Cornell University Johnson at Cornell University


From the Dean

From Fast Forward to Real Impact

My move from "Johnson School Dean" to "Johnson School faculty member" is rapidly approaching. While I look forward to returning to teaching and research, I have loved my job as dean. It has been a pleasure and an honor to work with the talented, committed, creative, and energetic members of the Johnson School community – faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends – as we built a management education program that other top schools now benchmark against.

Johnson School Dean Robert J. Swieringa
As I think back over the past decade, three taglines come to mind. When I first arrived in July 1997, the slogan "10 x 2000" was everywhere: in memos, on postcards, in every issue of Cornell Business, on big, red banners hanging in the halls. Shorthand for the goal to return to the "top ten" in the Business Week rankings by the year 2000, it expressed the aspirations and commitment of the entire Johnson School community. And yet, the phrase hung over my head like a boulder waiting to drop, for our econometric experts said it was mathematically impossible.

But "impossible" was unacceptable to those who sought to study, evaluate, and re-create every aspect of the school. Just one year after I arrived, in October 1998, we reached that ambitious goal. So entered the phrase, "Fast Forward." While the momentum suggested by that phrase may not have existed at first, it was quickly made true. I felt a tangible "buzz" everywhere I went. Driven forward by the faculty and students, the Johnson School became animated. We found hidden assets and made new investments. We restructured ourselves to be less insular, more engaged.

And now, the phrase "Real Impact" captures the turnaround of the past decade. Our students have a real impact on the companies and organizations in which they work. And the Johnson School has a real impact on them. While before, we were benchmarking against other business schools, they now benchmark against us. As you read in the pages of this magazine, our programs are both broad and deep. We are integrated into the fabric of the entire university in unprecedented ways, and we have extended our reach outward, into the business world, as never before. Our innovative performance-learning programs and centers of excellence are models for other schools. In the past decade, student enrollment has increased by 60 percent (largely in new, off-campus executive MBA programs), the faculty has doubled (with many more practitioners, visiting, and adjunct faculty sharing their knowledge and skills), and the school's budget has tripled. We are no longer reacting to change, we are strategically enacting change.

I took the job as dean because of my affection for the Johnson School and because I saw a window of opportunity for major change. It has, in fact, been a decade of incredibly rapid change, of engagement, energy, and empowerment. I have loved my part in it all.

Robert J. Swieringa
Anne and Elmer Lindseth Dean