Business is About People

The academic year has officially come to a close, and I’m very proud to Welcome the more than 400 new members of the Kogod alumni community.


Since our commencement on May 10, I’ve had time to digest the words our speaker, Paul Diaz, BSBA ’84, had to share with our graduates.

Paul is CEO of Kindred Healthcare, the largest diversified provider of post-acute care in the United States. He is truly emblematic of Kogod’s belief that profit and purpose are not at odds. This is reflected in how he leads his company on a daily basis. Kindred has been named one of Fortune magazine’s “Most Admired Healthcare Companies” for six years in a row, largely due to Paul’s commitment to his employees.

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The Start of Something New

I hope the new year is off to a good start for you, especially for those of you who will be entering the workforce in 2014. Or perhaps you will be creating the workforce?

I recently read an article that suggests launching a startup is the new “first job” for many business students. This comes as no surprise, as I hear regularly from our professors about Kogod students who are already running their own businesses while in school.  And it’s not just the tech boom or selling a product online; current students and recent graduates are engaged in all manner of start-up businesses.

We have known for some time that new businesses are the vehicle for employment growth in the U.S.  They also offer the opportunity for exercising creativity, building something meaningful, and being your own boss.  Scary at times, but the outcomes can be very exciting – and profitable!

More and more new graduates are embracing the entrepreneurial spirit and building their dream company, instead of pounding the pavement to work for one. The Kogod School is supporting our students’ entrepreneurial inclinations through expanded programs including our Entrepreneurship minor.

We want to be sure we’re creating an environment that fosters our students’ ingenuity and entrepreneurial drive. With courses like Entrepreneurship and Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship, students leave Kogod with the skills to launch new profit and not-for-profit ventures.

While the Entrepreneurship Minor is new this academic year, the Entrepreneurship specialization has been a popular choice for BSBA students for quite some time, and I am confident we’ll see the same interest in the minor, both within Kogod and among students from other AU schools. We often see Entrepreneurship paired with a second specialization, such as Finance, a trend I expect will continue with the new minor and our other undergraduate degrees.

IMG_8553I am very pleased to see the launch of the Kogod Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Innovation (SEI) Initiative this academic year.

Led by my dedicated colleague, Professor Steve Holmberg, the goal is to provide early-stage resources—such as minimal overhead space and access to established mentors—to student venture teams to help them get off the ground.

Working with Steve on the SEI Initiative are Tommy White and Bill Bellows, both experienced entrepreneurs and Kogod executives-in-residence. Tommy earned his MBA from Kogod in 1995, going to school part-time while co-launching an international training and consulting firm, the Institute for Public-Private Partnerships. Bill is the co-founder of mobile applications developer OneWhitePixel and an expert in tech and mobile startups.

Thelma Venichand, BSBA '89, is just one example of a Kogod entrepreneur.
Thelma Venichand, BSBA ’89, is just one example of a Kogod entrepreneur.

Kogod has such a strong network of alumni entrepreneurs. From Tim Richards, MBA ’13, and his environmental champion ReefCam, to Thelma Venichand, BSBA ’89, and her clean cooking alternative CleanStar Mozambique, to Gary Veloric, BSBA ’82, and his musical start-up Red Stripe Plane Group, our alumni are satisfying the needs they see in the world.

I am excited about watching our new ventures move forward and I cannot wait to report back to you on their progress. In the meantime, please feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts, or reach out to me on twitter, @MichaelGinzberg.

Chào ban, Vietnam

Happy holiday season, everyone. Since the last time I wrote, I’ve logged some extensive travel time, spending a week in Vietnam.


Earlier this month, I traveled to Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi to explore opportunities for Kogod in terms of graduate and undergraduate recruitment and executive education.

While there, I toured and met with students at several Vietnamese high schools, both private and public, and was very impressed with their intellect, poise, and welcoming nature. They all seemed very honored that I traveled so far to visit them, especially as my trip coincided with President Obama’s visit to AU. Much was made of the fact that Obama was at American but I was visiting their classrooms.


As you may know, one of the largest communities of Vietnamese-Americans is located in the greater Washington, D.C. region, making Kogod’s location ideal for these bright students to come study.

We are now exploring a partnership with Northern Virginia Community College, where Vietnamese students could spend two years earning an Associate’s degree and satisfying our general education requirements before transferring to Kogod for their last two years to earn their bachelor’s degree. I’m hopeful this partnership will come to fruition, possibly as soon as next fall.


While in Hanoi, I also had the opportunity to meet with several large employers, including the equivalent of the Vietnamese Internal Revenue Service, to discuss executive education for their more than 80,000 employees. Now that we know of the interest on their side, our team at Kogod can begin exploring the options for such a program.

I also had the opportunity to meet with several of our alumni who live and work in Vietnam. It was wonderful to see how they were putting their skills to work in real estate development, financial services, manufacturing, and government.

All in all, I feel this was a successful trip. I’m confident that Kogod’s relationship with the people of Vietnam will continue to develop, and hopeful that by this time next year we may have new student pipelines in place that are mutually beneficial.


Fall Semester on Fast-forward

I need to apologize to my readers; it has been far too long since my last entry. I often have ideas I want to share with you, but finding the time to compose a thoughtful post has been difficult. In any case, the Fall semester has been busy, welcoming students to all our programs including our new MS in Marketing and BS in Business and Entertainment; and we have introduced two new MBA degrees to the market that will debut next Fall. (You may have seen the ads on buses whizzing by).

We were proud to host Steve Greenberg, founder of S-Curve Records, for the fall Alan Meltzer CEO Leadership Speaker Series event. Here I am with Steve and faculty program director for the the BAE, John Simson.
We were proud to host Steve Greenberg, founder of S-Curve Records, for the fall Alan Meltzer CEO Leadership Speaker Series event. Here I am with Steve and faculty program director for the the BAE, John Simson.

Our Full-time MBA has been redesigned to emphasize Kogod’s belief that profit and purpose are not at odds. We are well aware of the nationwide changes in the MBA marketplace. Students’ preferences in both curriculum and delivery are shifting. We have noticed and responded to those changes.

The new Full-time MBA deepens our emphasis on experience-based learning and provides more structured opportunities for students to meet with employers and alumni in the capital. We’ve built upon our global focus and added an international consulting project. I know it will prove to be valuable in the marketplace, and we are already seeing these changes pique prospective students’ interest.

Our Professional MBA will offer a morning cohort as a companion to our popular evening program. This is a truly unique offering unlike any other in Washington. It provides an additional option to the consistently expanding population of young and mid-career professionals in the city who are looking to advance their careers in management.

bus ad
Have you spotted any of our ads on buses or Metro stations around town?

We believe this will serve people who struggle to balance their career ambitions with personal commitments in the evenings. It will allow those folks with a flexible work schedule to attend class one morning a week and be done by 10 a.m.

The MBA is the cornerstone of a graduate business school, despite growing interest in Master of Science programs. We must be nimble and adapt our graduate portfolio, to assure that it remains accessible and relevant to the talented students in our city.

I commit to writing on this blog more frequently, and I hope you will pipe in with your comments and suggestions.  In about two weeks, I will be going to Vietnam to explore opportunities for Kogod to provide programs that meet that country’s educational needs at the undergraduate, graduate and executive levels. I will be tweeting while I am there. Follow me at @MichaelGinzberg.

In the meantime, if one of our new programs is of interest to you, consider our upcoming information session on December 4. Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Remember, You Are Kogod

As always, this year’s commencement was a wonderful morning of celebrating the newest members of the Kogod alumni community. It was my privilege to address the graduates, their families, President Kerwin, and all others in attendance.

Below is a video of my graduation speech. Some highlights are:

  • Recognizing retiring Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Robert Thompson (0:45)
  • Addressing accomplishments of MBA graduate Tim Richards and his ReefCam project (1:58)
  • My charge to the new graduates (4:02)

Kogod Dean Michael Ginzberg – Commencement 2013 from American University on Vimeo.

Welcoming spring, new students and new rankings

We are finally feeling the warmth of spring on the AU campus after what felt like a very long winter. This is an especially busy and exciting time of year, as we prepare to say goodbye to our graduates while simultaneously welcoming admitted and prospective students who are visiting campus.


Freshman Day
Prospective students get to know Kogod on Freshman Day.

Recently the University held Freshman Day for incoming undergraduates, when our staff and faculty were able to meet with them and their families.

I must take a moment to brag about our undergraduate education. It has been clear to me for some time that AU is an exceptional place for undergraduate students. At Kogod specifically, our program has seen increasing recognition over the last few years. BusinessWeek recently ranked Kogod the No. 56 “Best Undergraduate B-School” in the country, the third straight year we saw an increase. And today, it was announced that Kogod is No. 1 in sustainability.

Of course, rankings don’t always tell the full story. To me, one of Kogod’s biggest strengths is reflected when we partner with our colleagues across the quad.

Take our Business, Language & Culture Studies (BLC) degree, which incorporates a foreign language requirement through the College of Arts & Sciences and a required study abroad experience. One of our BLC students, was in the audience at our spring CEO Speaker Series event, which featured CEO Rudolf Araneda of the Chilean energy company GasAtacama. I was proud to listen to the informed and impressive questions she asked Rudolf, and to hear her engage with other Chilean officials who were present at the reception that followed, in their native language. It is easy to spot the value of the BLC degree in exchanges like that one.

I am also proud to announce Kogod’s new BS in Business and Entertainment (BAE) degree program. This is another program made possible by a cross-campus partnership. It is a sweeping update to our BS in Business and Music program, and it provides more opportunities for students who want to enter other sectors of the entertainment industry, such as talent management, film, or audio technology. BAE students will take courses in the College of Arts & Sciences and in the School of Communication, in addition to Kogod.


John Simson will head the new BAE degree program.
John Simson will head the new BAE degree program.

I am thrilled that John Simson, who has taught with us for several years now, has agreed to serve as Program Director. John has a wealth of experience as an entertainment lawyer. He has managed talent. He was on the front lines of the copyright battles, protecting artists’ interests in the digital age. And he founded and directed SoundExchange, the nonprofit that collects royalties from streaming recordings. I know that our BAE students will benefit greatly from his experience; John’s deep network of industry contacts allows for exceptional classroom speakers.

We’ll have another such speaker to look forward to on May 12, as we welcome Gary Veloric as our Commencement speaker. A mergers and acquisitions expert, Gary brought music to campus as a student in the ‘80s and is now reliving his love of spreading music at his record label, Red Stripe Plane Group.

As I travel across the country meeting with admitted students in cities like Raleigh and Atlanta, I am pleased to share news of degrees like these, along with our other valuable programs. I am also glad to share our strategic vision, that profit and purpose are not at odds, with these folks. It is satisfying to see and hear their very positive reactions when I tell them what sets us apart, conveying the unique community that is Kogod.

The Business of Measuring Peace

Peace and business may seem an unlikely pairing to some. But to those gathered at Kogod last week for the inaugural Peace Metrics conference, it was a natural combination.

IEP Panel
Jennifer Oetzel, Jerry White, and Steve Killelea.

We were proud to host almost 100 people—faculty, researchers, practitioners, and some impressive students—as co-sponsors along with the Institute for Economics and Peace. These folks came to Kogod to discuss not only how to achieve peace where it does not exist; they also seek to measure levels of peace, to better understand its variability.

Steve Killelea, executive chairman of the IEP—a person with an impressive list of achievements—kicked off the event. We were also privileged to have Jerry White from the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations at the State Department join us. The two spoke at the opening plenary alongside Associate Professor Jennifer Oetzel, who organized the conference. Jennifer’s research is focused on how businesses can manage risk in disasters or violent conflict—very appropriate for the assembled group.

The attendees covered a truly global range of topics, including the role of private property investment in post-conflict reconstruction; mobile technology for the business environment in Uganda; market violence in Mexico; land use planning and large-scale agribusiness deals.

The central belief, repeatedly reinforced was that business doesn’t exist simply for profit—there is a higher and greater purpose. I was pleased to see so many remarkable people working diligently to call attention to that belief. It is certainly the prevailing nature at Kogod, which we have identified through the school’s strategic vision, that profit and purpose are not at odds.


Dean Michael Ginzberg
I learned a great deal from the speakers during the conference.

I left the Friday sessions with a new appreciation for both the academic and on-the-ground work on business and peace being done around the world. Many of the people I met had come to D.C. for the conference from far-off destinations. They are committed to the idea that business and peace can bolster one another.

The conference reinforced for me our central belief about the importance of profit and purpose in today’s business environment. Our alumni demonstrate this through their activities in many industries and sectors of the economy; our students are learning this in the classroom and from events like this one.

We will continue to explore this very important issue through our faculty’s research and conferences, as we did last week.

FAST: Small Firms’ Role in D.C.’s Economic Development

A little over two miles away from Kogod, on MacArthur Boulevard, is the headquarters of BioScan. It’s a 30 year-old technology firm I had the pleasure of visiting last week, along with D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and members of his economic development team and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The mayor was there to announce an initiative that will help small firms like BioScan connect to funding opportunities through the Federal and State Technology (FAST) grant program. The groundbreaking equipment that BioScan manufactures facilitates life sciences research and informs the development of medical treatments.

Such small firms are often at a disadvantage when competing for Federal research and development awards, even though there are 11 federal agencies that give out more than $2.5 billion each year.

I was present to offer Kogod’s full support to the effort, which is part of the city’s strategy to expand the growth of high-paying, sustainable jobs. Specifically, the mayor’s economic development plan calls for 100,000 new jobs over five years. His goal is for the District to become the largest technology center on the East Coast. Last summer, I supported the city’s Department of Small and Local Business Development with its application for the grant.

The mayor spoke of the need for key partners in the academic sector, and said he would involve “the best universities in our innovation efforts.” In fact, Kogod students have already been involved, in the form of internships with the mayor’s office, conducting field research with businesses in the city.

When she spoke, Bridget Bean, district director for the U.S. SBA, said there was “no better place to start a business than the District of Columbia.” I’ve spoken to many entrepreneurs, alumni, and future business leaders who would agree. My new strategic vision for Kogod also prioritizes the advancement of entrepreneurs and innovation in the areas of green- and clean-technology and numerous other fields, right here in D.C.


A New Vision for Kogod

Since my last post, I’ve been swept up in the rush of the fall semester, just as our students are. On the docket were travels to New York (for our annual Wall Street trip), the renewal of our AACSB accreditation, and finalizing Kogod’s new strategic vision, among other things.

I am very eager to share the strategic vision with you. The vision is the result of an inclusive process that involved input from all our constituents, including alumni. The challenge was to find something that organically reflected the strengths of our community, and will prove to be a market differentiator for our school.

This new vision will provide a roadmap for everyone at Kogod—faculty, staff, others—to be working in the direction I have laid out.

As I worked with various groups to identify our strengths, the resulting vision naturally unfolded. As I presented the idea to various stakeholders, it was met time and again with nods of approval.

Our new vision is built upon Kogod’s commitment to the belief that profit and purpose are not at odds. We fundamentally believe that future business leaders need to be able to think carefully about the sustainability and impact of their company’s operations. Our graduates will be best prepared to lead in private and public sectors, and they will understand and demonstrate the balance between profit and purpose.

We have always built the Kogod education on strong business fundamentals, but we will enhance them with:

  • Making experiential learning, which is already occurring across the school, a top priority.
  • Creating a deeper understanding of the roles private, public, and nonprofit organizations play, and how they are connected to one another.
  • Further developing a global perspective in our students.

These three pillars will provide the structure for infusing the vision into all we do, and will become a distinct part of all our degree programs.

As I get together with business leaders and share this with them, their feedback is consistently positive.

When I recently met with the CEO of a major energy company in South America, I told him that Kogod believes profit and purpose are not at odds, and this belief will help our students be more successful. He stopped me and said, “No. You are wrong.”

I looked at him, surprised, until he continued: “You cannot be successful in the long run unless you believe that.”

As we forge ahead with implementing the vision, we will be looking for new ways to grow Kogod’s presence in Washington, D.C. and globally. We’ll be exploring the possibility of new research centers, new partnerships, and piloting new ideas. I will update you on our progress, dear readers, and I encourage you to email me with your thoughts.

Welcome Back From Your Summer “Off”

A hearty welcome back to our returning students, and a special greeting to our new ones. Whether you’re a freshman or a new graduate student, starting your first fall semester is an exciting and potentially overwhelming time. Know that our excellent staff and faculty are here to support you. Seek out their assistance if you have questions, or just want to expand your network.

At the graduate student reception, Friday, August 24.

I’m especially looking forward to hearing about the internships, jobs, and experiences that our students had this summer. I recently authored a column for an information systems publication on the future of the IS field—my own academic background. One of the things I wrote was about the importance of real world application and practice for students. It’s a philosophy I have held for a long time.

Whether you spent the summer working with the mayor’s office to identify opportunities for economic development (as Andrew Olson and Erin Monahan, MBA ’13 did); or traveling to Tunisia to work with would-be entrepreneurs (like seven AU graduate students); or interning at one of many impressive companies in DC, New York, or beyond, like so many of our undergraduate students, that experience is a vital piece of your education. (We even had a pair of students intern in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia!).

That’s why when we review and update the curriculum for our courses, we are actively seeking experiential learning opportunities for Kogod students. It’s important to be in touch with what’s really going on in the marketplace—where the rubber meets the road, so to speak.

I wish you all the best for a challenging and rewarding fall semester.