From: Randolph Westerfield
To: USC SBA Faculty
(Opening remarks have been removed).
First, I want you to know that I believe the school can be proud of its current status. The quality of its students, faculty, programs and technology has never been better. We are in good financial shape and we have an extremely large number of hard working, dedicated staff. I like to think of our school as an up and comer. In the past several years, we have enjoyed considerable success and I believe that our MBA program is better than the rankings show. We are all eager to get better recognition. While we clearly have some problems that we need to address, I am encouraged by an important fact that emerges from all the assessments I have reviewed. To a very large degree, what happens in our classrooms is viewed very positively by our students. On the whole, they like our faculty and they like the education they receive at USC. What they do not like pertains mostly to things I will call responsiveness, customer service and marketing of our program. It is not so clear that recruiters like what goes on in our classrooms. Some of you have suggested that we do not do enough to ensure that our students have solid fundamental skills. My view is that we must step up our efforts to turn out qualified students and simultaneously direct our attention to several other important areas, including responsiveness and marketing. I believe that the actions we need to take fall into the categories itemized below. I will discuss what I perceive to be the problem and some of the actions we will take to address the problem.
We need to listen to students' concerns and be organized to respond in appropriate ways. Many students clearly do not feel we listen to their specific concerns and act on them. I believe that a change in this area starts with me but involves each of us. It is important for you to understand that part of enhanced responsiveness requires a change on the part of administration, but it also requires an adjustment on the part of the faculty. I promise that you will see a new emphasis and understanding of what it means to be responsive on the part of the administration, but you will also see the same concerns being brought to bear in each of our departments. We have begun this process already in the MBA program with a meeting of staff to explore some of the issues of involving responsiveness.
It is also clear that both students and faculty would like more involvement in our school. We will quickly move to include students in more of our deliberations. Student participation (as in last week's faculty meeting) is an important step in this direction. Enhanced faculty involvement will also be sought. Specifically, we will form task forces in several of the areas indicated below where faculty and students will have a significant involvement.
Our school is in fundamentally good shape. In terms of budgets, students and faculty we are stronger than we have ever been. However, the marketing of our school needs to be dramatically improved. A member of our faculty observed in his comments at last week's meeting that our school has no identity. Clearly we need to improve our image. We need to identify what each of our constituencies cares about and we need to determine how we will position ourselves regarding these perceived careabouts. We must be content oriented. It seems apparent that we need outside help.
We have already begun to consult our marketing faculty and will continue to do so. But we will appoint a person to head our marketing activities. Our current plan is that this person should view his or her job as an assignment to build our marketing capability. We will also appoint a person to be director of corporate relations and development. An important part of this marketing effort should be directed at the corporate/recruiter community. Our new focus on marketing should integrate all of our marketing efforts throughout the school and be part of a concerted effort to improve career services and to build corporate relations. With respect to the corporate recruiting community, we need new strategies and more effort to reach this important constituency. Instead, we have focused our efforts on fund raising from the prospective large donor community. While we cannot possibly abandon our efforts to raise funds, we must find a way to reach both constituencies. This will involve an adjustment of the allocation of my time and commitment of faculty and staff time as well.
The single most important need for improvement of our MBA program lies in employer recruiting. We must have a larger number of companies recruiting at USC. We now have an MBA class that is competitive with many of the top 25 schools in the country. While at one time, our graduates may have been vulnerable to the criticism that they did not measure up to the quality of many of our competitors, that is no longer true. We will commit new financial resources to upgrade our placement activities. I will also adjust my own priorities to place this at the top of our list of actions over the next year. It is also apparent that, echoing comments from last week's faculty meeting, faculty will have to play a significant part in this if we are to succeed in this effort.
Over the past two years, we have renovated many of the classrooms in our school. However, it is obvious that our facilities need improvement. To some degree we have all been simply waiting for the new building to finally appear as the solution to our facilities problems. We have been trying to balance short run needs with long term remodeling priorities once Popovich Hall is a reality. We will make new efforts to identify problems in facilities and fix the things we can fix. We will also make sure faculty and students are involved in this. I have asked Ken Merchant and Margie Dufford to lead an effort, with input from faculty and others to make specific recommendations. Some of you have strongly noted that we must have a new commitment to quality in our operations. We commit to you to seek a new level of faculty involvement in identifying shortcomings in the quality of our operations and seeing that changes (which are financially feasible) are implemented.
We will need to be prepared to increase our effort and investment in technology. We have integrated technology into our daily lives in the last two years to a degree we never have before. This is especially true in our MBA-PM and EMBA programs where students rely completely on email for delivery of materials and for continuous access to the School from remote locations. Our new reliance on technology in some ways reflects the success of our new technology initiatives. However, we need to build a more reliable and customer oriented set of computer and information services. In the coming weeks, you will see that we will be taking direct steps to improve our technology services.
Some of you have commented that we need to renew our commitment to research and scholarship. You are right. I have been very concerned about making sure we build a culture that is oriented toward scholarship and research as well as to teaching. While I want our faculty to be interested in providing customer service and in the quality of our programs, I want to see a passion in our faculty about scholarship. We need to make sure that we are focused on this primary academic mission. All of the turmoil about ratings causes me to be concerned that we may lose sight of our scholarly purpose. As a result of this concern I will make a special effort to increase the number of tenure-track faculty positions in key areas in the school and to authorize aggressive recruiting efforts in several departments.
There is a view expressed by several of our faculty that we should not try to improve our MBA ranking. I do not share this view. In contrast, It is apparent from many of your comments that you feel an urgent need for action and results. OK!
As you think about the issues raised in this memo, let me share with you conservation I had at lunch on Thursday. I met with W. John Nixon, the National Director of Human Resources, and J. R. Ahn, Financial Advisory Services of Ernst & Young LLP. They are recruiting MBA students at USC but not at UCLA. They specifically mentioned the strength of our corporate finance area.