Episode 204 — 100 Years of Impact at Ross
On this episode of the Business and Society podcast, three professors emeritus from the Ross School of Business, George Siedel, Thomas Kinnear, and B. Joseph White discuss the Ross School of Business centennial and the impact they witnessed in their historic careers. Through stories of their tenure, the panel explores Ross’ impact on business school curriculum, research, industry, and society.
For a majority of the podcast, the panel shares what makes Ross truly remarkable, primarily the interaction between students, professors, alums, and the administration. When all four groups can connect, Ross leads the way in many aspects of business education, from preparing the next generation of organizational leaders to cutting-edge research.
One major topic of the conversation was how the curriculum and education of the student body has changed over the years. The focus on harnessing 'knowledge into action' shaped the school's pioneering approach to multidisciplinary action projects, guiding students to be more value-driven and effective in real-world applications. Action-based projects like fieldwork learning have become ubiquitous in business schools worldwide, positioning Ross as a curricular trendsetter.
Another change touched on is the influence of technology in the classroom, particularly how it has revolutionized the teaching and learning process in the last 50 years, from classroom dynamics to massive open online courses.
“If you walked into a classroom when the school was founded in 1924, the classrooms were over in Tappan Hall. I think it's one of the oldest buildings on campus; they called it the ‘Little Red Schoolhouse.’ And then, 50 years later, when Joe, Tom, and I arrived, you walked into a classroom in what we called the tower. Very little had changed,” said Siedel. “Maybe a few people had overhead projectors, but very little had changed in that 50 years but then fast forward 50 years from 1974 to 2023, and a huge number of changes, a huge amount of our time in preparing for class nowadays relates to technology.”
Another shift the panel explored was the changes they have seen in academic research from the business school. Research at the Ross has undergone significant transformation over the years. The evolution of research has facilitated the emergence of numerous sub-domains within the study of business. The diversification that started about 25 years ago now encompasses a broad range of data-intensive, concept-driven, managerial, and policy-oriented research sections.
“I think Ross's willingness to engage with more mathematical, quantitative, bring in other disciplines in sociology, psychology, all the behavioral sciences to improve the nature of what we taught in the courses and what we did in our research,” said Kinnear. “And I think we were one of the leaders in making all that happen, which is, in my view, one of the great contributions of Ross to become more analytical, behavioral, quantitative but practical. A lot of the schools went off the deep end on that and left out the word practical. The ability to integrate all of those, to me, is one of the great contributions to business education.”
As the panel explores, there has been a noticeable shift in how the faculty shares its research findings, particularly the movement toward national thought leadership. While traditionally, peer-reviewed journals and academic textbooks were the primary channels, now the professors share their research through diverse media platforms like podcasts, social media, and op-eds. Bestselling books by faculty members, which were once seen as an academic compromise, are now celebrated as a means of reaching broader audiences. However, the focus remains on balancing both academic and popular writings to maintain the rigorous demands of scholarly research.
To close the conversation, the panel explores what defines a Michigan Ross student. Siedel, Kinnear, and White examine why alums are accomplished individuals known for their hard work, intelligence, and modesty. They each translate their praise of the students by recounting stories of Ross graduates who have excelled in various fields, including entrepreneurship, governance, and community service.
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Business Beyond Usual: Full-time MBA students at Michigan Ross tackle burning issues on campus and the world beyond. In every episode, the student hosts discuss a topic of importance for current and prospective students through interviews with current students, alumni, faculty, and administrators.
Working for the Weekend: A deep dive into the daily life of part-time MBAs at Michigan Ross. Weekend and online MBA students discuss their experiences and advice for prospective and current students.
Down to Business: Join Dean Sharon Matusik as she interviews Michigan Ross alums in the C-Suite to learn how Ross set them on a path to organizational leadership.
About the participants
Hosts: JT Godfrey
Producers: JT Godfrey and Jeff Karoub
Guests: Tom Kinnear, Joe White, George Siedel
Audio Engineer: Jonah Brockman