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Mudd Monthly: June ’23

by Örn Bodvarsson, June 13, 2023

Dear Members of the Atkinson Community,

Welcome to summer and congratulations on closing out another fine academic year in Atkinson! One of the happiest times during the academic year is our Spring Commencement ceremony. The weather couldn’t have been more cooperative, the graduating class was so impressive, and our Commencement speaker, Tim Boyle (CEO of Columbia Sportswear), who was also given the Glenn L. Jackson Leadership Award, knocked it out of the ballpark with his speech. A special shout-out to Karen Arthur for her leadership, along with other staff who helped to make for a very successful and memorable ceremony.

We formally conferred degrees on 48 students, including three who will also receive the MSDS in August, and sent them off to their new professional adventures. Two examples of the many outstanding graduates are Sam Parker and Avery Mickelsen, this year’s recipients of the Dean’s Award. They recently moved to Kansas City, MO, where Avery has started a position with Hallmark Cards, Inc., and Sam is pursuing professional opportunities there. We wish them and the entire Class of 2023 the best of success.

The biggest surprise at the Commencement ceremony was when Tim Boyle took out his wallet and showed everyone a check for $25,000 made out to Willamette University. He asked that the money be spent on new chairs in Mudd 201! There’s a backstory here. Back in April, Mr. Boyle asked to meet with a group of graduating students to get their ideas for his speech. I, Senior Associate Dean Alex Subert, and Willamette Life Trustee Kerry Tymchuk, took 4 students (Justus Eaglesmith, Avery, Tovar Moreno, and Drew Smith) to visit Tim at Columbia’s headquarters. One question he asked was “Is there anything you’ve experienced in Atkinson that could have been better?” Each student had something to say about this, including Avery who said she wished the chairs in Mudd 201 were more comfortable. We’re grateful to Tim for taking Avery’s suggestion to heart and making this very generous donation to boost the facilities in Mudd. And, we look forward to welcoming him back to see the fruits of his donation and meet our new EC/CC class seated in brand new chairs!

As you all know, this has been a very challenging year with our budget and our staffing capacity. Everyone has worked so hard with very limited resources. Nevertheless, we accomplished a lot. I’d like to take the opportunity to highlight seven significant accomplishments.

First, we are wrapping up two important staff searches – The Director of the Executive Development Center (EDC) position and the Office Manager & Event Coordinator position. The hiring of a new EDC director will be the first major step towards fulfilling our vision for “EDC 2.0” – a center with a deeper and wider portfolio of offerings, more adult learners enrolled, more corporate, non-profit, and public partners, and larger revenue and net income. The OM&EC will be responsible for all event coordination and administrative oversight in the Dean’s Office. Last week we hosted two finalists for each position for full-day interviews on the Salem campus. We expect to be announcing new hires within the next few weeks.

Filling the two staff positions will ease the burdens for staff members who have been working long hours and “pinch hitting” while these positions have been vacant. I’m truly grateful to our staff team for the very hard work and sacrifices they’ve made this past year to help keep our school running and to serve the students, faculty, and community so well. I have taken to heart that the university’s budgetary situation and our staffing shortage have taken a toll on our staff team. I felt a decline in staff morale starting last Summer, which concerned me a lot. I asked Associate Dean Emeritus Judy O’Neill to lead a project to learn from the staff team ways they feel staff morale can be boosted. This will be an ongoing project and I’m grateful to Judy for her leadership.

Second, we have been working hard this past year to build our enrollments for the fall. One major initiative this past year has been work to develop partnerships with large employers to send their employees into the MBA-P program. Students would get a special “Preferred Partner” scholarship in exchange for us having access to their employers to market our programs internally. We have also worked hard to build deeper relationships with Leadership Salem and Leadership Portland. I am excited to be speaking at the Leadership Salem graduation event in which our very own Nate Naggi will be graduating with the rest of his cohort. I will be leading the recruiting team and other members of our staff and faculty teams to Portland Business Journal’s “HR Leadership & Healthiest Employers of Oregon Awards” event next week. We expect to meet 400+ HR professionals and Ashley Nixon, Professor of Human Resource Management and Organizational Behavior, will lead roundtable discussions on mental health in the workplace.

Third, we welcomed two new tenure-track faculty this year (Gilbert Park and Colin Birkhead) and hired 4 new tenure-track faculty for next year (Foong Soon Cheong , Shelter Teyi, Jane Machin, and Pritha Dutta). In addition, we welcomed Dave Sundby (Assistant Dean of Student Affairs), Dave Hanna (Director of Development), and Marley Nicassio (Assistant Director of Recruitment) to our staff team. In fact, Dave just celebrated his one-year work anniversary with us!

Fourth, we completed and secured President Thorsett’s approval of our 2023-27 AGSM strategic plan and successfully formed a strategic implementation steering team, led by Alex, to carry the plan out starting this summer. Exciting work to fulfill our strategic vision lies ahead.

Fifth, we had a very successful visit by our NASPAA site visit team in February and we submitted all required documents to NASPAA last month for them to consider our request for a new 7-year period of reaccreditation. A special thanks to Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Romana Autrey for leading work to get this very important project done, to Fiscal and Accreditation Manager Susan Chiapella for her outstanding staff support in this project and to others of you for participating in the site team visit and being great sources of information and guidance for us this past year. A final decision from NASPAA is due on or around July 1.

Sixth, our Annual Fund reached its highest level in history! Thanks to all the donors, many of them alumni, for their generosity this year!

Seventh, Associate Professor Kieran O’Connor was granted tenure and Assistant Professor Jake Hoskins was granted promotion and tenure. Jake was also appointed the Guy F. Atkinson Professor.

Despite very lean staff resources and a “bare bones” operating budget, we were able to accomplish so much this past year. Great job, Team Atkinson!

I look forward to welcoming the new academic year ahead with larger staff and faculty teams, two promising incoming classes of MBA students and new undergraduate business students. Now it is time to rest, recharge, and regroup for a new academic year. I recognize that while the summer for most of us is a time for rest and regrouping, for others it’s actually a very busy time, e.g. our recruiters are stepping on the gas until orientation as they do every summer and every winter. Nevertheless, I do hope that everyone will have an opportunity to rest and recharge with loved ones prior to the start of the new school year.

There will be no July Mudd Monthly, but we’ll be back in August to kick off AY 2023-24! Take care and all the best.

Örn Bodvarsson Signature

Örn B. Bodvarsson, Ph.D,
Dean, Atkinson Graduate School of Management

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.