The McDonough School of Business must work to integrate technological advances in global markets with the goal of educating competitive and innovative students, said McDonough School of Business Dean Paul Almeida.
With 22 years of experience at Georgetown University, and just over a month in his position, Almeida said he hopes to take full advantage of the tools and capabilities offered by the MSB, the rest of the Georgetown community and the greater Washington, D.C. community.
In an interview with The Hoya, Almeida described his experience leading the MSB so far and what his expectations and hopes are for the future of the school and its role within the university.
How was your first month as dean of the McDonough School of Business?
I didn’t expect any surprises and I didn’t get any surprises, but I think the thing that, if I look back, hits me the most is I see the first month as being a first, but important, step into the future. And I’m very excited about the future; I think we can be even more magnificent in a number of ways. So, I think there’s always a little bit of adjustment in the first month, but I was deputy dean of education and innovation, so it wasn’t a big stretch. But getting to know the undergrads when they come in as dean is different than getting to know the undergrads when they come in when you’re not dean. Welcoming the parents and each cohort and welcoming the faculty back, it has a different effect on you and you realize both the responsibility and the opportunity to make a difference, so that’s quite thrilling.
You have been at Georgetown for 22 years. How does it feel to come to such an important position at an institution that you have given so much to and that is such a big part of your life?
It’s wonderful. It’s one of many important positions in the school, and I said in my status school address that deans don’t make a school, and I mean it with all sincerity. It’s a combination of the faculty and the staff and the students and the alumni and the advisors who make the school. And, so the way I look at it is, my job is to be a good conductor, to choose the piece of music and share my vision and inspiration with other people and then facilitate their success. So it’s wonderful, but I take it as an opportunity, literally, to serve and I take it as an opportunity to work with lots of different stakeholders to move forward along a common path. I know so many of the stakeholders well, and I understand our school and our future well. I understand our role within the university, which is very important; I understand our role within Washington, D.C.; I understand our role within the Jesuit community. I’m gratified, I’m thrilled, and I’m excited and I do feel that responsibility as well.
How has your career prepared you to serve in this position?
One, I’m a strategy professor. I’ve not only been a strategy professor and taught at the undergraduate level and the MBA level and the executive level, I’ve held numerous seminars, well over 60, 70, with different companies and organizations domestic and international, big and small, and consulted with all these companies. And so strategy is kind of in my blood and my expertise and my passion. And the other thing that I’ve studied is innovation. And I think I’ve not just studied it, I’ve practiced it for many years.
The MSB has grown tremendously, yet you mentioned in an interview for the university’s communications team that business education, the “market realities,” are changing. How do you envision the MSB moving forward?
Maybe our students have to understand computer science a little better. Maybe our students need a little more exposure to the changes taking place in say, Goldman Sachs or Barclays or elsewhere. So maybe we need to have more experiential learning, maybe greater interaction with companies and what they’re doing. Maybe our students need to have a wider variety of electives possible that they wouldn’t have had before. And we’re going to launch this sort of journey of discovery with them and for them. So for the subject matter they learn, the interaction with businesses in the real worlds, and the process of learning. Should they have more flipped classes, for instance? Should we be using technology more aggressively? Now that’s obviously in the future, but we should keep asking these questions.
What programs and initiatives do you plan to implement in the short term?
We would like to enhance our global experiences, to some extent; I think that’s really important. We would like to definitely start on providing our students more opportunities with the School of Foreign Service and vice versa, so there’s more flexibility to build on the advantages of both schools and both sets of students. And I think in a very short time, we will announce steps in that direction.
In that same interview you mentioned that Georgetown and the MSB could be “smart” and “innovative” in its approach to the future. How does an institution conflate both qualities?
‘Smart’ means that we have to grow as an organization in terms of our faculty, in terms of our staff and our students, but that needs to be aligned with our strategy, in terms of how big different programs are, or which new programs we are introducing. And it also has to align very much with your financial situation, so that you can invest. You say you’re going to do this but you can actually invest and make a difference. So ‘smart’ means basically aligning your financials, your strategy in an organization in a world that continuously changes in a dynamic way. And ‘innovative,’ again, plays into change, and here we don’t just react to change, we create the change we want. Given that the world is changing, how can we find our distinctive place in that world?
Where does the Innovation Initiative that you oversaw as deputy dean fall into this?
We’ve moved it to the dean’s office. It was with me as deputy dean, but when I moved to the dean’s office, I brought it with me. And this year, we’re looking at two things in depth. First, we had five different initiatives last year, and for every one we’re actually going to implement at least two of the recommendations from every initiative. The worst thing you can do is plan and not do anything. But we’re also doing something called lifelong learning this year; it’s a new initiative. I know you’ve got a long way before you graduate, but you’re going to graduate when you are 22, and you’re probably going to retire when you’re 80, and the world’s going to change so much. We want the Georgetown experience to continue to be with you, so what we’re going to do is develop courses partly online, partly in person, combining alumni experts with Georgetown professors in a way that knits together communities around areas of interest.
What is your personal objective?
To make a positive difference to the school. I didn’t really seek this job, I can be honest in that. A few people said, ‘You really should think about it,’ and I said, ‘Look, let me think about it.’ And I was very happy in my previous job, and I loved the flexibility, and I loved all the different features, and I was thinking of starting a business using artificial intelligence, and I have my consulting. And I said, on the other hand, ‘If I feel God is leading me to this, if I can make a difference to the school, if my skills make a difference to the school, if my commitment and passion make a difference to the school, I suspect I won’t be able to be as happy as I was before, but I feel I could perhaps make a bigger difference.’