don't even have mental health problems, but they're looking for support just in case they do. So getting out in front of it. She's she's in front of the situation, and very sensitive as you say, to the student, because that's really where it all starts. Right. Very good. Well done.

Dave  31:07  

Thank you for listening to this episode of Dean's Council. This show is supported in part by Korn Ferry leaders in executive search. Dean's Council was produced in Boulder, Colorado by Joel Davis of analog digital arts. For a catalogue of previous shows, please visit our website at Dean's If you have any feedback for us, please let us know by sending an email to feedback at Dean's And finally, please hit follow or subscribe on your favorite podcast player so you can automatically receive our latest show


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