Dean Hugh Sherman Reflects on His Time with the College of Business

Dean Sherman shares his experiences in the College of Business and how the college has changed and successfully transformed under his leadership.

Over the past 13 years, Dean Hugh Sherman has provided a strategic vision for the College of Business’s undergraduate and graduate academic operations, research, prospective student recruitment, alumni relations, fundraising, and industry relations.

Before his time as dean comes to a close, content intern Bri Schoepf (virtually) sat down with Dr. Sherman to reflect on his experience leading one of the best business schools in the nation.

Below, Dean Sherman shares his experiences in the College of Business and how the college has changed and successfully transformed under his leadership.

Schoepf: What accomplishments are you most proud of that occurred in the college throughout the past 13 years under your leadership?

Sherman: We have an incredibly talented group of faculty and staff who are dedicated to our students’ success. The faculty are outstanding teachers and committed researchers staying current in their respective fields, who spend time inside and outside of class helping students to develop a portfolio of knowledge and experiences that will help them be successful in whatever career they wish to pursue. We also have a deep bench of talented leaders who are our associate deans, department chairs, center directors, and program directors.

The evidence to support our claim to be focused on student success has been our Bloomberg Business Ranking, which is specifically based on student success outcomes. These measures include student placement, average starting salaries, corporate recruiters’ evaluation of our graduates versus others they hire, and students’ evaluation of the number and quality of their learning experiences. The last year that Bloomberg decided the rankings, we had moved up every year until we reached the 15th best public undergraduate business school in the nation.

The practices that we put in place to achieve these rankings are still being utilized today. They include an innovative experiential-based curriculum, a career management program based on best practice, and an internship requirement for all undergraduate students. The college also stays closely aligned to the business profession through having 12 actively engaged advisory boards for our departments and six centers of excellence. These boards help us to prioritize key curriculum changes and application experiences that our students need to have, as well as help us to develop internship opportunities for our students.

Additionally, in 2007, the college had three existing centers of excellence (covering sports administration, international business, and professional sales). Over the years we also added centers for entrepreneurship, strategic leadership, and consumer research and analytics. The activities of all six centers have been greatly expanded and are focused on providing personalized professional development and leadership opportunities, consulting and industry research experiences, as well as additional internships and placement opportunities.

Schoepf: In addition to the college’s high ranking and its expansion of three more centers, what other major accomplishments occurred during your time as dean?

Sherman: The college has expanded graduate enrollments from less than 100 to over 1,100 in the last ten years and has a tradition of developing some very innovative programs. In the late 1990s, the MBA Without Boundaries program was one of the first hybrid MBA programs in the nation and was built around problem-based learning pedagogy. The dean at the time, John Stinson, and faculty members John Day and Dave Kirch worked together to design and deliver this program. While it was the first of its kind, it attracted nine or ten cohorts, initially of 20-30 students, but the program did not grow and was eventually discontinued. However, it did give some of our faculty and administrators experience in online delivery relatively early.

Over the next ten years, it became clear that the market for graduate professional degrees was going to change dramatically and in the direction that the MBA Without Boundaries had predicted. Working professionals were less willing or able to quit their jobs and go back to school full time to acquire a graduate degree, which we heard from our alumni and corporate recruiters.

It became clear to us in 2009 that there was a major opportunity for us to develop a hybrid and online graduate degree program. Many people were still skeptical about online education at the time, so we tested it by starting with a hybrid professional MBA program located in Columbus. This program was successful and proved that we could offer a high-quality program for our students. As a result, we then launched a fully online program that offered three in-person leadership development weekend programs in Athens.

While many people were involved in the success of these programs, Ed Yost played a key early role, patiently overcoming the barriers that we encountered internally and externally. This program was extremely successful, and we are now enrolling about 650 students even in the current competitive market.

In recent years, we have continued to add additional specialty business graduate programs, including the most recent launch of our Master of Science in Management, which allows students to choose from different certificates and ‘stack’ them into a degree that better meets their career objectives.

Schoepf: What have you enjoyed most about being dean?

I have loved my time in the College of Business and at Ohio University. I have found this time to be intellectually challenging and personally rewarding. I have so many wonderful colleagues across the campus and, most importantly, in the college. Having been at the University for over 20 years, means that I have countless friendships with people who are currently here, as well as some who have retired and others who have advanced in their careers moving to other institutions.

I have so many fond memories of times spent with colleagues, alumni, and students at events, social gatherings, and graduations. There has also been countless dinners, weddings, and social events—from seasonal themed parties to poker and euchre parties with colleagues. I’ve also had many great memories of traveling with students and colleagues to countries around the world. I cannot imagine having a better life than I have had.

Schoepf: Speaking of these great memories, what’s one of your most humorous memories over the years?

Sherman: Two years ago, we spent one night in Budapest, Hungary, before going to Pecs to participate in a research program at the University of Pecs. Andy Fodor wanted to get a tattoo, but Adam Rapp was a little nervous about the safety of going to an unfamiliar tattoo parlor, so he insisted on going also. Colin Gabler and I did some sightseeing and then found a great restaurant for the four of us to have dinner. Apparently one of the added benefits of the place Andy and Adam went to was free beer. As a result, Adam and Andy were delayed. Colin and I kept calling them because the restaurant was going to stop serving food. Colin and I had to order something while we waited, so we kept ordering more wine. It was a fun night, which ended at a casino. The three of them got overly enthusiastic about a card game we were playing and the owner told us we must settle down or leave. Colin, Andy, and Adam remember this part of the story differently.

Schoepf: Looking back, what is the one thing you hope people will remember about you being dean?

Sherman: I hope that my colleagues will remember me for having integrity, being passionate, being concerned about making progress for the college and University, and that I always had the success of our students in mind when we made decisions.

Schoepf: Now that your time as dean is concluding, what is your hope for the future of the College of Business and Ohio University?

Sherman: We have seen a continuing acceleration of technological change. Our world is characterized by the continued exponential growth of computing power and internet connectivity providing the world’s information within a click of any of our devices. Over the next 10-15 years, automation and artificial intelligence technologies will transform the workplace. A 2018 McKinsey Global Institute study predicts existing technologies will be able to automate up to 45% of the work done by humans by 2030.

Given these changes, education is even more important for the students and society that we serve, but these changes are demanding a very different educational experience for our students in terms of what and how we teach. The old model, focusing on content knowledge and measuring a student’s learning by seat time and setting a prescribed set of courses arranged around majors and minors, is much less meaningful.

Competencies including critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, technology literacy, cross disciplinary, and social/emotional leadership skills are much more important.

My hope is that the college and University will embrace this exciting time to fundamentally reshape the educational experience for our students so that they can be successful, contributing members of this changing society.

January 28, 2021
Bri Schoepf