Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Setting the Pace: David Thomas, Dean of Georgetown's Business School, Reflects on Accomplishments and Goals

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Setting the Pace: David Thomas, Dean of Georgetown's Business School, Reflects on Accomplishments and Goals

Article excerpt

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Dean of the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University since August, Dr. David Thomas is a rarity--he is an African-American and he leads a top business school. He has taught at Harvard Business School and, before that, the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. He has co-written two books, including Breaking Through: The Making of Minority Executives in Corporate America.

DI: How did your previous career prepare you to be dean?

DT: I've spent my career looking at such issues as how companies develop, in particular, executives of color, how organizations change, what difference the leadership makes. These things are essentially what I am about today in this role, dean of a school that is very diverse and in the process of moving to the next level, which means change. I sit in my seat as an African-American executive.

I've had a successful career prior to coming here, which gives me credibility as an academic. I've won the highest awards in the Academy of Management. I've also been a department head and senior associate dean at Harvard.

DI: How does your position as an African-American dean of Georgetown's business school fit into the history of that deanship and also nationally?

DT: If you look at the top 25 business schools as ranked by U.S. News & World Report or Businessweek, there are only two African-American deans, myself and Peter Henry, who's at NYU. I think Peter was the first, and I'm the second--at least that I'm aware of. In that sense, it is significant.

I'm the first African-American dean at McDonough. The other piece that makes it significant is students of color, in particular, African-Americans, tell me it makes a difference to them to see someone who looks like them in this kind of leadership.

DI: Can you summarize the recent changes in the school's MBA curriculum and how they will better prepare graduates for the job market?

The changes really center around, once I came, my asking a task force of faculty, staff and students to look at our MBA program, with the purpose in mind to develop principled leaders with a global mindset prepared to serve both business and society.

Some aspects have to do with more integrated teaching. Business wants people who can solve problems, and problems aren't solved in intellectual silos. …

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