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Scott DeRue was named Dean of the Stephen M. Ross School of Business last Thursday at the University Board of Regents meeting. In an interview with the Daily, DeRue discussed the importance of higher education and how innovation will be the focus of his deanship.
DeRue credits his grandfather and parents for instilling an appreciation for education that was absent in the rest of the rural North Carolina community in which he grew up. When he arrived to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — his grandfather’s alma mater — as a freshman, DeRue was exposed to the transformational power of higher education.
“In my community, higher education was the exception, not the norm,” DeRue said. “When I went (to UNC) my eyes were opened in terms of what the possibilities were for a kid from a small town in rural North Carolina.”
After completing his undergraduate education, DeRue worked in private equity, management consulting and he managed a luxury yacht company. However, his desire to contribute to higher education persisted, and he left the private sector, earning a Ph.D. in management and organizational behavior from Michigan State University in 2007 before joining the University of Michigan faculty.
DeRue said he spent many years learning for himself what he wanted his mark on the world to be and eventually landed on higher education.
“I went through a long process of figuring out who I want to be, what’s the impact I want to have, what’s the legacy I want to create,” DeRue said. “And for me, the answer ultimately was to be a part of higher education, to create ideas and research that mattered, that really was shaping important conversations in business.”
Now DeRue says he hopes to extend the same transformational opportunities he had in his undergraduate years to other students.
Prior to his appointment to a five-year renewable term as dean of Ross, DeRue served as the faculty director of the Sanger Leadership Center, which promotes leadership education, and faculty director of the Emerging Leaders Program, an executive education program for mid-level managers — both of which are Ross programs. In 2014, DeRue was promoted to associate dean for executive education and has served associate dean for the part-time and Executive MBA programs for the past six months.
DeRue also emphasized the potential for Business School graduates and faculty research to make a positive impact on the broader world, such as through interdisciplinary applications of business research and education.
“Business, in my opinio,n is the most powerful force for positive force in the world,” DeRue said. “We want our faculty and students coming up with ideas through their research, through their academics, that are going to shape the future of business in important ways.”
“There are over 130 graduate programs on campus, and 101 of those are ranked in the top 10 of their discipline and business, as an institution, cuts across every one of them,” DeRue added. “The Business School has something to say about healthcare, so does the School of Medicine, so does the School of Public Health, so does the School of Nursing and probably so does the School of Social Work as well.”
Once he officially assumes his position on July 1, DeRue hopes to foster an environment within the Business School that would optimize for accomplishing these goals, rather than leading from the front.
“If you talk to deans that have done really well, and really had an impact through their deanship, they are a visionary force for what’s possible,” DeRue said. “But what they are really good at is bringing people together — faculty, staff, students, alumni — and enabling them to create.”
DeRue also noted that business education is rapidly moving away from traditional classroom lectures toward experiential learning, so the Business School must evolve to keep pace.
“There is a real need for innovation, both in the ideas we are creating in our research, as well as in the experiences we use to educate our students,” DeRue said, noting the Business School has been a leader in the adoption of action-based learning models since the 1980s. “We have multidisciplinary action projects, our undergraduates are doing consulting projects for companies as part of classes, we have investment funds that invest in real companies.”
“The days of students coming to the Business School and listening to an expert talk at them are over … so how do we accelerate the move towards action-based learning to an even greater degree while ensuring our students continue to learn the fundamentals?” he added. “We need to be coming up with new and innovative forms of action-based learning.”
DeRue also reaffirmed the importance of faculty and students in building and maintaining the Business School’s global reputation.
“We are a top-ranked business school because of our faculty, because of our students, because of our alumni, and our facilities are breath-taking,” he said. “This University has given me a lot over the years, and I am who I am because of this university, and it’s an honor to serve and give back.”