Oct. 22-28, 1999
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Q&A - Darden Dean Ted Snyder
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Ted Snyder

Stephanie Gross


Q&A The goal for Darden:
Building values toward the best management education for tomorrow's business leaders

An interview with Dean Ted Snyder

By Charlotte Crystal

Last year, Ted Snyder joined the University as dean of the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration -- and hit the ground running. Although Snyder stepped into a program with a strong national reputation, the competition is not standing still. Working with all his constituents, from students and faculty to alumni and business partners, Snyder aims to keep Darden at the forefront of American business education.

Q. Tell us a little bit about your professional career prior to Darden.

A. I was a member of the University of Michigan's faculty for 15 years. At Michigan I spent three years as the senior associate dean at the Graduate School of Business. I've also had the benefit of some extraordinary experiences, both with the Justice Department in Washington and in establishing the Davidson Institute at Michigan. I did my post-doctoral work on mergers and antitrust matters. With the institute, I helped to develop corporate partnerships in emerging markets, such as India, China, South America and Central Europe. Both experiences provided me with terrific insight into marketplace issues that are even more significant today.

Q. You were at Justice during an interesting period, in the late '70s, early '80s.

A. That's true. I still remember my first day on the job. I went down the hall to get a soda and there was a hand-lettered sheet of yellow paper on the door across from the soda machine. Very modestly, it said, "U.S. vs. AT&T." Hardly descriptive of the monumental changes the discussions behind that door would bring to the marketplace. Ironically, AT&T is back in the local calling business today.

Q. Now that you've been dean for a little more than a year, what are your impressions of Darden?

A. It's an intense but exciting place. Every day, I'm energized by our faculty's broad grasp of relevant business issues, by the passion I see for the educational process, by our collaboration across disciplines. Our faculty really sets the tone for the school's competitive edge -- our strong focus on solving business problems and our determination to produce leaders who will create, lead and inspire great organizations. We like to say that Darden is about transformation, changing the way you think. It's very powerful to be constantly surrounded by people who stretch the limits of performance.

Q. What type of students choose to attend Darden?

A. Very special ones. Our students see Darden as a great opportunity for professional development. They thrive on being in an environment where a great deal is expected of them. If you sit in on a class, it's obvious everyone contributes. That's important when you consider the diversity of our students, nearly 40 percent of whom are minorities or live outside the U.S. This provides our educational environment with a broad range of experiences, perspectives, values and interests.

Phase II of the Darden expansion includes classroom pavilions.
Phase II of the Darden expansion includes classroom pavilions.

Q. What are your goals for Darden?

A. To provide the best management education programs in the world. Now, there are several elements to that. You have to maintain a strong, unyielding commitment to the overall professional development of both students and executive education participants. You have to exercise leadership on significant business issues. I think you have to be a major player within the business school community on setting those values that underpin high-quality management education. You also have to earn recognition for what you're doing among those outside the business school community -- in the corporate world, for example, and in the media. That helps you build relationships with corporate partners that are mutually beneficial and it helps you to continually improve value-added relationships with alumni.

Q. What are some of the business issues that require leadership today?

A. Over the past 16 months, we've gone through a process to answer that question. Our faculty has identified six issues on which Darden will deliver world-class expertise. These include how to create effective senior management teams that are globally diverse, the integration of merged companies that have different cultures and operations, and managing the process of innovation. We're also concentrating on a holistic approach to e-business, on how companies should use strategic alliances to become more efficient, and on the impact that the environment and sustainability are having on the ability of companies to serve world markets.

Q. What's your view of the relationship between Darden and U.Va.?

A. That it needs to be very strong. We recently added Bill McDonough [former U.Va. Architecture School dean] to our faculty. I'm working with several colleagues around the University on next month's e-summit, which will bring many of our nation's most important Internet business leaders together at U.Va. Darden's at the intersection of business and academics, and I hope we'll be able to offer unique ideas and insights to the University because of that. By the same token, U.Va. has enormous resources and strengths and a premier reputation from which we can benefit.

Q. What are Darden's greatest challenges?

A. We have to raise Darden's visibility and establish the school as a leader in what I call the broader knowledge industry. That means not just competing with other business schools but positioning us with external audiences as a source of great knowledge and expertise on major business issues.

Q. What's the status of the Campaign for Darden?

A. We've exceeded our $100 million goal and are moving ahead with Phase II of our development plans. The improvements include new classrooms, faculty offices and an auditorium, all of which will allow us to continue to develop our MBA and executive education programs. We'll be able to have more special events and conferences at the school as well as greater MBA class interaction. These improvements are critical to our ability to remain successful in a highly competitive environment.

Q. How would you characterize the alumni?

A. Extremely supportive of the school. You have to remember we're still a young school and half of our alumni have graduated since 1987. We're working hard to build on our relationship with alums. We need their help in finding our next group of MBAs. There are 240,000 people right now thinking about attending MBA programs. We want the right 240 to come to Darden. We want alumni to send people to our executive education programs. Alumni also are helping us to stay focused on the right business issues and returning to offer their wisdom and perspective. We've also established a new program, Alumni Career Services.

Q. What does this cost and who is it for?

A. It's a free service spanning the entire career development spectrum, everyone from the person making his first job change to someone well down the career path who wants to make a career change or start a new business. Our research indicates that changing jobs every two years is the national norm. It's our intent that the support services and counseling we're providing will help to make those transitions very rewarding.

Q. Any time for teaching?

A. Well, not much, but last year I supervised a group of students on a special project on how technology can be used to improve service to customers.

Q. What do you like about Charlottesville?

A. It sure beats Ann Arbor in December. Seriously, I was surprised by how quickly one becomes awed by the history of this place. It does give you a sense of being privileged to experience what few others in the country can imagine. The people are magnificent, with strong roots, a tremendous mix of experiences, interests and talent. A great place.


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