McCormick Magazine

Fostering leadership development at McCormick

Kellogg classes prepare professors for management roles


Engineering professors' research usually focuses more on algorithms than accounting. Yet many professors at McCormick manage large departments and budgets, and others have developed technologies that could translate into start-up companies.

Fifteen McCormick faculty members are now better prepared to face such challenges after taking Business for Scientists and Engineers, a new faculty education class offered in winter 2008 through the Kellogg School of Management.

Last year Kellogg teamed up with the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine to create an executive education certificate program called Business for Scientists, which introduced scientists from Johns Hopkins to business concepts and industry tools. That partnership also produced Science for Managers, another certificate program aimed at teaching investors, executives, analysts, and government officials about physiology, disease, and regulatory affairs. Those classes were taught by faculty from Johns Hopkins and from Kellogg, the Feinberg School of Medicine, and the Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

When McCormick Dean Julio M. Ottino learned about the Business for Scientists course, he knew it was something that would benefit his faculty. "Our faculty members each run small research enterprises, and some manage large budgets and large staffs," says Ottino. "Providing them with the opportunity to gain insight and strategies from their colleagues at Kellogg will allow them to excel as organizational leaders."

DeansOttino got together with J. Larry Jameson, the Lewis Landsberg Dean at the Feinberg School, and Daniel Linzer, then dean of Weinberg College and now University Provost, to get them on board with the idea. The course name was changed to include engineers, and faculty members from all three schools were invited to apply for the three-weekend course.

Building business savvy
"To succeed in the life science industry, managers need to be science savvy, and scientists need to be business savvy," says Sangeeta Vohra, director of executive programs at the Center for Biotech¬nology Management at Kellogg. "If faculty members want their start-ups to succeed, they need to have some basic business skills. And quite a few of the faculty are not looking at start-ups but feel that the learning from this course will be very useful in the way they manage their departments and labs."

A total of 44 faculty members — 27 from Feinberg, 15 from McCormick, and 2 from Weinberg — were admitted to the program and promptly found themselves on the other side of the classroom. Class topics range from basic accounting to business strategy and marketing.

"Most of the work that we do in our lab is highly applied, and there is a significant translational research component," says Guillermo Ameer, associate professor of biomedical engineering. "The skill gained in this course will be useful both from an organizational point of view and when talking to potential investors in technology."

"It has been excellent," says Cate Brinson, the Jerome B. Cohen Professor of Engineering and chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. "I wasn't sure what to expect when I went into it, but it has been phenomenal. In some ways it was the mystique of Kellogg that was the draw. They have such a great reputation, and I thought this was my opportunity to experience it firsthand."

Like many engineers, Linda Broadbelt, professor of chemical and biological engineering, hasn't had any finance or economics classes since her undergraduate studies. Broadbelt says she was prepared for boring lectures on accounting modules but instead got engaging conversations and fascinating stories about all different aspects of business.

"It was first-rate," she says. "I've really enjoyed it."

Leadership from all angles
During one afternoon session, Adam Galinsky, the Morris and Alice Kaplan Professor of Ethics and Decision in Management at Kellogg, lectured the group on leadership skills. But it wasn't your average PowerPoint lecture: Galinsky told stories about the challenges of implementing new firefighting strategies in the New York City Fire Department and showed clips of the movie 12 Angry Men so the group could study the main character's leadership tactics.

And during the lecture, the faculty members weren't just passive listeners; they regularly piped up to challenge an idea or offer a suggestion. "We're an unusual audience," Brinson says. "They said we were especially lively. And in some ways that makes sense. We're used to being on the other side. We're all used to being teachers."

As a department chair, Brinson says she'll use the leadership lecture to help consider how to move her department in the right direction by getting a consensus and then turning it into a faculty vision. "In an academic department, there isn't a boss, where everyone has to do what the boss says," she says. "So leadership is more like in 12 Angry Men. The lead character wasn't in charge, so we can look at what skills he used to bring people together."

FacultyUsing business skills outside academia
The course wasn't limited to lectures — participants also receive readings to study before class — and topics weren't limited to professors' roles at school. The class considered the case of the biotech¬nology start-up company Scios, which had failed to have a single product approved during its 15-year history. The class discussed how the company should proceed — and whether it should partner with another company or put itself up for sale.

"That case study showed how a company grows and how biotech start-ups have a high failure rate," Vohra says. "The case discussion allows the participants to be interactive and is a great way to learn and understand."

These real-world scenarios are what attracted Broadbelt to the course, since she wondered how to turn her research into a company or more effectively do technology transfer. She also found new connections with faculty from different schools. "I've been meeting people from across campus and creating links with the medical school," she says. "This class has really fostered new partnerships."

"It's a perfect opportunity for faculty to get together on different grants and partnerships," Vohra says. "They say, 'Hey, let's get this idea going.'"

Vohra says the organizers of the course hope to make it a yearly offering. "There's a lot of demand," she says. Both Brinson and Broadbelt hope the class could be extended to graduate students as well.

"To become a faculty member, you just need a PhD, that's it," Brinson says. "You don't have to know how to manage people or money or projects. But those are critical skills for success. Perhaps in our graduate curriculum we could bring some of this back for our students."

—Emily Ayshford