Please welcome Gene Anderson, the eighth Henry E. Haller Jr. Dean to lead the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration. A national search was conducted to hire Anderson, who started August 1, 2022, as he returns to southwestern Pennsylvania.
In this Q&A, Anderson shares his thoughts on this new position, priorities for Pitt Business, and the important role that alumni play in the school’s success.
Q: What are you most excited about in your role as dean?
A: I’ve admired Pitt for a very long time. I don’t have a degree from Pitt, and that’s one of my failings, but I have many colleagues and friends who attended. They have always sung Pitt Business’ praises. As a native Pittsburgher, I also have a natural affinity for the University and the city.
The commitment of Pitt Business to shaping a better world through business resonates deeply with me. There’s also the closely related opportunity to advance business, development, and innovation throughout the region and beyond. I’m excited about bringing together distinctive aspects of Pittsburgh and Pitt Business in ways that create transformational learning opportunities for students and high-impact research opportunities for faculty.
Being able to have an impact on the region’s ongoing transformation means a lot to me on a personal level. My parents met in Pittsburgh. We lived here until I was a teenager. I know that it is a special place with a rich history and a remarkable spirit of resilience and renewal.
Q: What are your short-term and long-term goals for Pitt Business?
A: Pittsburgh is at an inflection point. As the city’s world-class public research university, Pitt can play an important role in continuing the current positive momentum and spreading its benefits broadly. Pitt Business is in a unique position to bring together the strengths of Pitt with the strengths and needs of Pittsburgh. Done in the right way, Pitt Business can become a “go to” school for the kind of business leaders that our world needs — inspired to shape a better world through business by what they’ve been a part of during their time with us at Pitt Business.
In the near term, the most important goal is to get to know Pitt Business, Pitt, and Pittsburgh even better. I’ll be spending a lot of time connecting with students, faculty, staff, and alumni. These meetings and conversations will help me to learn about the aspirations and perspectives of community members, to test out and refine new ideas, and to convey my values and approach to everyone.
Other early priorities include identifying and appointing a new associate dean for our College of Business Administration, moving forward with faculty and staff hiring, and finding ways to maintain a sense of community on campus in this endemic phase of Covid-19.
How has Pittsburgh changed since you lived here as a child – and what are you looking forward to experiencing here?
I was born in Greensburg. We lived in Baldwin until I was in elementary school, and then were based in Upper St. Clair until shortly after my 13th birthday. So, I was pretty young most of the time that I was here. The steel industry was on the precipice, but I really wasn’t aware of it. The city was still No. 3 in terms of Fortune 500 Headquarters, behind Chicago and New York. I thought it had the best of everything – dinosaurs, Kennywood, Roberto Clemente – what could top that?
Today, Pittsburgh has a great story to tell. It’s still being written, of course, and it’s not without its setbacks and cautionary tales, but the city’s transition from an industrial economy to a much more diversified knowledge and service economy is one of the best examples of urban revitalization anywhere in the world. As dean, I’m looking forward to finding ways that Pitt Business can help shape an even better Pittsburgh. Great cities need great anchor institutions and Pitt Business can help advance business and innovation in the region.
“I want to learn about our alumni’s perspective on Pitt Business, and their hopes and aspirations for its future. I want to better understand how we can support them, too.”
He and his wife, attorney Sheryl Manning, have a son, Ian and a daughter, Hanna.
Q: How does diversity benefit a university and the business world?
A: One of the great contributions of higher education has been to advance opportunity for talented students and faculty from all backgrounds. We’re anchor institutions on the long road to a more equitable future – not to mention a functioning democracy and a more sustainable economy.
And whether we are talking about education or research, the pursuit of academic excellence is inseparable from a commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. Inclusive excellence in our classrooms and research activity contributes to learning, innovation, and impact. Both are enriched when we engage with others who see the world differently.
Businesses and organizations of all types have also come to view diversity, equity, and inclusion as essential foundations for success. Inclusive excellence helps them to learn, respond to, and innovate in a world where markets and organizations are increasingly diverse and interconnected. You need to be diverse and welcoming to all to effectively serve diverse markets. And having diversity within your organization, enabled by a culture that enables everyone to feel valued and have opportunities to add value, leads to more and better ideas that have a better chance of being successful.
What are the qualities of an effective leader?
One important thing is knowing what your values are. If you’re going to lead an organization, make sure there is a good fit between your values, what you think is important, and those of the organization that you can infer from its history, its expectations, and its activities.
A challenge for all of us is to understand ourselves well. To be able to honestly look in the mirror and understand what our strengths are and where our challenges are. Part of effective leadership depends on self-honesty and the ability to self-reflect and learn from our experiences to make ourselves better.
Helping an organization to have high aspirations is also incredibly important. My grandfather once told me that if you want to lead, and not just manage, then people need to know why what they’re doing is meaningful. They need to understand and believe in the goals of the organization. I’ve found it to be amazingly good advice. I’ve always tried to work with people to develop a common sense of purpose. Why are we here? What on our best days should be our highest aspirations? What is it that we’re trying to do for our students? What is it that we’re trying to accomplish in our research and the intellectual work that we do?
In addition to providing that sense of purpose and direction, I think it’s more important than ever to be an empathetic and understanding leader, someone who can see something in each person and is willing to commit to the service of others. You must be attentive to what brings people meaning in life, as well as in their work. Your team is more likely to be engaged and go the extra mile when they know the leader cares about them as humans and treats them that way.
About the Dean
The following are highlights of Dean Anderson’s professional and personal background.
Outstanding higher education administrative experience:
- Dean, Syracuse, Whitman School of Management, 2017–22
- Built culture of research, teaching, and operational excellence
- Dean, Miami, Herbert Business School, 2011-17
- Senior Associate Dean, Michigan, Ross School of Business, 2000-11
Highly respected scholar and researcher:
- Customer satisfaction and business performance research published in all four premier academic marketing journals
- Three papers ranked among Top 50 most impactful articles on research and practice
Q: If you were not in academics, what type of career would you have pursued?
A: I started out as a math and computer science major. If I hadn’t graduated into a recession, I probably would’ve ended up in the tech sector writing code in some back room somewhere. Hard to imagine anything more satisfying than building and improving higher education institutions, though. The significance, breadth, and long-lasting nature of the impact you can have as an academic leader, and especially of a professional school, is unparalleled. I feel like I have the greatest job in the world.
Q: What are the keys to the school’s future success? How can alumni help?
A: The success of Pitt Business is closely tied to the success of Pitt and Pittsburgh. We’re all in this together.
The city can be our classroom and laboratory for pursuing our community’s purpose of shaping a better world through business. Working together with alumni, businesses, and community partners, we can create transformational learning experiences for our students and high- impact research opportunities for faculty — and help advance business and innovation throughout the region in the process.
Our alumni will be our most important partners. By being the business school for Pittsburgh, we can develop the ideas and professionals the world needs today, and the leaders it needs for the future — and be the best in the world at what we do.
Q: How do you want to engage and interact with alumni?
A: I want to learn about our alumni’s perspective on Pitt Business, and their hopes and aspirations for its future. I want to better understand how we can support them, too.
We have a series of alumni events on the calendar, so I’m looking forward to meeting alumni in person. I’m also looking forward to seeing those who come back to visit campus, especially during Homecoming, October 3 through 9, 2022.
In the meantime, I invite alumni