To all returning students – welcome back! To our more than 1,200 new students (freshmen, transfer students, and new graduate students) – welcome to the Harbert College! You represent the largest influx of students in the college’s 48-year history. Why have we witnessed double-digit growth in overall students in the college and in new students each year for the past three years?
There are likely many reasons, but at least one of them has to do with our plan. Allow me to digress …
In 2010, we started the process of writing a new strategic plan for the college. The plan called for us to do things differently, to focus on fewer things, and to emphasize quality. The plan, if executed properly, would help us reach our vision of being among the elite public business schools in the U.S. We estimated it would take at least $100 million in new resources to significantly move us down that path. While almost everyone applauded the plan for its focus and aggressive goals, many questioned whether we could generate the necessary resources.
Fast forward about four years from the plan’s launch. Of the many items outlined, a little more than half did not require significant additional resources. We laser-focused on preparing our students for the working world when they graduated by doing such things as streamlining some of our majors, adding new minors and majors, requiring internships for many of our programs, increasing our study abroad programs, and changing our advising system, among many other things. For the items on the plan requiring significant additional resources, we relentlessly pursued our almost-unimaginable $100 million goal. Remarkably, the college has raised about $90 million to date – a large part of that due to Raymond and Kathryn Harbert’s extreme generosity. And, we are now starting to execute the parts of the plan that required these new resources, such as hiring eminent scholars, bringing in new faculty, starting a new Ph.D. program, and launching a supply chain research center, among others.
There is something very gratifying about developing a great plan. At the end of the day, though, a great plan doesn’t mean much if it isn’t executed properly. One of the most enjoyable parts of any plan is the execution. The Harbert College is now executing its plan and we are having fun doing it!
Now, back to our student growth …
A funny thing happens when you have a great plan with an aggressive vision, a mission to produce highly desired graduates, and you focus on supporting that mission – students and parents take notice. When the demand for our graduates (both undergraduate and graduate students) increases and they are getting great jobs at great organizations (or, perhaps, furthering their education), people notice. When you truly care about developing students personally and professionally, people notice. And when you are genuine and passionate about meeting this mission, people notice. Well, people have certainly noticed. There is a lot of excitement around the Harbert College and students want to be a part of it.