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Direct From The Dean: Robinson College’s Dr. Richard Phillips

The J. Mack Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University boasts a top-notch MBA program, currently ranked in the top 25 in the U.S. by Financial Times. To get a more in-depth and unique view of the program, we spoke to Dean Richard D. Phillips. His interview continues our Direct from the Dean interview series, which features deans from top MetroMBA schools.

Beyond being the dean of Robinson College, Dr. Richard Phillips is a C.V. Starr Professor of Risk Management and Insurance. He’s also a top researcher in multiple fields including the impact of risk on corporate decision-making, the functioning of insurance markets, and the role of credit ratings in the economy. In 2008 and 2009, his research received the Robert I. Mehr Research Award for its impact on insurance economics.

Prior to becoming dean, Dr. Phillips was the Associate Dean for Academic Initiative and Innovation as well as the Chairman of the Department of Risk Management and Insurance. He received his Ph.D. in Managerial Economics from Wharton in 1994, and since 1997 has been a fellow of the Wharton Financial Institutions Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Phillips is an active member of the American Finance Association, the American Risk and Insurance Association, and he’s a past president of the Risk Theory Society.

As dean of Robinson College, Dr. Phillips is committed to making serious contributions to the “new science of business,” and working with a diverse MBA student body. We spoke with Dean Phillips about the unique aspects of the MBA Programs offered at Robinson College and what he hopes MBA candidates will take away from the program. He’s most excited about Robinson’s new strategic plan, Advancing Vision 2020. 

MetroMBA: What is the one area of your MBA program that you wish prospective applicants knew more about?

Dr. Richard Phillips: While Robinson has a long and well-documented history of producing successful business leaders, the incredibly fast-paced global markets that we, and our students, participate in today require new skills and perspectives.

To meet these needs, we have re-designed our MBA program curriculum, moving away from the traditional “plan, process and control” managerially-oriented MBA to one that develops business leaders who are creative, adaptive, problem solvers and opportunity “finders.”

The new courses and experiences, which we will introduce starting in Spring 2016, focus on creativity, product and service-level innovation, data and analytics, and the development of team and firm-level leadership skills. Robinson graduates have always been leaders; now we are ensuring they will be leaders who embrace new technologies and processes to creatively and responsibly impact business, markets and society.

MetroMBA: In the Atlanta metro area, what sets the Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University’s graduate management education offerings apart from those of other schools? Basically, if someone is looking to go to business school in Atlanta, why should they look here?

Dr. Richard Phillips: Robinson has many distinctions, but applicants should consider two in particular.

Our focus is the MBA for working professionals. Many business schools offer a part-time MBA but often do so as a secondary, add-on program. Robinson’s best faculty members teach in our part-time MBA. Our courses are offered in formats specifically designed for working professionals. We offer more of these courses on more Atlanta campuses at the most convenient times and formats than any other business school in the area. Students wanting to earn an MBA through a part-time program should consider whether the part-time MBA is a school’s priority or simply an afterthought.

Second, as Georgia’s oldest and largest business school, Robinson has Atlanta’s leading alumni base. The Robinson College of Business and Georgia State University have produced more of Georgia’s top executives with graduate degrees than any other school in the Southeast. Connecting our students to that alumni base is job one.

MetroMBA: What is the greatest single advantage to going to business school in Atlanta? How does the Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University prepare students specifically for careers in Atlanta?

Dr. Richard Phillips: To the first question, Atlanta is the business capital of the Southeast. It is truly a global city, and there is a community for everyone here.

To the second question, the Atlanta job market is a microcosm of the world’s job market – we prepare people to go out and be successful in the world. We do so by capitalizing on our history and location as Atlanta’s business school – no other school is as networked in Atlanta as Robinson. Businesses seek our graduates because they know they are ready to bring fresh ideas and leadership to the future of businesses.

Further, innovation occurs when individuals from diverse backgrounds and cultures interact, work together, and contribute to the development of ideas. Atlanta draws students from all backgrounds and cultures, and no other Atlanta institution attracts students locally and globally with such diversity. No college prepares such a diverse student body to assume the mantle of leadership greater than Robinson.

MetroMBA: The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) movement seems to be gaining momentum at many business schools. What role does online education play in today’s MBA offerings at the Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University? How do you see that changing over the next five years?

Dr. Richard Phillips: The key insight from the MOOC movement is that Robinson can leverage technology to offer an even higher quality and more experiential MBA program, all while increasing the ability of working professional students to manage the significant demands on their time.

Employers have told us that they want individuals who are technically and functionally competent, and who are effective leaders able to drive innovation in ambiguous and uncertain circumstances. A primary or singular platform of online coursework will not produce graduates with all those abilities. A hybrid program that recognizes the comparative advantages of different pedagogical techniques will.h

In the next five years, we will harness technology in ways that allow us to implement immersive, experiential educational techniques that will change the way we prepare students for leadership. Traditional lectures and case studies will not disappear, but they will give way to more hands-on experiences that connect to real business situations.

MetroMBA: When you became dean, what was the Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University known for? At the conclusion of your tenure, what would you like it to be best known for?

Dr. Richard Phillips: Founded as the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Evening School of Commerce, Robinson has been educating non-traditional students since its inception. At our birth in 1913, the non-traditional student was defined as someone returning to school to take evening courses where they learned about the “new science of business.”

We remain deeply committed to working with high ability students of all backgrounds and making serious contributions to the “new science of business,” and at the conclusion of my tenure I hope we are we are known for taking that commitment to a new level of quality, impact, and engagement.

What will that look like? Working with one of the most diverse student bodies in the country, exciting new businesses will be incubating on campus, graduates will be starting new businesses and helping existing ones create breakthrough products and services, more faculty will be engaged with the business community on behalf of students and our research agendas, and as an institution, we will be widely recognized as one of the finest business schools in the country contributing to the economic success of the state, region, and the world.

MetroMBA: What is the one upcoming development or change at the Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University that you are most excited about and why?

Dr. Richard Phillips: Robinson’s new strategic plan, Advancing Vision 2020, is the single most important recent development, and its implementation will position Robinson as distinctive in a number of dimensions.

In addition to employing and supporting faculty from traditional business disciplines, the plan calls for Robinson to secure new faculty talent from relevant STEM based-disciplines, including those with doctoral degrees in computer science, statistics, machine learning, etc. By uniquely spanning the quantitative and qualitative disciplines of business, Robinson will equip students with the hard skills necessary to leverage technology to foster data-driven insights as well as the soft skills to imagine and deliver beyond what is expected in business.

Advancing Vision 2020 also calls for Robinson to foster an ecosystem that is highly collaborative with industry. By doing so, a Robinson education of the future will be less about attending lectures and more about actively gaining experience in an environment characterized by the two-way flow of ideas between academia and business.

By the time we are done executing Advancing Vision 2020, no one will be closer to business than the Robinson College of Business.

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About the Author


Kelly Vo    

Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and personal development.

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