Her recently unveiled five-year strategic plan for the Rady School is ambitious, optimistic and includes a strong focus on innovation, growth, and EDI initiatives.
Dean Lisa Ordóñez has spent 16 months of her 24-month tenure as the Dean of the Rady School leading teams remotely and creating a virtual and highly participatory process with staff and faculty on a comprehensive, forward-looking strategic plan for the future of the Rady School. The scope is considerable, and the challenges are real, but the goal of turning the Rady School into one of the preeminent business schools in the country is what will make the effort rewarding and impactful. While growth is a top priority, she wants to ensure Rady grows in the right way and keeps its standards high.
We asked her a few questions about her first two years, and the development of the strategic plan:
Congratulations on your two-year anniversary. Since you began there has been a 60% increase in admitted students to the Rady School, which is impressive in itself. What are some of the other accomplishments you are most proud of during your tenure?
For the first several months I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, since so many good things were happening, and it never did. Enrollments are up, yes, and they increased while still holding our ground on our quality standards.
In terms of Rady staff, there are two things that I’m truly thrilled with. One is starting the Rady Staff Council. I started it three months before the pandemic hit, and thank goodness, it has been a life blood for the staff to stay connected. We may have been working from home all this time, but these meetings provided an outlet, and a reminder that there is still a place called Rady.
We also started the UCSD Staff Fellowship for the Flex MBA/MSBA degree programs. These fellowships are offered by Rady to all of UCSD and provide a significant savings. I think this is a great way to build relationships across campus and build expertise.
We hired seven new research faculty, four of whom are under the category of Inclusive Excellence, which means faculty who can research, teach or service EDI issues. We’ve hired some amazing people who really support a big push for EDI in management in different ways.
In addition, I had the honor of appointing five endowed faculty fellowships, and seven endowed chairs. These are highly distinguished academic positions that recognize their contributions and provide funds to push the frontiers of their scholarship. Having endowed faculty at Rady means that students will have the opportunity to rub elbows with the most talented scholars in the world.
We have also built strong relationships with central campus, working closely with other Deans and their departments to show that Rady is open for partnership, and we are finding new ways to connect and support each other.
I’ve only been here two years and all these things have happened. Plus, we also began a new Flex MSBA program this summer and started a brand new undergraduate economics business major that launched this fall.
It’s exciting for people to see us growing, and growing in the right way.
A few of your strategic intents over the next five years include investing in value-added research, forging an inclusive Rady identity, ensuring EDI in faculty, staff, and student recruitment, and fostering vibrant partnerships with the San Diego business community. Can you talk a little bit about why these are the focus for Rady, and the benefits you believe they will bring to the school?
It’s not random that of these five strategic intents, the first one is value added research. There are a lot of great business schools, but what makes us different is our impactful research.
In terms of EDI, we’re finally at a point in our society where it’s not just about doing the right thing, but also the smart thing. And by that, I mean, organizations that are more diverse are more creative, they’re more productive, and at the end of the day they’re more profitable. So, how do we support diversity within the walls of Rady, and with other organizations? The interesting thing about diverse teams is while they can be more productive, and frankly more interesting, they can also be more stressful. Working with people who think differently than you and may challenge you is harder. And I want us to be the ones leading the way.
I taught an orientation class to our MBA students recently and left the students with a few bits of advice. One is that Rady is the place where you can stay uncomfortable, and where you can push the limits. It’s the easiest place to practice this. Diversity is being demanded in many corners and if we’re going to harness the power of our population, we need to find ways to support it. It’s one thing to hire diverse individuals, but if we aren’t creating an environment that is supportive, they’re going to leave. So, what does that mean? How do we listen? How do we communicate with people who think very differently than we do, how do we harness that and learn from that? Here’s the place to learn.
One of the objectives of EDI in the strategic plan is to form a center for EDI in management that would coalesce many of these activities, of doing research, supporting students, and lead the way on this topic.
Regarding building our relationships with the San Diego business community, we’re a really unique business school. We’re pretty young, we just turned 18 on July 1. The reason the Rady School exists is because the local business community leaders got together and decided that San Diego needed a premier research business school. They asked for us. What I’m learning about the business community here in San Diego is that while it might not be as large as LA, NYC or Boston, the relationships are very deep, and the people are very supportive. It just feels natural for us to be deeply entrenched in the business community here and supporting those relationships.
How will the strategic plan help to differentiate Rady from other business schools?
We’re focusing on STEM and health sciences, and building leadership in those areas here in San Diego because there is such a strong biotech startup community here, and UCSD in general is so well known for its STEM and health sciences specialties. Really, the main value of the strategic plan is to help us grow, and grow in the right way. It’s letting people know what we’re doing and making sure that we have the proper resources to do quality research. We want to evaluate our programs and continue to make them better. This is an operational strategic plan. We are honing in on who we are, and doing more of what we do, in an even better way.
You, your senior staff, and faculty (in conjunction with all Rady staff) were very thoughtful about creating a new vision and mission statement for the Rady School. Tell me a little bit about what this means to you, and how you think they will help guide Rady in the years to come.
New Mission Statement: The Rady School of Management advances business by generating meaningful research and educating principled, innovative leaders.
New Vision Statement: The Rady School of Management will contribute to a more equitable, knowledgeable, and prosperous society.
The last mission statement, which was very important and relevant at the time, focused on entrepreneurs and MBAs. While it spoke to us then, it isn’t as inclusive to what we do now since we have grown and expanded our portfolio of specialty master’s programs. A mission statement should say what we’re about and who we serve. The new mission statement talks about meaningful research and educating innovative and principled leaders. We do high quality research that is getting published in top journals, and research that is moving the ball forward in organizations. With the vision statement, I wanted it to be inspirational, something that communicated we’re here to make a difference. Our vision is to help develop an equitable, knowledgeable, and prosperous society. And when I say prosperous, I don’t mean just wealthy. Prosperity could be health and well-being, finding your purpose in life, and yes, financial stability. We want to help people have a better life, we want to support equity, and having an equitable society.
The Rady School is known for having world-class faculty involved in cutting-edge research. What impact do you hope this research will have for Rady for over the next five years?
We are not just teaching out of a textbook that someone else wrote 20 or 30 years ago, we’re doing that research, we’re creating that knowledge. We are questioning things and adding to the knowledge that supports society and organizations.
Faculty working for Rady are involved in top level research that is published in the top journals. They are doing something that actually matters, that makes an impact on the world. We have faculty who are studying how COVID is affecting our mental health and our relationships, how political party affiliation affects how we invest our money, how online product displays can shape consumer’s buying behavior, and how differences in financial risk preferences can impact divorce rates.
The Rady School has just under 40 research faculty. In context some departments on campus have 40 faculty, and that is our whole school. Compared to others, we are a relatively small business school, and I don’t want to grow just to grow, I want to grow so that we can continue to do the quality research that we are doing and continue to prepare students for work in business.
What are you most looking forward to as we begin the fall quarter with students and faculty back in person?
Seeing people in person and building those relationships. I want to meet new faculty, staff, and students in person. I want to have chit chats in the hallway. As much we try to integrate time to be informal on Zoom, it’s just by design very structured. I am excited to be back in person, and that students can learn face to face, and are excited to be here. Our students were amazing and adapted to Zoom classes even though they didn’t sign up for them, knowing the faculty was doing their very best. And in many cases the learning environment was even better, so now we can experiment with some different ways of doing things.