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Mudd Monthly: January ’24

by Örn Bodvarsson, January 8, 2024

Dear Members of the Atkinson Community,

Happy New Year to you and yours and welcome back to a new semester!

I last wrote to you while en route to Hyderabad, India, to attend the “ShiftEd Conclave” conference. This conference was organized by our Indian higher education services partner GradRight and provided us an opportunity to recruit students from Indian universities into our full-time MBA program. I was joined by our faculty colleagues Anusha Ramesh and Pritha Dutta, and our full-time MBA student Aryan Bhardwaj. The conference turned out to be a very productive event for us. We talked with a lot of students seeking a management graduate education in the USA, representatives from the universities they’re attending, and representatives from various student lending organizations. We also got well acquainted with representatives from various sister institutions in the USA who were at the conference for the same reason as us. Punit Renjen, our distinguished alum, joined the conference virtually for a Q/A with one of the senior executives at GradRight and the audience. Punit did a tremendous job and we’re most grateful to him for not only putting in a wonderful plug for Atkinson and Willamette, but also offering great career-building advice to the students.

We have returned from the ShiftEd Conclave with a very healthy list of prospects for our full-time MBA program and our recruiting and admissions colleagues are now managing the applications that are coming in from India. We are optimistic that we will generate good enrollments from India this Fall. Furthermore, we established new working relationships with universities in India and, in fact, we are doing a Zoom call with one institution this week to explore collaborations. I’m grateful to Anusha, Pritha, and Aryan for working with me at the conference and to Leah Straley, Dean of Graduate Admissions, for sharing registration costs with our school.

On Tuesday, January 9, we will hold our first “Atkinson Discussions for our Time” panel event at our Portland center. This panel will focus on the health care industry and has been organized by EDC Director Kennedy Hawkins, who had a long leadership career in that industry. This panel discussion series is a great opportunity for Atkinson to expand its work as a thought leader in the community, offer a wonderful educational amenity to our students, and raise the visibility of the Willamette MBA in the greater Portland area. A lot of the RSVPs are from prospective students, so we’re hoping that these events will generate strong interest in the Willamette MBA. I hope that you can attend these events. There are three more after the one next Tuesday—February 8 (Corporate Social Responsibility), March 7 (the use of AI in industry) and April 9 (manufacturing). Details on these later panels coming soon!

I look forward to seeing many of you at our school’s Spring Semester retreat on Friday, January 12. The main topic at the retreat will be AACSB re-accreditation, specifically our work to demonstrate our school’s alignment with the AACSB standards relating to social impact and engagement. Tim Johnson, who leads the team working on our self-study report for AACSB, has put together an excellent agenda which will feature an interactive exercise that should be very productive and enlightening. The Atkinson Leadership Council meets on January 10 at the Portland center and the two main topics for that meeting are future plans for the Executive Development Center and ongoing work in the school to build out programming in the corporate social responsibility area. EDC Director Kennedy Hawkins and Guy F. Atkinson Professor Jake Hoskins will join the meeting to discuss these respective projects with the Council.

As I announced to the Atkinson community via Zoom before the holiday break, I will be leaving Willamette University on June 30 so that I can move back to my family in Minnesota. My wife Mary and I have had a “commuter marriage” arrangement the past 6 years — she in Minneapolis and I in Oregon — and I’ve been traveling to our home in the Minneapolis area on average every other week. This arrangement started when I took my previous position in Salt Lake City and has continued since I moved back to Oregon. Our family is more worn out from this arrangement than we expected to be when I took this job and we’ve decided it’s best if I return to our Minneapolis home to live year-round after my third year of service ends. I know I will return to Minnesota in June with mixed emotions, as I’ll miss all of you and the work we’ve been doing together, but I know in my heart that I’m doing the right thing for my family. I’m so appreciative of the many good wishes I’ve received since my announcement.

I don’t know at this time what my professional future holds after I leave Willamette, but I’m currently pursuing professional opportunities in the Twin Cities. I’m 65, have a lot of energy, and really want to remain active in higher education for a long time. In the meantime, between now and June I’ll be working hard with all of you to help move our school’s projects forward, support our students, faculty, and staff, and be a voice for Atkinson on campus and in the community. Here’s to a great semester ahead!

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.