Third Whitman dean candidate promotes focus on new technology, professional background

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The candidate selected for the position will replace former Dean Kenneth Kavajecz, who was arrested in a prostitution sting last September.

The third and final candidate for dean of the Martin J. Whitman School of Management fielded questions from students on Thursday afternoon, bringing the search one step closer to an end.

Vicki Daniels, the sole female candidate for the position, is the president and CEO of KAC Health and a professor at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. Daniels, along with the two other dean finalists, is visiting the Syracuse University campus this week to meet with faculty and administrators.

At Thursday’s forum, attended by only a handful of Whitman students, Daniels made a case for her background in research and said she would focus on keeping Whitman on the cutting-edge of business education.

“I truly understand the importance of an undergraduate education, not only from the context of what you learn, but the relationships that you build with the faculty and other students that helps define who you become,” Daniels said.

Students at the forum asked Daniels pointed questions, including about her ability to lead the school as the CEO of a startup and if she would bring programs she created at former schools to Whitman.

In regard to the startup, Daniels said she would soon be transitioning to a position on the board of KAC Health and had always intended to go back to teaching operations and supply chain management at Indiana University, from which she is currently taking a leave of absence, before the Whitman opportunity arose.

A student also asked how business schools have handled teaching technology, which Daniels said was “a major issue.” She said the amount of technological change that will be coming to the business world will be revolutionary, just as it was when she first became a professor.

“That allows you to create disruptive businesses that have never existed before,” Daniels said. “Universities could get left behind. I think those that embrace this change will be successful and those who don’t will be left behind.”

When asked about Whitman’s Goodman IMPRESS program, Daniels said she didn’t feel entirely comfortable taking a firm stance on it, but said the concept of skill-building in a game-based program has been successful in other settings. She said she would talk to more students before forming a conclusive opinion, conversations she would facilitate through scheduled events.

“But most importantly you have to build trust between the students and the dean. … That’s why it’s important to have those structured times where people can bring open things and be transparent as you possibly can be in that environment,” Daniels said.

She also said she would be interested in putting students on committees with faculty to give them more input in curriculum and other major processes.

The other two dean candidates, Rajiv Dewan, a professor of computers and information systems at the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School, and Eugene “Gene” Anderson, a marketing professor at the University of Miami, took part in student forums earlier this week.

The candidate selected for the position will replace former Dean Kenneth Kavajecz, who was arrested in a prostitution sting last September. Kavajecz received a misdemeanor charge for patronizing a prostitute in the third degree and is scheduled to next appear in court on May 25.

S.P. Raj, chair of the Whitman School’s marketing department, has been serving as interim dean for Whitman, temporarily filling Kavajecz’s position since mid-October.


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