Albers is accredited by AACSB International - The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. As of July 2014, less than five percent of the world’s business schools and less than one third of U.S. business schools have achieved business accreditation from AACSB.
Gail Yates served as Senior Development Officer for the Albers School from 2004 until she retired in January. To recognize Gail's excellent service to Albers and the university, we recently held a dinner in her honor. Those in attendance spoke in glowing terms about Gail's work at SU. In addition to being a consummate professional, Gail was a great teammate, always willing to pitch in and help out where needed, even when the activity did not relate to her role. She never said, "That is not my problem."
During her time here, Gail probably had to deal with me more than she had to work with anyone else on campus. That means she is a survivor - she put up with me all those years! :} One thing that probably helped was our common enthusiasm for athletics, particularly college basketball. Naturally, we were very supportive of Seattle U. returning to Division I athletics, and I don't have to ask her to know that she is VERY excited about the women's basketball team leading the WAC!
An important thing to be able to say when you leave is, "I left the place a much better place than I found it." That is definitely the case for Gail. One example would be our alumni relations and the Albers Alumni Board. Under Gail's watch, the alumni relations of the school have definitely improved and the Alumni Board has strengthened. Alumni events such as the Crab Feed and the Golf Tournament are much stronger today than they were. In recent years, Gail has been working with Rob Bourke to make that happen, but she has definitely had an impact.
One of Gail's most important contributions was her work on the SU Capital Campaign - "For the Difference We Make" - which went from 2003 to 2009. While the campaign was underway when Gail arrived, she definitely was instrumental in the success of the Albers School. Our key projects were to create an endowment for graduate student scholarships, the Tinius Professorship in Accounting, and endowments for our entrepreneurship and business ethics centers. The success of those projects is definitely paying off today, and is part of the legacy that Gail is leaving at SU. The graduate scholarships have proven to be critical in the last few years as our graduate students have faced increasing financial pressure and declining employer support. The Tinius Professorship has been instrumental in attracting and retaining outstanding faculty to our highly ranked accounting program. The endowments for entrepreneurship and business ethics are providing significant levels of support to our widely admired Center for Business Ethics and Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center.
Of course, Gail's success in garnering resources for the Albers School goes well beyond the capital campaign. Other notable achievements include the PMI China Engagement Initiative, scholarships to fund student study abroad, and corporate support for the Summer Business Institute, not to mention my favorite, the Dean's Fund! :}
Attendees at the dinner remarked on Gail's passion - her passion for fund raising and her passion for the university (you can add women's basketball to that). They also pointed to her generosity with her time, talent, and her own giving. When people experienced an illness or some other setback, Gail was always there to support them. One person remarked that Gail did it without giving it much thought, that it was simply the thing to do, not realizing what a positive impact it had and that it was not the way everyone responded.
Although Gail was in fundraising, which does not usually have much direct contact with students, Gail had a profound impact on a number of students during her time here. She hired them as administrative assistants and trained and mentored them to do their work at the highest level. This ended up being an important part of their education at SU, making Gail a professor with impact!
While Gail has retired, she really hasn't. It comes as no surprise to anyone who knows her that she is continuing to work part-time on special projects for Mary Kay McFadden, VP for University Advancement. This includes leading the search process to find a new development officer for the College of Science and Engineering and helping to orient new University Advancement staff.
Gail Yates is leaving, but she will not be forgotten. She will be remembered for her professionalism, for her willingness to pitch in and support her colleagues in Albers as well as University Advancement, and for her enthusiastic support of the mission of Albers and SU. She will have the satisfaction of knowing she has left an impressive legacy at the Albers School.
John McAdam, President and CEO of F5 Networks, was featured in the Albers Executive Speaker Series on February 7th. F5 is one of the fastest growing tech companies in the world, an application delivery provider whose products most of us use but don't realize!
McAdam has served as President and CEO of F5 Networks since 2000. He took the company through the turbulent post-dot-com era, positioning it to grow from annual revenue of $108 million to more than $1.3 billion today. He has overseen numerous successful acquisitions, guiding F5 into new markets that enhance the company's Application Delivery Networking solution offerings. Under his leadership, F5 was added to the S&P 500, and Fortune Magazine named F5 to its 2011 and 2012 lists of 100 Fastest Growing Companies worldwide.
When McAdam took over F5, their main offering was around load balancing and most of their customers were dot-com companies. Starting in 2004, they were able to offer traffic management systems and successfully target Fortune 500 firms. Making that bet was one that worked for F5! Through the years they have been able to expand their services to other areas such as data security. The rise of mobile data and the movement to the cloud have expanded their market considerably.
In discussing the success of F5, McAdam emphasized the importance of culture, noting that employees need to be respected and respectful of one another. Other aspects of the F5 culture include innovation, integrity, metric-driven, and global mindset.
Regarding the latter, most of F5's business is outside the US, and customers are requiring the same product. There is little difference in what they sell across markets, but the size of transactions is much bigger in North America.
When it comes to his leadership style, McAdam said the most important thing is that people trust you. People at F5 clearly trust McAdam, and his humble persona definitely helps with that. Also critical, he said, is to surround yourself with good people - exactly what you would expect a leader with humility to say!
McAdam had other important insights to share with the audience. One was that he is a great believer in paranoia when it comes to business - "only the paranoid survive," he said! It's clear that he will never let F5 get complacent.
He also noted that a successful CEO must have a supportive board of directors. If he had not had that at F5, particularly when he first arrived, he would no doubt have left long ago.
Technology is changing our lives and our society in ways we don't yet fully understand. With the rise of mobile devices and the cloud, F5 is right in the middle of many of these changes. McAdam noted there are significant growth opportunities for F5, and growth is necessary for F5 to remain an independent company. His visit to campus was an excellent opportunity to hear about some of the key trends in the tech industry, but also about successful leadership in a rapidly changing environment.
Seattle University Magazine asked me to write an article on changes taking place in higher education. It was published in the Winter, 2013 edition under the title, "The Cost of Higher Education." If you have not read the magazine, the article is printed below. I even received some nice emails from alumni on the article!
Compared to other sectors of our economy, higher education has not changed that much. How we do things is not all that different now than it was thirty years ago when I started my career in higher education. We have continuously refined and improved upon what we do, but the basic framework has persisted. That seems like it is about to change.
Two forces are coming together to force our hand. One is the continuing improvement in technology that facilitates on-line instruction. On-line instruction is not new. It has been around for several decades, but what is different is that it is getting better.
The second force is the high cost of higher education, whether it is private or public. Private universities have been consistently raising tuition faster than the rate of inflation. That is not sustainable. Public higher education, perhaps underpriced at one time, has increased sharply in cost due to financial pressures experienced by state governments. This story is familiar to every family trying to send their children off to college.
Clayton Christensen, a management professor at Harvard, has made a name for himself with his research on "Disruptive Innovation," a model he uses to explain why companies at the top of many sectors have found themselves all the sudden struggling to survive. Whether it is explaining the demise of Blockbuster, Kodak, Digital, or Borders, each was the victim of a disruptive innovation. Sometimes it is the development of a new technology or process. Sometimes it is the development of a new product that overtakes an existing product.
Christensen has finally applied his insights to his own industry, higher education, which is presented in his co-authored book, The Innovative University. Christensen argues that universities will need to re-engineer themselves to assure on-going relevance.
Across our programs in the Albers School, we expect these trends to appear in different ways. Perhaps the slowest to be impacted is our undergraduate business degree, which by its nature has a strong formative character to it. Where we think it is showing up first is in our MBA program. Our program is strong and highly rated, but tuition and fees are high for the average student. And while we have always prided ourselves on the flexibility of our program and the ability to accommodate working professionals, it still takes a lot of time and requires many visits to campus. Overlaying all of that is a steady drumbeat of commentaries critical of the value of the MBA. Of course, we don't agree with that, but that talk is on the street.
To keep our program relevant, we need to reign in the financial cost and increase accessibility. That means identifying what is really needed in an MBA and delivering that in an even more convenient format. We need to design different ways for students to complete prerequisites, cut some of the coursework, and move to "hybrid" models of teaching, where lectures seldom take place when classes meet. Instead, lectures are reviewed by students outside of class and class time is used for higher order activities. To the extent that students (and employers, perhaps) question the value of the MBA, they may have more interest in certificate programs.
There is no way to know for certain how "Disruptive Innovation" will impact higher education, but it would be foolish to assume it will not. New developments are taking place very quickly and we must stay alert and ready to respond.