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In This Issue

       

A Q-and-A with Anand Desai, new dean of the W. Frank Barton School of Business

Desai talks about priorities, relationships and the campaign to build a new business school facility

Anand Desai will help guide Wichita State’s efforts to build a new facility for the W. Frank Barton School of Business.
Anand Desai will help guide Wichita State’s efforts to build a new facility for the W. Frank Barton School of Business.

As the new dean of the W. Frank Barton School of Business, Anand Desai has a big job ahead of him. He must carry out a mission of applied learning and research for his students and faculty, help Wichita State’s leadership develop an Innovation University and play a pivotal role in raising money and support for a new building for the business school.

Desai has more than three decades of academic experience, with the past 17 years being in academic leadership. He was associate dean for academic administration at Kansas State University before coming to WSU, assisting in that school’s efforts to build a new business school facility slated to open in 2016.

On the job here since July 1, Desai is focusing much of his time on getting to know his faculty and staff and meeting with business leaders in the Wichita area.

He recently took time out from a hectic schedule to talk about the future of the Barton School:

What are your top priorities in the coming year? When next July rolls around, what do you hope you will have achieved in the previous year?

There are several things that are front and center. First, I want to make sure that all of us in the Barton School — and that includes faculty and staff — are on the same page. We should all embrace the school’s vision and think about how each one of us can contribute to achieving it. I firmly believe that everyone has a role to play and everyone’s contribution is valuable. My challenge, and opportunity, is to get them to realize this, and to support the faculty and staff in their endeavors.

Second, I want to revitalize, where needed, the relationships between the Barton School and constituents such as alumni and business partners. I want to tell our story, where we are headed, and how we can get there by working together. I want to create a vibrant, mutually beneficial partnership with them.

There has been a lot of planning for the new business school building, and financial goals to make this a reality have been set. I will be spending a fair amount of time making our case for the new building, and hope to have made progress on this by next July. At the same time, it is important to remember that we have other needs as well — faculty and staff support, scholarships and program support. So, really, the campaign is on all fronts.

What are the biggest challenges or opportunities facing the Barton School of Business? What do you think must be accomplished to take it to the next level?

anand and jayshree desai
Preparing and enjoying food together is a favorite pastime for Jayshree and Anand Desai, shown here in their kitchen.

The Barton School has very talented faculty and staff and excellent outreach programs offered by its centers. The challenge, which also presents an opportunity, is to ensure that all of us work toward a common goal. I firmly believe that this is the key to the school’s success.

Our vision is to be “internationally recognized as a model of research, knowledge transfer, and applied business learning”. Some may view these activities as mutually exclusive choices. I believe they can and should be interrelated if we want to be successful in achieving our vision.

That is not to say that we abandon high-quality research, targeted at top-tier academic journals. I encourage and will support faculty in these endeavors, but at the same time, let’s step back a bit and think about the practical (or business) application. Let’s write a one- to two-page application summary of what this research means, and let’s disseminate this to the business community.

In the classroom, our students need to learn the fundamental principles of business and understand how they are applied in the real world. Every business school does this. But we can go a step further. Engaging businesses in the education process, facilitating the engagement of both students and faculty in analyzing the business viability of innovative ideas that emerge from the Innovation Campus — this is how we can achieve our vision.

The Barton School has always had important relationships with private businesses in the community. What should they know about your style or philosophy in terms of how it affects them?

I have spent the past few weeks meeting with alumni and a variety of businesses in Wichita. I want all to know that I intend to be a visible dean and I will listen carefully to what they have to say. I want to engage them in our educational mission. I will invite them to come to the Barton School as “professor for a day” to interact with our students. I will invite them to help us provide our students with the skills they need for career success. I want to seek their candid opinions on the things we will be planning, with the understanding that we serve a multitude of stakeholders and our processes are a bit different from those in the corporate sector. By being innovative and entrepreneurial, we can make a difference in the lives of our students and community members. Finally, while I will reach out to them, I also want them to know that they can reach out to me as well — it’s a two-way street.

A new facility for the Barton School of Business has been deemed a priority. In the coming year or two, you and other university leaders will work to raise at least $35 million in private funds to build it. What will you tell prospective donors about the need for a new building?

First, I don’t view those who will provide us with the $35 million in private funds as donors — I view them as investors in the future of the Barton School. So the question is “why should someone invest in the Barton School?” To provide answers to this most important question, I am currently having discussions with Barton School faculty and staff, as well as with those outside of WSU, to create a well-reasoned, compelling argument as to why we need a new building. The most important questions that I plan on addressing in this document are:

  • What will we do differently in the new building that we cannot do in our current location?
  • How will this enhance research, knowledge transfer and applied learning?
  • How will these enhanced activities benefit the student’s career and make them better prepared for tomorrow’s business environment?
  • How will the research and the knowledge transfer that occurs in the new building elevate the stature of the Barton School and WSU?

To be quite frank, our present location was not designed with the Barton School’s current vision in mind. Today’s students expect to be active, collaborative learners and, if we are to move forward, it is important that we have the physical facilities that enable us. As we look around this region, both within Kansas and the neighboring states, we see new business school buildings going up on university campuses. Students are savvy shoppers — they see the possibilities when they walk into a well-designed, modern facility. If we are to attract the best students, provide them with experiential learning opportunities, then we need the appropriate facilities.

Is there anything you would like to add?

My wife, Jayshree, and I moved to Wichita almost a month ago. Both of us have been amazed by the warm welcome extended to us. This is a great community both from a personal perspective and also from the relationship between the WSU and the community at large. I am excited to be given the opportunity to lead the Barton School and I am committed to see it and WSU excel.

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