Meet the Dean: MBA Students Interview Sharon Matusik for Business Beyond Usual Podcast
This was Dean Matusik’s first appearance on the student-led podcast since her arrival at the school in August 2022. On this episode, Dean Matusik and the hosts delve into many compelling topics, from what differentiates Ross from other top business schools to her vision for Ross and hopes for the school’s future. The dean also talked about her career path prior to getting into higher education, and her background as a first-generation student.
The Business Beyond Usual podcast, started in 2016, is hosted by a rotating roster of Ross Full-Time MBA students that aim to tackle burning issues in the business education world — from life in Ann Arbor to the reality of recruiting.
Student hosts produce full episodes twice a month during the fall and winter, and shorter “Ross Weekly” mini-episodes highlighting student organizations and events throughout the year. The goal of the podcast is to share a slice of what life is like for MBA students at Ross with people around the world that may be considering attending Michigan Ross for a graduate degree.
0:00:05.0 John Brown: Welcome to Business Beyond Usual. My name is John Brown and we're recording live from the Ross School of Business once again. I'm here with my fellow section three mate and co-host David Amorim. And today we're gonna be chatting with Michigan Ross Dean Sharon Matusik. So David, before we put the dean in the hot seat, I'm gonna put you in the hot seat. How goes MAP?
0:00:26.6 David Amorim: I'm really glad you asked that. MAP is actually going wonderfully well. I'm doing a project at Microsoft Xbox, and for those who've been listening to this podcast for a while, you're probably tired with my voice, number one. And two, you know how passionate I am about media, entertainment, and gaming. And so it's been a dream come true. The team came together and we've been just having a great time working with the Xbox team. So before we get started, we want to encourage you to get in touch. We always love engaging with our listeners and we love to hear from you. Send us a message at email@example.com. That's firstname.lastname@example.org or follow us on Instagram @Ross_bbu. That's @Ross_bbu. And feel free to DM us there as well. Ask us questions, suggest episode topics, or just say hello. We'll spend some time at the beginning of each show reading some of your messages and answering any questions you have.
0:01:23.5 DA: So, we usually start the podcast hearing about our guests' remarkable backgrounds. And in the spirit of that tradition, we'd like for all of us here to share where we're from, our pre-Ross background, what we're involved in at Ross and the Ann Arbor community. So I'll start. My name is David Amorim. I'm one of your hosts. Originally from Brazil, coming from a consulting background, but like I mentioned, very passionate about gaming and entertainment, which today's a long-term goal for me. Will go back to consulting after Ross but excited to work on that goal after leaving here.
0:02:00.2 JB: All right. And then I'll kick us off next. My name is John Brown, originally from the Hampton Roads area, Virginia. My pre-Ross background is in the Marine Corps. I actually left active duty at the Pentagon where I was using artificial intelligence and machine learning to help the Marines make better maintenance decisions. I wanted to be in control of my transition, so I talked to a few friends and they said MBA's the route to go. Interviewed at four schools. Ross had the culture that matched what I wanted to do, so I chose Ross. Here I'm involved in multiple things; the Armed Forces Association Out for Business, of course, the podcast, which is really cool. And then I am interested in brand management roles. I eventually wanna migrate to entertainment like David as well. But in the meantime, I will be interning at the Clorox Company in the Bay Area this summer. And then Dean Matusik, we will pass it on to you.
0:02:49.7 Sharon Matusik: Hi, I'm Sharon Matusik. I'm the dean here at the Ross School of Business. Started here back in August. And my pre-Ross background, gosh, now, how much time do you have? So I actually grew up in the Chicago area, lived in a lot of areas around the US. A lot of the tech and entrepreneurship spaces. I lived in the Boston Route 128 area. Lived in Silicon Valley. Lived in San Francisco. Worked in consulting for a while and then got my PhD up at University of Washington in Seattle. So it's probably no surprise that innovation and entrepreneurship are things that I care a lot about. My first academic job was at Rice University in Houston, Texas. And then I served on the faculty and as dean at University of Colorado Boulder for 18 years before coming to Ross. So, lots of time zones and lots of different experiences in terms of making my way over here to Ross.
0:03:40.7 JB: Awesome. We're so glad to have you too.
0:03:42.4 DA: Absolutely. And Dean Matusik, we have a number of questions here that we prepared for you, but I think we'd like to start with something light. And we talked a little bit about our passions about media and entertainment. And so how about we start with, what are we currently watching or reading, and let's start with you.
0:04:00.4 SM: All right. Well, I have to confess. I love Ted Lasso.
0:04:04.8 JB: Oh my God, that's such a good show.
0:04:05.2 SM: So I'm watching Ted Lasso right now and pretty excited about that. When I finish Ted Lasso, I'm moving on to Succession which is another show that...
0:04:13.1 DA: Okay. Absolutely.
0:04:15.1 SM: I find very interesting. So those, I would say, are high on my list. Other things I like to do when I'm not helping to drive the Ross School forward and meeting and working with our great students, I like a good political thriller, like in the James Patterson, Tom Clancy type genre.
0:04:31.9 JB: Yeah. Okay.
0:04:33.6 SM: Yeah. Kind of escapist, seeing what's going on behind the scenes in the world out there.
0:04:38.6 DA: Absolutely. Well, glad to hear. Tom Clancy is actually one of my favorite authors as well. Hunt for Red October, is one of my favorite books. I come from a military family. My dad and my grandparents were in the military. So anyway, Tom Clancy just became a big passion. But in my case, I, probably mono-thematic. Love gaming. So I've just watched The Last of Us. Also played Last of Us Two, which is a sequel to that show, which is what I was doing. What about you, John?
0:05:08.1 JB: So just like the dean, I'm a big Ted Lasso fan. I got hooked on it kind of late, and then I just binge watched all the seasons up until the current point. Such a phenomenal show. Jason Sudeikis is just amazing in there. Also been watching BEEF, which is a new show on Netflix. One of the awesome things about this is executive produced by Ali Wong and Steven Yeun from The Walking Dead fame. And it focuses around both of them as characters who like road rage and then it's just the after effects of that road rage. So it's a pretty good show. And of course, my nerdy part, I'm really big into The Mandalorian, so I've been enjoying that. I'm big into political thrillers as well. I'm a huge Vince Flynn fan. I've been reading his novels since he started writing. Unfortunately, he passed away but his legacy's being carried on through Kyle Mills and he's really just done the series well. So that's my go-to.
0:06:02.9 DA: Awesome. Well, thanks for sharing everyone. So we want to talk a little bit about you Dean Matusik. And we have a few questions for you. We wanna start with your educational background. So you earned your bachelor of arts in economics and english with honors from Colby College and a PhD in strategic management from the University of Washington School of Business. As a first generation college student, how did you maneuver through the rigors of academics and how does that influence your decision making now?
0:06:30.6 SM: It's a great question. So I am a first-gen college student. In terms of background. My dad worked on an assembly line for General Motors. My mom grew up in an immigrant family. She was a valedictorian of her high school.
0:06:42.7 DA: Wow.
0:06:43.4 SM: And a great violinist. And she got a partial scholarship to Northwestern, because I grew up in the Chicago area and her family told her that college was not for girls. So my parents worked incredibly hard to make sure my sister and I had the education that they didn't have.
0:07:00.7 JB: Absolutely.
0:07:00.8 SM: And so that's just opened incredible opportunities for me. One of the examples that was just so powerful is, not too long ago, I had the opportunity to meet Mary Barra, who's the CEO of GM and just reflecting on, wow, what opportunities I've had because of education. My father working on an assembly line for GM, like he would've never imagined that someday I would be sitting down with the CEO of GM.
0:07:26.4 DA: Yeah.
0:07:26.9 SM: Just incredible. So, I mean, at the end of the day, that's what motivates me day in and day out. The fact that I can help others open up opportunities for themselves through education is just such a powerful thing. And such a powerful role, I think, that higher education plays in our society by providing economic opportunities for people and social mobility through education, I think, is just incredibly powerful.
0:07:52.7 DA: Yeah, absolutely. And I think you already started answering this next question. You have experience in business and consulting and education, but you are living out a career in education right now. Did you always want to be an educator? Always wanted to build a career in education? How did that happen?
0:08:09.5 SM: Yeah, I would say no. I consider myself somewhat of an accidental, administrator on the business side. Back to your point, my path was, I graduated from undergrad, econ and english. I worked in benefits consulting for a while and I had a really nice life. I reflect on the office that I left in San Francisco when I went to get my PhD and said to myself, "My God, what have I done?" I had a beautiful office in San Francisco, floored ceiling windows looking over on the Bay and I left that to go back and get my PhD. But part of that was, I got to a point where it's pretty clear what the path was forward and it was a fine path, but I was reflecting on, is this a path that I wanted to be on longer term? And so, I reflected on what I liked about my job.
0:09:00.5 DA: Yeah.
0:09:00.7 SM: And I liked the teaching part. I had done a fair bit of corporate training as part of my job. And also in consulting, I got really interested in how you could have two companies trying to do the same thing. One, it would be really successful, another not so much. And so the whys behind that were really interesting to me. So I made that connection that if you got a PhD, you could study that all day long. And so, that's really what drove me kind of that and that more deliberate analysis of what I did and didn't like about my career and how I wanted to drive that forward.
0:09:33.5 SM: And then also, just reflecting on the bigger question of what kind of impact do I wanna make through my life? And because education had been such an opportunity to open up avenues for me that I never would've had otherwise. That pull of being able to help others in a way that had been just so instrumental to me was very powerful. So that's really what drove me to become a faculty member. And then fast forward. So I did that for many years and had a great career. Love interacting with students, loved the research piece. And then when I was at University of Colorado in Boulder, there was an unexpected turnover of the dean and the senior associate dean in relatively short order. And so essentially, the provost came over to the business school and said, "Hey, full professors, someone needs to...
0:10:27.2 JB: Step up.
0:10:27.5 SM: "...move us forward as we work through this transition." And long story short, that's kind of what moved me onto the administrative track. And I just really loved it. To me one, it's a different way of interacting with students.
0:10:42.5 DA: Yeah, absolutely.
0:10:43.7 SM: That goes beyond the students that are in your classroom. And then beyond that, I love meeting with our alumni, corporate partners, people out in the business world. I love hearing about the amazing things that they've done. I especially love when they wanna give back through higher-ed in terms of helping to really build out those foundations that all of our students can benefit from.
0:11:04.7 DA: Shifting gears here a little bit and talking about your experience as an educator, during the End The Gap experience, you discussed that two of your top initiatives are building a bridge between the business and engineering schools and DEI. And the question is, one, what is End The Gap? And two, why are these top priorities to you and what are some of your other goals and vision as dean?
0:11:25.6 SM: Yeah. Yeah. The End The Gap initiative that I started at Colorado was about trying to get, our business school population to look more like the population at large. And gosh, the world is changing. And so we wanna make sure that one, back to this idea of economic inclusion, which I benefited so greatly from myself, we wanna make sure that we are providing opportunities for people to make their way in the world through education. And to me that's just critically important is having an educational environment where all people can thrive and benefit. And even people coming from a majority background, the world is changing. Everyone needs to understand how to interact with a wide variety of different kinds of people to drive things forward. So that's critically important in every possible way to provide opportunities to make sure people that are leading our organizations in the future know how to really bring out the best in everyone and use that to drive the world forward. And business plays such a critical role in driving that world forward.
0:12:31.6 SM: And then in terms of working, with the school of engineering. When I was at Colorado, we actually built a physical building that connected the business school over to engineering. And part of that is if you look at what's happening in the world, and you see this through all of your classes and the activities you are both engaged with, boy, that world of business and the world of technology are converging.
0:12:54.2 JB: Yes. Definitely.
0:12:54.3 JB: And when everyone's talking about ChatGPT, that's just the latest chapter. But those worlds are coming together. And so if we think about business schools as a critical vehicle in terms of preparing people who are going to lead us forward, boy, you all need to be able to be comfortable in that intersection. And if you think about it from the perspective of the business leader, boy, you have to know technology. You have to know how to manage a technology staff. You need to think about how does this affect your workforce and how you need to drive your organizations forward. From the engineering side, it's great to have that deep technical expertise. And if those engineers also know how to put those skills to productive use in a business organization, that just puts them on a whole other career trajectory. To me, it's so important to the future and it's the way that we're gonna provide really amazing opportunities for students both from the technical side as well as the business side.
0:13:52.3 DA: And you've literally connected the two schools, right? Building that... [chuckle]
0:13:55.9 SM: That's right.
0:13:56.6 DA: Connection between the buildings.
0:13:57.6 SM: Yeah.
0:13:58.1 DA: And I guess just one last follow up question about that, how was that integration between the business and engineering schools?
0:14:03.5 SM: It was fantastic. And part of what we did in the building space, we thought about how do we integrate curriculum activities. But part of what the space allowed us to do is also create opportunities for those informal interactions. There was a big innovation in entrepreneurship hub space in the building, a coffee shop. And so the idea would be it becomes seamless in terms of you're hanging out and studying, and there's someone the next table over who might be an engineering student...
0:14:31.2 DA: Absolutely.
0:14:32.0 SM: ...you start talking about what you're working on. And those informal interactions are also very important.
0:14:37.2 DA: Matters, yeah.
0:14:37.7 SM: Now, as you know on our campus, engineering is up on north campus. And still sorting through details.
0:14:42.7 DA: That'd be a long hallway, connecting.
0:14:44.6 SM: But we're working on it. We're working on it.
0:14:46.2 JB: Yeah, absolutely.
0:14:46.8 SM: I really enjoy the interactions that I've had with our college of engineering here. And Alec Gallimore has done a terrific job with the school of engineering. Looking at how do we build out those interactions and recognizing that the physical space is a little bit different here than what I had to work with in Colorado. But I think there's just tremendous opportunities there. And engineering is a great partner to the business school.
0:15:10.3 JB: And one of the cool things about that is you staying with growth, and change and everything's changing. And I think that that physical space is gonna present some very interesting challenges and opportunities. So we're gonna dive a little bit into your vision as the dean. So looking at where you were as Leeds dean, the school saw a substantial increases in student achievement, diversity in this faculty fundraising and community engagement. How do you plan to bring those same results to Ross?
0:15:39.3 SM: Yeah. Yeah. It's a great question. It's been a great few months getting up to speed on everything. So, for those of you who've geek out on your strategy class, that's my field strategy and entrepreneurship and I take very much of a resource-based perspective, meaning you gotta really know what are the resources and capabilities here in a deep way to figure out how do we really leverage those to take Ross to the next level and into the future. Some of the things that I think really stand out to me as I reflect on that is one, the importance of financial accessibility. This gets back to diversity and inclusion and how do we think about that? A big piece of that is making sure that if you're qualified to get into Ross, you're not going someplace else because of the price tag. And I'm not saying we have to be the cheapest, we don't, but you need to be in that ballpark. And especially if you're talking about bringing together people from all sorts of different backgrounds.
0:16:36.9 SM: Right now we're not where I would like us to be in terms of that ability to be financially accessible to a wide range of people. Just using the undergrad population as an example, if you look at out-of-state tuition, you guys might know this, but Michigan is the most expensive public out-of-state.
0:16:58.9 JB: Whoa.
0:17:00.7 SM: Period. Full stop.
0:17:00.8 DA: Yeah. I didn't know that.
0:17:01.8 JB: No, I didn't either.
0:17:02.6 SM: We still have room to do better in Michigan, but we do a little bit better in Michigan. And we have the Michigan Promise which is for families whose income is below $65,000 but that still leaves a lot of people who are maybe above $65k, but it's expensive. So that's Michigan. But then when you look outside of Michigan, I think that if you're coming from a financial need background in Houston or LA or Chicago, you might not even be applying to Ross because you look at that price tag and you think, "I can't ask my family to do that."
0:17:38.6 DA: Yeah.
0:17:39.1 SM: So, I think that financial accessibility piece is one very important. It's not the only component, but one very important component that we can do better at in terms of meeting our goals for having an environment where everyone can thrive, everyone can succeed, and people have the benefit of a Ross education which is just really a tremendous education.
0:18:00.0 JB: Definitely.
0:18:00.7 SM: That's something that I've been thinking about. Also I've been working on how do we make sure that this is a place where people can do their best work so that extends to the students but also to our faculty and staff. So how do we look at our organizational design and what we're doing from a community belonging and wellness perspective to make sure that this is a place where... We have absolutely amazing faculty and staff and I wanna make sure that this is the place where they can do their absolute best work.
0:18:29.0 SM: And then another thing that I think is really important is also raising our global visibility and impact. So some of the great things that we're doing here, I think that we can be a little bit Midwestern sometimes and that we, and I mean that as someone who grew up in Chicago, I mean that in the best possible way. Just that orientation towards we do good work and we assume people will notice. Sometimes we need to be a little bit more thoughtful about getting the word out. So I do think that there's more that we can do in terms of extending our global visibility. Part of that is better leveraging some of our executive education. So we're working on upgrading the physical facilities for our exec ed. But that's a great place where executives from all over the world are coming here to Ross. The high potentials, executives from different industries globally. Let's make sure we're being very thoughtful about that, bringing those people in and making sure they have a great experience so that that helps to spread our global impact and other things that we're doing along those areas as well.
0:19:32.3 JB: Awesome.
0:19:35.1 DA: No, that's an interesting point. It reminded me, I had an old boss who once told me, "David, it's not enough to work hard, you have to show that you're working hard." And I think it's an important lesson, right? And also because I really think it does help with the visibility portion, right? And I agree with you. I think, I mean, Ross is such an amazing place in terms of being an amazing school, but also an amazing community. And yeah, I think we really need to show that.
0:20:00.1 SM: Yeah. And we have, you know, we're in the best possible position in terms of, boy, we have the meat. You know what I mean? And it's a matter of how do we make sure that we let the world know the amazing things that are going on here.
0:20:12.9 DA: Exactly.
0:20:13.4 JB: And it's funny that you mentioned this, because in one of our, you know, your favorite topics, one of my strategy classes, our Strategy 503, one of these scenarios we were talking about was how do we get Ross's name out to the worldwide community? So we sat down as a group and just talked about certain ways to do that. So, I'm very interested to see how we proceed forward with that because you're right, there's so many offerings here and there's just such a great culture. And I think when most folks think about top business schools, they think about the Ivy Leagues, the Harvards, the Stanfords, they don't really consider that it's just like, it's the Ross difference.
0:20:47.3 SM: It is. And I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but I do think if you look at what the business world needs in the future, I think Ross is so incredibly well-positioned. One of the things that I learned when I started here is that there's something like 110 departments in the top 10. Wow. Across this University of Michigan campus, which is just phenomenal. And if you look at the biggest issues of the day that are facing us, whether that's climate, economic inclusion, technology disruption, the kinds of leaders that are going to drive the world forward in those areas are people that can pull together knowledge from different areas, work across areas of expertise in a meaningful way, and boy, we have that in spades here at Michigan. And so I really do think that the nature of what the University of Michigan brings to the table is such that we are incredibly well positioned in a way that not many other business schools are. You know, you think about some of the other top business schools and oftentimes the business school is an island unto itself. You know, it's physically separate from the rest of campus in many cases.
0:21:58.4 SM: There might not be an undergraduate program. You know, here, you know, we are very much part of that, that Michigan community. You know, even down to the branding, you talk about, we are Michigan Ross. We are not the so-and-so school at University X. And that, I think, was very intentional and I think speaks to some of how we differentiate ourselves as being part of this larger campus, which is just fantastic.
0:22:27.3 DA: Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, with you saying that, it just makes so much sense about the school that you have about bringing the School of Engineering and Business together because I think, you know, nowadays, I mean, business as a standalone discipline is something of the past, right? You can't really separate things anymore. And so it makes a lot of sense about having that multi-disciplined approach.
0:22:43.1 JB: And one of the things that you touched on actually leads into the next question, you talked about the Michigan community as a whole. So last November, President Ono announced Vision 2034, which is a strategic initiative that will engage the entire UMich community in a collective process to imagine our future and chart our course ahead. So as the dean of Ross, where do you see our institution developing and implementing Vision 2034?
0:23:11.2 SM: Yeah, it's a great question. So I would say there's kind of a tactical answer and kind of a more, you know, big picture answer to that question. You know, on the tactical side, the campus has pulled together, you know, kind of a, for lack of a better word, toolkit that we can use at the unit level to help integrate what we're doing with the campus level activities on Vision 2034. So that's in process, we're working out how do we have a series of workshops for our faculty and staff and our students to help us bring those ideas together. At kind of a higher level, one of the things that I think really differentiates Michigan Ross, pulling together some of these scenes we've been talking about are three things, and then I think these feed into the Vision 2034 process in a really nice way. One I think is action. If you think about why you selected Ross, you know what I hear from a lot of people is this action-based learning pedagogy, we have a bias towards action, if you look at also the reputation of our alumni and our students, we roll up our sleeves and get stuff done. So that action orientation, I think it's always been important, but I think never more so now, because if you think about all the uncertainty on the horizon, how do you prepare students for a future that's gonna look different than today?
0:24:31.4 SM: That ability to learn, learning by doing, which is very much what that action orientation to our pedagogy focuses on. So I think action is a big differentiator. I think impact, we've talked about the biggest problems of the day and how do you work collaboratively across campus. And also, one of the things that's so important to us here at Ross, as you know, our mission is building a better world through business, being mindful of those social impacts as well as economic impacts and how do you think about both of those at the same time. So that impact piece, and people here want to do big things. If you look at some of the biggest advances in the field of strategy and entrepreneurship, a lot of those have come right out of Michigan. So people here are trying to do big things. So action, impact, and the third really is community. That Go Blue pride, you guys haven't asked me yet about that. But it's a thing!
0:25:26.2 SM: It is really phenomenal, that sense of pride and dedication and community here. We strive to have an inclusive learning community. We've got this amazing alumni network. So that action, impact, and community, I think, are things that really are standouts about Ross. And so making sure that those are really part of that Vision 2034 in a way that helps to elevate campus, but also helps us play to our strengths. And I think the nature of those really ties nicely to what's going on at a campus level. So again, that impact piece, part of that is we care about solving big problems and taking on big opportunities. And that requires working across areas of expertise. That community piece, it's community here at Ross, but it's community with that whole UM world beyond our building. So I think all of those feed really nicely into what the president is doing with his Vision 2034.
0:26:21.4 JB: Awesome. And then you touched on, when you talked about the action-based learning, you touched on one of the most critical lessons I learned in the Marine Corps. It's better to make a good decision now than a great decision later. But one of the things I love about that action-based approach is that even though, you know, because there's always going to be uncertainty and there's always going to be risk involved, but one of the things about it is like you can take what you have and make a decision, but it also, you know, you're taking into account the consequences of the decisions you're making.
0:26:49.1 SM: Yeah, I think that's exactly right. And then I think it's also important that we learn as we go. So you make a decision and maybe it's going great and you continue to move down that path, but you're also open to the fact that, "wow, I'm getting some feedback on this path that we're on. Maybe we need to do a little bit of a course correction," and being comfortable in that space of always bringing on new information, continually learning and figuring out, how do we move forward picking up those cues in terms of how we're doing along the way?
0:27:19.2 DA: Absolutely. And that's actually, you know, speaking of action based learning, that was actually one of the, an interesting insight that we got from our sponsor at MAP. At one of our first meetings when they were introducing the scope of the work, what we're going to do, they made it a point to say, "Look, guys, we, we work with imperfect data all the time. Okay, and so and it's better to make progress than be perfect here". And that's the advice that they gave us. It's only a seven week project. So they said, "Do your best with the data that you have. And that's how we're gonna do business and work".
0:27:47.8 SM: And I think that's so valuable as you go forward with your careers, right?
0:27:52.5 DA: Absolutely.
0:27:52.9 SM: How do you continue to learn by doing? How do you take on that information? How do you know what to keep moving on? How do you know when to course correct? All of that has never been more important than now when you look at technology uncertainties, global uncertainties, all sorts of different challenges that are on the horizon.
0:28:12.0 JB: Right. And then something else you touched on which I think is I think is great, but also hilarious. You touched on the culture not only here Ross, but at you know, Michigan at large, I mean you go to the Big House and you're at a game you have just tens of thousands of people screaming the chant song at the top of their lungs or just being here and hearing either, you know the Ross difference or "it ain't Ross though." So what were your perceptions of the culture and how have you adapted to it since you've gotten here?
0:28:37.4 SM: Well, so it's not all about football, but I'll use it as an illustration. So, when I told my colleagues at Colorado that I was leaving to go to Michigan, some people who had a Michigan background are like, "Oh, well, just wait till you go to a football game in Michigan". And I thought to myself, "How different can it be?" Because at Colorado, I would always have alumni and friends of the school at a box, and we would go to all the football games. I enjoyed that. It was fun. And then I came to the Big House. And it is a different thing. I mean, there's just, there's such an energy about it. And it takes over the whole town. [laughter] But I think that's just one illustration. The other part of that is, if you walk down downtown in Ann Arbor any day of the week, people are wearing Michigan gear. And, often if I'm flying or traveling, I'll have a little Michigan pin, people strike up a conversation. So, it is a very powerful thing in a way that... And especially when you think about alumni or students interacting with alumni, like there's a genuineness to that connection. It's not just like, what can you do for me? Like, oh, there's something instrumental here.
0:29:52.0 SM: That can be a piece of it. But people just, like Michigan people like to meet each other and help each other out and get to know, what each other do. I was just in, I was just traveling, I was in Chicago and LA and Denver, and I was having a breakfast with one of our alums in Denver, and he used to run the Denver alumni club for Ross. And he said, you know, it's funny, like, "I don't even know what a lot of my colleagues do. Like, I just really enjoy spending time with them". And then he kind of went on from there. I use that as an illustration because Michigan people just, they like to get to know each other, they like to support each other. And so, it's not just all about like, "Hey, you've got a connection that I need". Of course, that is a part of it. But there's a kind of more of an affinity there beyond just the instrumental.
0:30:44.7 DA: No, Absolutely. And let me just say, I can really relate to that. Actually, although I grew up in Brazil, I lived in Utah for a number of years. And so really got to know that Western Rocky Mountain culture. And then when I was coming here to Michigan, it's like, okay, that's part of the States that I don't know. But before coming to Michigan, I was listening to the podcast actually and I got to know a little bit about the culture and the community. And I already started feeling through the podcast like, okay, yeah, this place kind of feels like home and the people seem really nice. And when I got here, it was exactly what I found. And that was actually a really big part of my decision.
0:31:16.6 JB: Right. And then I think for me, it was this such a strong pay it forward culture. I was actually a little bit concerned about emailing the student ambassadors when I was in the application process because I'd had some instances where schools weren't as responsive. And I was just, sometimes just like, the worst they can say is no, or, you know, whatever. It's like, it hasn't been that big of a difference from the experience you've already had. And I would say within an hour of me emailing three of the now MBA twos, or about to be MBA alumni, two responded within an hour. And then the third was in the process of interviewing for their internship. And they played email catch up and they got back with me and I just had great conversations with everyone. And then, you know, obviously, GBR this weekend, Go Blue Rendezvous, I came here. And then it was just, like you said, Dean Matusik, the energy was electrifying, and it was just such an amazing experience.
0:32:07.8 DA: Yeah, absolutely.
0:32:10.2 JB: So, we've talked about culture. Now we're going to talk about just some of the challenges that you've seen as the dean. So one of the first one is being Ross, as well as other top MBA schools, they've seen a sharp decline in MBA one participation and professional social events. Does this concern you? And what are your thoughts on improving it?
0:32:27.0 SM: Yeah, of course it does. You know, as I said, I think one of the things that really differentiates us is that sense of community. So, you know, anything that seems like a little bit of a lag in that, I think is absolutely something that needs attention. I talk about these sorts of things with other friends of mine who are deans at other schools. I think there's a few things, particularly on the MBA side, that are part of it. One, the labor market is just so strong. And you've probably seen some of this with your colleagues, but it's, sometimes students are being recruited before they even start their program. And so, some of that motivation of like, "Hey, I wanna really be a leader and prove myself and show that I'm going to lead here", that attenuates that a little bit, you know, and I think also coming out of COVID, thinking about what sorts of experiences and ways people wanna connect. How have those really changed in a way that I don't know that we fully understand. But it's something that's on my radar screen. I just recently launched a series of task forces as part of getting up to speed, and one was on student community and belonging. And so, that was a taskforce that had faculty and staff and student representatives on it. They submitted a report last month about some of the ideas that they have in terms of driving that forward.
0:33:50.4 JB: Awesome.
0:33:50.7 SM: And so, we're looking to implement some of those in the near term. But it's certainly something that has to be a strong partnership with the students. You know what students care about more than I know what students care about. And so, really making sure that we are being thoughtful about that and making sure that's front and center because I do think one of the things that differentiates us and is so special about Michigan and Michigan Ross is that sense of community and dedication in terms of being part of this fabric.
0:34:22.4 DA: And that makes a lot of sense. And I mean, from your comments, it seems like more than just a simple decline, it seems it's actually a reflection of an overall change and evolution in the whole, you know, MBA, I guess, community. With that in mind, I mean, and you touched on how students are such a big part of that, what is their part in this and what can students do to help improve this?
0:34:42.8 SM: Yeah, and I would say, you know, boy, like keep the ideas coming. You know, as I said, the taskforce was really helpful because we had student leaders who were part of that process to identify some of the ways that, you know, we can think about events in a slightly different way, different ways to engage students. So, that's, I think, a really critical part of it. And hopefully you both know, I have open office hours for students every week when I'm not traveling. I really appreciate when students come by and even if they don't have a problem, just kind of introduce themselves and say hello. That's a good way for me to keep a pulse on the students and what they care about. And one of the things that I really like about Michigan Ross is I do think there's an openness to, if you have some ideas on a new club or a new thing to do, there's an openness to saying like, "Hey, all right, let's figure out how to make that happen". So, I'm excited about working with students on any ideas that they think are especially important in terms of driving things forward.
0:35:45.3 JB: You're almost a year into your role as dean. You've gone through your first MAP experience. This will be your first GBR, and then you got your first graduation coming up as well.
0:35:53.3 DA: And your first podcast episode.
0:35:54.0 JB: Oh yeah.
0:35:55.8 SM: So exciting!
0:35:57.7 JB: So as you continue to acclimate yourself to the culture here and the weather, which can be brutal at times, are there any changes you plan on making to how you approach your role?
0:36:05.0 SM: Yeah. You know, it kind of gets back to some of the themes that we touched on a little bit earlier. I do think that focus on financial accessibility is something that I care a lot about. So with all of our fundraising team, that's something that we have made a change to in terms of really doubling down on our efforts to fundraise to help support student scholarships, to make sure that if you're qualified to get into Ross, you're not choosing something else because of the price tag. So, that's a big change. We have done some changes in terms of our organizational design to better reflect our strategy. And part of that is pulling together, without getting too in the weeds, all of our graduate programs under one associate dean. So, in the past we had one associate dean who was over full-time programs, another associate dean who was over one year master's programs, another one over part-time and online.
0:37:04.3 SM: And you know, there's pluses and minuses to anything, but by having it under one associate dean, what that does give us the ability to do is identify opportunities across programs in a more deliberate way, which I think is gonna be really fantastic for our students in terms of giving them that flexibility to work across programs and leverage some of those programs. And then, I mentioned some of the taskforces. So that's another thing that, as we look towards the future, you put your finger on something that I'm also thinking about is, how do we continue to elevate that student experience through community and well-being? We've got a task force for that, We've got a similar one for faculty and staff to make sure this is a place where people can do their best work. And then others, making sure that we're best in class on the teaching and the research side.
0:37:54.6 SM: And then I talked about the global visibility. So that's another thing that we're working hard on in terms of making sure that we're getting our name out there. So if you're an executive in Paris or Tokyo or Riyadh, when people say what are the best business schools in the world, Michigan Ross comes right out without a hesitation. So I think that's another piece of what we're working on.
0:38:23.9 JB: And I think that's amazing because I've had a couple of opportunities to, whether it's student organizations or just some of the classes I've had to take, I've had a chance to talk to some of the BBAs, which is the undergrad business students, for those who don't know. I've had a chance to talk to the One-Year Master of Management students. And it's just amazing to see the wealth of experience and just the different approaches to how to solve a problem there are. So, being able to have exposure to all those different programs as opposed to just the Full-Time MBA students is phenomenal.
0:38:52.0 DA: Absolutely, I mean, John and I, we're in the entertainment club at Ross and we have a colleague who's in the Online MBA program who joined the board leadership. So, it's great, you know, diversity of experience there.
0:39:06.8 JB: All right. So what is your favorite part about being Ross's dean? And then what is your least favorite part?
0:39:13.7 SM: All right. I would say favorite part is the people, right? I mean, the students here, like, you know, just listening to your backgrounds, like the students here are phenomenal. And even across all the programs, like our BBAs walking in the door, you know, the incoming GPA of BBAs last fall was 393. Like, they're incredible. The MBAs are incredible. The Online students are incredible. I was just out in Los Angeles, 'cause we have a cohort of our Executive MBA that we run out of Los Angeles and had the opportunity to interact with some of those students who were in their final, it was like their final residential weekend as part of their program. They're phenomenal. You know, and the alumni community is just unbelievable. So I would say, you know, far and away, you know, the best is just the quality of people that are attracted to Michigan Ross, that, you know, not only accomplish, but they care about each other. They care about using business as a way to, you know, create positive social impact as well as economic impact.
0:40:15.9 SM: So, you know, to me, that's just phenomenal. Worst part, I would say, some of you know this about me, my youngest daughter is a high school senior. So, she stayed back in Colorado with my husband, because we didn't want to move her senior year. We thought that would be very mean. And so, I would say the worst part is just that I don't have my family here yet. I don't have my dogs. I've got two dogs and they're back in Colorado.
0:40:44.5 JB: Oh, no.
0:40:45.9 SM: It's so unfair.
0:40:46.4 JB: Right?
0:40:47.3 SM: Yeah. It's unfair that my husband and my daughter get to hang out with the dogs and I don't. So I think that's been the hardest part is just kind of managing that transition and getting to that point where everyone's all out here.
0:41:00.5 JB: Well, so just touching on the family a little bit. So your daughter's probably looking at colleges as well. What are her top choices? [laughter]
0:41:08.5 SM: So I hope she's not listening. Well, she's narrowed it down to two places, either University of Michigan or Rice. So I think we've got a good shot. But you know, as a parent, you can't push too much on these things. So, you know, we'll see.
0:41:27.8 JB: Absolutely.
0:41:29.0 SM: One of the things that she said early on in her process of looking at schools is that she wanted a school with school spirit. And I said, huh, I think I know of a place! 0:41:40.2 DA: I can think of a school.
0:41:40.5 SM: I think I know of a place.
0:41:40.6 DA: I can think of a school as well.
0:41:42.9 SM: I know. I know.
0:41:44.7 DA: Go Blue?
0:41:44.9 SM: So we'll see.
0:41:46.3 DA: Go Blue?
0:41:46.5 SM: We'll see. We'll see. Yeah, I think we've got a good chance. And then Rice are, as I mentioned earlier, my husband and I were both on faculty at Rice early in in our career, and then our older daughter is a student at Rice. So we've got a big Rice connection as well.
0:42:00.7 JB: Absolutely. 0:42:00.9 DA: Awesome, well, whatever she decides, she can't go wrong.
0:42:01.0 SM: Not a bad choice in this for sure.
0:42:02.8 DA: Exactly.
0:42:05.3 JB: No, Not at all. All right, so like we mentioned before, Thursday kicks off Go Blue Rendezvous, or GBR, which is our premier student-admitted event. What advice do you have for our committed students or the admitted students who have yet to make a decision?
0:42:17.6 SM: I do think it gets back to what differentiates us. And so I think for every student, they should think about where it's gonna be a fit, where they can be their best selves. But I think here, action, impact, and community. If you care about action-based learning and all that brings to the table in terms of preparing you for long-term success, I think you cannot beat Michigan for that. Impact, again, we've got this amazing campus. We care about economic as well as social value creation. I think if you want to make an impact and do big things, Michigan Ross is gonna set you up well for that. And if you care about community, like that Go Blue thing, as we've been talking about, it really is a thing. And it's, I think part of it is being in a town the size of Ann Arbor. So, there's all that's going on here. But I think a lot about like, why does Michigan have that in spades and not everyone else does? And I think part of it is the size of the community. There's a lot going on here. It's really centered on the university, but it's a little bit different than if you're in like a New York City or a Los Angeles or Chicago where there's many things going on that are not really as centrally organized around the university itself.
0:43:34.9 SM: So I would bet you spend a lot of time with your classmates in a way that maybe you wouldn't if you were in a New York City and people are off doing lots of different things on their own. So I think that's part of what drives that. But so, I think if you care about action, impact, and community, I think it's hard to beat Michigan.
0:43:55.5 JB: Right. And to your point, Dean, there's synergies there as well, because you'll see the Ann Arbor at large community that is contributing to Michigan events, and then you will see UMich students that are contributing to the, well, not just Ann Arbor, but the Detroit Metro community at large as well.
0:44:13.7 SM: Yeah. It's amazing. They're so, one of the things that I thought was really amazing is how many dual-degree students we have and then how many students are engaged with all sorts of community events, you know, Business+Impact Studio. I mentioned I do my office hours there. You know, some of the work they're doing is just amazing. Not just in terms of the Ann Arbor community but lifting up Detroit and then some of the social impact, MAP projects that are really around the globe. I know one of our teams was supposed to go to Malawi. I don't know if they actually ended up going, because they obviously had a devastating...
0:44:44.8 DA: I think they did. I think they just had to postpone it a bit. But I'm pretty sure they did go.
0:44:49.6 JB: Awesome. Yeah.
0:44:51.3 SM: But those are all great illustrations of people who are using what they learn in business here at Michigan Ross to do things far beyond some of the traditional avenues of business and making a real social impact through the skills that they've learned.
0:45:07.2 DA: No, Absolutely. I think we're about to wrap up here. But before we do, I mean, Dean Matusik, is there anything that we didn't touch on? Any last words, anything else that you'd like to plug in?
0:45:19.3 SM: Oh, God. Words of wisdom. I don't know. That's like a big pressure one. I would just say, I'm thrilled to be here. As I said, I started back in August, and so I've really been so excited about meeting the community writ large. It is truly a remarkable set of people, both here within Ross as well as the alumni. So, that's been really great. Again, I also really appreciate that people here care about, not just the financial and economic impact, but also the social impact as well. I think that makes for a really rich community that cares a lot about, using what they learn here to be leaders. And I mean that in the broadest possible sense. So, it's not just like you're a leader, you're managing a group of X people. But, it's using their actions and how they approach the world in a way that sets an example for their communities, for their workplaces, and beyond.
0:46:16.5 JB: So ladies and gentlemen, that is the Michigan Ross Dean, Sharon Matusik. Dean Matusik, thank you for coming on the podcast.
0:46:23.1 SM: My pleasure.
0:46:23.2 DA: We enjoyed having you.
0:46:23.4 SM: Thank you.
0:46:24.0 JB: Hopefully this isn't the last one?
0:46:26.8 DA: First of many.
0:46:27.2 SM: I hope not!
0:46:27.7 JB: Awesome. Well, we look forward to having you back again.
0:46:31.1 JB: Business as Beyond Usual is brought to you by the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. Today's episode was produced by David Amorim and myself, John Brown. Executive producers of BBU are Tedra White, Thomas De Clercq, Michaela Terrell, Preston Hill, and Eugenia Collins. Special thanks to Jonah Brockman, who did our editing today. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time, Go Blue. And this is Business Beyond Usual.
Matthew Trevor, Senior PR Specialist