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Mudd Monthly: December ’22

by Örn Bodvarsson, December 1, 2022

Dear Members of the Atkinson Community,

It’s hard to believe the holiday season is upon us now, the Fall Semester is wrapping up, and we will soon welcome a new year. I hope all of you had a restful and lovely Thanksgiving holiday, your travels were safe wherever you were going, and that you have returned to campus feeling recharged for the last “spurt” of our semester before we take our much-deserved holiday break.

I’d like to share with you my reflections on the year passed and what awaits us in the new year. While the year has been super busy, it has been one of my most fulfilling years in academic administration. I’ve learned so much about our school, university, and stakeholders this year. This is an outstanding management school with some of the finest programs of its kind in the country, taught by an exceptional faculty, supported by a highly dedicated and competent staff team, and matriculated by the best students I’ve worked with during my higher education career. It’s really impressive what the Atkinson School has been able to accomplish in the past five decades in contributing to the market with skilled professionals, to the academic business profession in high quality scholarship, to the culture and history of the university, and to the local, regional, and global community.

As you all are aware, our school, like so many schools of our kind around the country, have been facing enrollment challenges, particularly in the MBA space, for years. We have a lot of work ahead to address our enrollment challenges in Atkinson, but our enrollment trends are slowly turning positive after years of annual declines. While our full-time MBA class this year came in slightly below expectations, our MBA-P class was above expectations. Just a few days ago we got our first deposit for the full-time program next August! There were no deposits at the same time a year ago. The size of our January, 2023 MBA-P cohort is, as of this writing, stronger than it was a year ago and the level of activity and interest is higher than we expected. Here in the Dean’s Office, we’re pulling out all the stops in marketing our programs. You’ll see our billboards along I-5 and in the Portland area, we’ve been partnering with the Portland Business Journal to host dinners in downtown Portland for prospective corporate Preferred Partners in our MBA-P program, and we’ve been partnering with MarComm to message our degree products not only through billboards but other modalities. Next week we will be featured as the Gold Sponsor at the “Oregon’s Most Admired Companies” awards event. And, our recruiters are working around the clock to bring in new students. Many thanks to our 4 recruiters Tony, Beth, Alejandro, and Nate, as well as Senior Associate Dean Alex, and Director of Marketing Jennifer, for all their efforts to help build our enrollments.

Soon we will have a new 5-year strategic plan for our school. The AGSM Strategic Planning Steering Team, under Professor Andrew Kach’s leadership, has been working hard on our 2023-28 draft plan all semester. That work wraps up this week and then the plan will go to the school’s employee team for review and ratification at our December all-school meeting. I’m so appreciative of all the persons, including colleagues from other schools, that have worked on this plan. I’m excited to share the plan with all of you soon!

I expect soon to be announcing two more faculty hires. Stay tuned! Our search committees have done a fantastic job this year building strong applicant pools and facilitating campus visits of outstanding candidates. New hires always bring special talents and new perspectives. I’m also excited about the Guy Atkinson Professorship and that someone will be appointed to that position soon. As announced to the faculty, the Atkinson Professorship will have as its focus area Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Sustainability, ESG, and related areas. I look forward to making some important announcements about the Atkinson Professor appointment and plans for our CSR work soon.

This month marks one year since the Office of Career Initiatives assumed responsibility for our school’s career development programming and services. I want to thank Mandy Devereux, Executive Director of that office, and our colleagues Carly Pon and Manny Machado, for their hard work serving our students and bringing their ideas, expertise, and experience to the Atkinson community. I want to thank our two newest staff hires – Dave Sundby, Assistant Dean of Students, and Rob Luttrell, our in-residence WITS consultant, for their hard work and dedication. Finally, I want to inform you that Caitlin Matthewson, our Director of Development, resigned from the University earlier last month. Caitlin and her husband decided to move their family back to upstate New York, where they are from and have an extended network of family and friends. I want to thank Caitlin for her excellent work with us over the past few months and to wish her well back in New York.

Some other news to share. We just received word from the Network of Affiliated Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) that, following review of our Self Study, we have been cleared for a campus visit by an accreditation site team sometime this winter. Our clearance for a site team visit is a critical next step in our work to achieve NASPAA re-accreditation.

Exciting work is taking place in our Executive Development Center. Emeritus Professor Lisbeth Claus trained the first cohort of students in the Leadership for Managers certificate program. Twelve people in the cohort completed the course requirements and earned the bronze-level badge. We hope to enroll 10 of those students in the silver-level course in January. Lisbeth and our Director of the Executive Development Center Kristen Iseri are recruiting for a second bronze-level cohort also to begin in January. Many thanks to Kristen for the success of this new certificate program.

I want to thank all of you for your hard work and dedication to Atkinson and for the talents and passions you bring to your jobs here. I’m excited for 2023, which will be a pivotal year, and to be working with all of you to move Atkinson forward. Wishing you and yours happy and healthy holidays. See you next year!

Best Wishes,

Örn Bodvarsson Signature

Örn Bodvarsson
Dean & Professor of Economics

Willamette University

Atkinson Graduate School of Management

Salem Campus

900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.

Portland Center

200 SW Market Street, Suite 101
Portland Oregon 97201 U.S.A.