Deans share their day-to-day experiences

Photo by Samta Brahmbhatt

On Tuesday, Oct. 31, Dean Maryam Alavi of the Scheller College of Business and Dean Paul M. Goldbart of the College of Sciences spoke at the event “What Does a Dean Do at Georgia Tech?”

The event is the second of three in the Fall 2017 speaker series, “Demystifying how Georgia Tech Works.” The series is meant to bring the more unknown aspects of Tech to light. Organized by the ADVANCE Program, the series this semester covers topics from money, to dean’s day-to-day life and free speech and political correctness.

Before arriving at the Scheller College of Business, Alvi served as interim dean and vice dean of Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. Prior to that she advised industry members from Sodexo to the World Bank on issues relating to digital innovations and strategic IT applications.

The event began with Alavi telling the audience she wanted the event to be more of a discussion, rather than a presentation.

“Just to set the stage and frame the issue,” Alvi said, “when it comes to a dean’s job, the way I look at it, a college is governed by faculty is led by a dean.”

Alvi followed up by showing some of her weekly schedules from this past Summer and Fall.

“I thought the best way to give you a flavor of what a dean does, at least in my position would be to give you a sense of a week in my calendar,” Alvi said.

As she flipped through the slides a week from this Summer popped up. The days were mainly full of meetings with very little time in between. The meetings were with all manner of people as well: students, alumni, and industry members crowded her days.

As she continued onto an example of a week during the Fall semester the days only grew more crowded with meetings and late night events.

“Wednesday, Sept. 27 and Thursday, Sept. 28 are travel,” Alvi said, “and when I travel it is primarily for the purpose of connecting with [alumni] of Scheller College. Giving them updates on what the school is up to, what is going and primarily for development purposes.”

She emphasized the importance of connecting with alumni, saying that it’s “a very important … aspect of a dean’s job, at least for a business school.”

Moving on in her schedule, she  discussed the networking she does at all home football games. The Scheller College of Business has its own suite in the stadium. For home football games, Alvi is usually in the suite, talking with donors and potential donors about updates on the school in an informal setting.

One thing to take note of was the sparse amount of days off Alvi has.

“[When I have been] working on Saturday I insist that they don’t schedule anything for me Monday morning,” she said. “Sometimes I have the luxury of being able to arrange that.”

Beyond internal Scheller meetings, both Alvi and Goldbart attend meetings with the administration and the other deans.

Additionally, the deans will often get asked to chair committees.

“Last Spring, I was engaged in a search for a senior staff position at Georgia Tech,” Alvi said. “So I chaired that search committee.”

Finally, Alvi says that she spends as much of her free time as possible trying to keep up with the industry she used to advise by reading a few papers on week on topics within technological innovation in business.

Following Alvi, Goldbart began discussing the differences between being dean of the College of Sciences and dean of the Scheller College of Business.

Goldbart had a 25 year career at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign before arriving at Tech. While here, he served as the chair of the School of Physics for three years before being named as dean of the College of Sciences.

“One of the lovely things about this job is that the deans have a very cordial relationship,” Goldbart said. “And the truth is we don’t have any other friends.”

After lightening the mood a little, Goldbart continued.

“I think the organization is one that which, at each level, everybody carries their own New Yorker view of what’s important and what isn’t, and I think we run into challenges when those New Yorkers’ views are slightly misaligned or more than slightly misaligned,” Goldbart said.

Goldbart’s presentation focused more on the struggle of differing views on what people think a dean has the power to do. Echoing Alvi’s remarks about deans leading rather than governing, Goldbart thought it was important for a dean to be able to manage relationships in all directions to handle those “New Yorker” attitudes.

“The issues that come to us as deans are not the black and white ones,” Goldbart said. “In a healthy dean’s office there are excellent people around you who take care of the black and white issues. The things that come to you are thorny issues, the things that have multiple facets to them, the things that will have a big impact on how the college moves forward.”

After finishing their presentations the deans opened up the floor for questions. These questions centered around the goals both deans had for their respective colleges and how they planned to achieve them.

The final event in the series, “Free Speech, Political Correctness — Any Boundaries?” will take place on Nov. 14 at 11 a.m. in room 321 in the Student Center.