The Annual Fund is our largest and most significant source of unrestricted, discretionary use funding outside of student tuition. Especially during times of budget constraints, it is critical to helping us remain strong and vibrant.
"The Annual Fund can best be described as flexible, current-use dollars," says Duncan Russell '71, MBA '73, who has served as national chair of the campaign for the past two years. "These dollars help provide our margin of excellence. When Joe Thomas has flexible resources available, he can take advantage of opportunities as they arise, rather than putting them on hold while the school raises the money to fund them. That's what helps us to stay competitive. The Annual Fund can immediately be put to use to make Johnson a better place for faculty, students, and alumni."
During 2009-2010, unrestricted resources from the Annual Fund allowed Dean Thomas to support revamping the core leadership course, student travel, additional career management outreach, and much more.
Courses. Developing true leaders is arguably one of our MBA program's most critical objectives. Over the past few years, Risa Mish has been charged with redeveloping and enhancing our core leadership course, with input from our Leadership Task Force, which includes alumni. Unrestricted Annual Fund dollars provided funding for the course redesign, including the addition of a new online feedback instrument that is a key leadership development tool.
The new course is the "Johnson Team Leadership Experience" and our recently revised leadership model provides students with a framework to apply to themselves and their teams. The course also builds understanding and skills in critical thinking and ethical leadership. "Leadership starts with personal mastery," Mish says. "Our theme is 'know your strengths, own your strengths, share your strengths.'"
Students work in five-member teams throughout their first semester. Each team member must lead at least one of the assigned core deliverables through the process of analysis, planning, and execution by identifying and leveraging team members' individual and collective strengths and expertise. Each leader then receives extensive feedback from peers and Johnson Leadership Fellows (second-year students selected by nomination of the core faculty to serve as advisors and mentors) on how well he or she demonstrated our leadership model competencies. The entire process is aimed at developing strong, resilient leaders who can effectively guide teams and, ultimately, organizations, toward successful results.
Students. Special student endeavors, too, can be beneficiaries of Annual Fund support. In 2009, Marlon Nichols, MBA '11, successfully negotiated with Idea Village for us to be among the five select MBA programs invited to participate in the IdeaCorps Challenge. He and Danny Hest, MBA '10, respectively the COOs of BR Ventures for this year and last, recruited an outstanding eight-member student consulting team, deliberately selecting individuals with multiple functional strengths and diverse backgrounds.
One of their first tasks was to raise the funds needed to underwrite the students' expenses for their weeklong trip to New Orleans. Since participation in this entrepreneurship-consulting event was a new activity, there was no existing budget. So they sought—and received—broad-based support from several student clubs, individual faculty members, corporate sponsors, and Dean Joe Thomas. Having some monetary flexibility through Annual Fund gifts, the dean was able to help round out the team's budget.
For the competition, the team was assigned to help Cornellian Chris Laibe '88 develop a launch strategy for his startup venture, Schedulist. His product is a Web-based, workforce-scheduling tool designed to improve employee retention in the health care industry. Our team did a deep dive into the business plan, conducted intensive research and, using feedback from prospective customers, overhauled the pricing and marketing strategies. They presented their plan to four panels of leading experts from New Orleans and across the country.
The payoffs: Schedulist is now off the ground. Our team won the challenge and now has a standing invitation to the IdeaCorps Challenge.
Careers. After the intense learning and growth that occurs during our MBA programs, graduates turn their attention toward advancing their careers. With the recent economic downturn, the career landscape has changed. Now some Executive MBAs (EMBAs) and alumni are unexpectedly finding themselves looking for new positions or new career paths.
The Johnson School Career Management Center (CMC) has an excellent track record of helping students and graduates develop their career skills and obtain excellent job offers. The CMC provides individual career counseling, résumé workshops, interview coaching, networking sessions, and a broad array of powerful, online career-development and job-search tools. On the flip side, the CMC also actively develops the school's relationships with individual recruiters, is aggressively expanding the network of companies that hire our interns and graduates, and hosts on- and off-campus recruiting events.
"This year required working even more closely with both students and alumni," reports Fred Staudmyer, director of the CMC. "We also needed to expand our services for EMBAs. Since their careers are in more mature phases, it was important to tailor some services specifically for their needs." He named Laurie Sedgwick to a new position as senior associate director for EMBA career development, with responsibility for managing career programming. This year, the CMC offered workshops for Cornell EMBAs in Palisades and Cornell-Queen's EMBAs during residential weeks, and an alumni-networking event in New York City, co-hosted with the Division of Alumni Affairs and Development. Online resources have also been expanded. And the services of career counselor Lynne Allen continue to be available to alumni and EMBAs.
The numbers tell the story of CMC's successful approach overall. While the top 25 U.S. business schools held steady in employment from 2009 to 2010, Johnson improved by six percent.
The Annual Fund has been an important source of revenue for some of CMC's added services.
As Duncan Russell says, "The bottom line is that Annual Fund gifts really matter." A snapshot of a few initiatives it has helped to support over the past year proves his point.