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Graduate School of Management
Focused on the future
David Blake thinks tomorrow's corporate leaders need information, technology ... and flexibility (08.30.2002)
There's almost never been a day in the life of David H. Blake, dean of UCI's Graduate School of Management, where mornings didn't bring another day at school. The son of parents who co-founded a community-based independent elementary school back East, he grew up not only steeped in formal education, but also with the nurturing kind of learning that comes from parents committed to bringing fresh experiences to their children.
"We literally lived on the fourth floor of the school where my father was headmaster," he recalls. He also fondly remembers family trips to the nation's battlefields, where the Revolutionary War and the Civil War played out. That fascination with history, instilled by his parents, acted as the catalyst for Blake's love of business and the mechanics that drive it.
This kind of response affirms Blake's belief that the school's information technology for management focus has created an environment where academic learning yields practical, real-life skills necessary for success now and in the future.
"Business thrives on information, and it is the essence of the various decisions and strategies that make a business run," says Blake. "We're educating people in finance, marketing, whatever area of business it is, who understand how information, and the technology that makes it so readily available, are absolutely changing the way business is done."
Conceived over a decade ago by a group of faculty who wanted a distinctive, differentiating orientation for the school, information technology for management (ITM) has turned what was once perceived as a small, regional school without much of a comparative advantage into an internationally recognized MBA program. This year, GSM is ranked #1 internationally by the Financial Times for its ITM focus.
Although Blake is heartened by the recognition media rankings bring, he gauges the school's success by, what are to him, more meaningful measures. GSM attracts some of the brightest students in the world, Blake says, with average GMAT scores that place the school among the top 20 out of more than 700 nationwide.
Despite intense competition for business school faculty, Blake says UCI continually is able to attract and keep top-notch faculty members. In addition to teaching, those scholars generate quality research that has an international impact on business knowledge.
Another important measure is that businesses are attracted to GSM students and their knowledge of how to use the power of information and technology to gain strategic advantage. For instance, Blake says one MBA graduate is using the tools and techniques he acquired at GSM to identify the best markets for various products sold by a major U.S. health care company doing business in Europe. Meanwhile, more senior executives are consulting this alum to take advantage of his advanced knowledge of sophisticated information systems.
The success of the Graduate School of Management's programs, however, has created a whole new set of challenges for Blake. The present, elevated plateau has become the staging area for the next round of growth.
"We have been given enthusiastic approval to double the number of full-time MBA graduates," says Blake. In addition to increasing that complement from 300 to 600, he wants to add another 160 slots to the part-time, executive MBA program, increasing the number of students there to 800.
With the additional students, Blake says he anticipates needing to nearly double the size of the faculty, too, from the current 43 members to 73. Plans for a new building that provides a cohesive, integrated working environment for faculty and students are also in the making.
But Blake rejects growth merely for growth's sake. Rather, he sees GSM's expansion as the next logical step toward attaining its rightful place among the most prominent business schools in the world.
"Good schools like ours are competing nationally and internationally for students, because students who are very bright can go almost anywhere in the world," says Blake. "We're competing for first-rate faculty, because there is a shortage of business school faculty. And we're also competing for corporate attention, because recruiters go where they can get enough quality people to make it worthwhile. That's why doubling the size of the MBA program is so crucial."
Blake acknowledges that "this won't be easy," but there's little doubt that, like the CEO of a major corporation, he has the business and organizational acumen to get the job done.
A business school dean for more than two decades, he is an authority on business strategy, leadership and management. Not one to stay put in academia's ivory tower, Blake has served as an advisor on global business strategies and leadership development for major U.S. corporations such as AT&T, IBM and Alcoa, and also on boards of publicly-traded companies and smaller technology-based firms.
Even with all that expertise, Blake recognizes that getting the job done will require building upon the relationships he has created within both the academic and business communities.
"Our plans for future growth will involve a real partnership that is now being put together," Blake says. "It involves support from the state, the University of California and the UCI campus, and it will require support from the business community."
The school's exceptional approach to management education has already captured the attention of corporate and business leaders who value their interactions with the GSM. An advisory board comprising many of Orange County's top business executives, for instance, plays a major role by offering insights and expertise.
Dwight W. Decker, chairman and CEO of Conexant Systems, Inc., a communications and semiconductor company headquartered in Newport Beach, is a member of the advisory board. Last year, the company entered into a multi-year, multifaceted educational partnership with GSM that involves creation of a customized executive development program for the company's managers, internships at Conexant for MBA students, and a Conexant award recognizing excellence in teaching in the core curriculum of the full-time MBA program.
"Dean Blake plays the key role in the outreach to the business community," Decker says. "He's got a structured way to get engaged with all these people and companies to clearly make the Graduate School of Management as relevant as possible. That input helps to shape the curriculum and the strategic focus of the business school."
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