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New business dean building on community ties

Joan Gabel has been dean of the Trulaske College of Business at MU for about six months now and is beginning to make her mark with new programs and initiatives.
She replaced Bruce Walker, who was the business college dean for 20 years.

Joan Gabel
Joan Gabel

Gabel was on the faculty for three years at Florida State’s College of Business, where she was a department chair and director of international relations, and was interim director of the Institute for International Business at Georgia State’s College of Business, where she worked for 11 years. She received her bachelor’s degree from Haverford College in Philadelphia and a J.D. at the University of Georgia.
What are some of your initial observations?
Gabel: My colleagues on the faculty and staff, our students, our alums and our community partners have offered me and my family a very warm welcome. I have observed a very high commitment to quality throughout Cornell Hall and a lot of energy devoted to excellence in research, learning and professionalism. I had these impressions of MU and the Trulaske College of Business when I visited for my interview, and I’m happy to report that those impressions have been confirmed and exceeded.
Why is the business school putting a strong emphasis on professional development?
Gabel: The Professional Development Program is a real point of pride for our undergraduate students and a distinction for our college. During the course of just two years, we have developed extensive experiential learning opportunities designed to ready our students for success in the job search and through the transition from the classroom to the office. Every one of our students participates in this program, which makes it a huge initiative given the size of our college, but we are committed to giving our students the ability to compete and succeed both in their knowledge and in their skills.
We know of no other college of business, and certainly no public school of our size, that is running a program like this or offering such distinctive applied learning opportunities for our students. The program culminates in an internship that allows our students to gain on-the-job experience prior to graduation while also providing their insights and efforts in support of our business partners who supervise them. We, therefore, consider the program to be a real win-win for our community at large.

Gabel speaks to students in an auditorium at Cornell Hall
Gabel speaks to students in an auditorium at Cornell Hall

Prior to your arrival, the Trulaske team developed a wide range of collaborative programs with the business community. What will be happening with these collaborations in the future?
Gabel: The momentum of these programs will continue and will grow in size and impact. We rely heavily on our alums and partners to serve as speakers and professors for a day, executives in residence, mentors and internship supervisors in all areas of the college. These presentations are what give our classroom experience context, and our students are hungry for the real-world perspective that our speakers provide. Our graduate students have a formalized course structure as well as opportunities outside the classroom to provide consultancy services to the business community. Students greatly enjoy this opportunity, and the feedback from our partners is very strong.
Our entrepreneurship offerings are also expanding. Our graduate students can engage in consultancy and technology entrepreneurship courses that put them in the community very quickly. For our undergraduates, since 2006, we have been working in partnership with the community to give our students the opportunity to explore their entrepreneurship appetite through the Flegel Academy for Aspiring Entrepreneurs. Both undergraduate and graduate students engage in entrepreneurship-related competitions.
Gabel in the office at Cornell Hall with Michelle Niemeyer
Gabel in the office at Cornell Hall with Michelle Niemeyer

With the generous support of our partners’ time, talent and treasure, we’ve been able to expand that programming across campus so that any student in any major who wishes to engage in entrepreneurship preparation can do so. It’s a very exciting time for us on campus, and we anticipate using this preparation to ready our students for a wide variety of methods to create their own futures while serving as economic development partners here or wherever their journey takes them.
Has your experience in international business had an impact on new programs and initiatives at the Trulaske College of Business?
Gabel: Fortunately, we already have a wide slate of international study abroad opportunities that existed long before my arrival. Our students can travel, literally, to all corners and study, work and participate in the communities they visit. Such travel will make them familiar with another part of the world but also readies them to work, live and succeed in a variety of cultures, a quality that will improve their lives and make them distinct as they compete in the job market. At the same time, we will expand the study abroad programming with full exchange opportunities and increase the presence of international visitors within Cornell Hall. The end goal is for every student in Cornell Hall to have cross-cultural competency and for there to be a variety of ways to obtain that competency.
What are you doing to improve the quality and usability of research conducted by graduate students and professors? Are you looking at ways to harness other resources on campus to expand the scope and significance of research?
Gabel: We are increasing our collaborations across campus for research and teaching; we are fortunate to work at such a comprehensive university, and that creates tremendous intellectual capital from which we can all draw. The research we create in Cornell Hall independently or in partnership with our colleagues across campus has the overarching goal of expanding the knowledge base and improving our understanding of the business world in which we operate.
College rankings are tricky and somewhat subjective, but the Trulaske College of Business is moving up in some categories. What does the business school have to brag about, and what is your opinion on the significance of rankings?
Gabel: Rankings are difficult to navigate. We are very happy to be moving up, with our Crosby MBA reaching a new high, the college as a whole in the top 10 percent, our School of Accountancy in the top 20 programs nationally and our doctoral students finding placements at prestigious research institutions.
We are focused, however, on the excellence those rankings reflect. We are committed to being the best we can be in our research and teaching, and we work very hard to attract the best and brightest students through the programs we’ve discussed and others, such as our Cornell Leadership Program, which is an extremely selective program enhancement with extensive extracurricular learning opportunities for high-achieving students.
Once our students are here, we work very hard to ready them for the real world and maximize their competitiveness upon graduation. We know that the parts we control are as strong as they can be, and we are happy when that effort yields national recognition.
Have the alumni been supportive in any way that particularly stands out?
Gabel: Our alumni have been a tremendous support to me throughout this transition, and I am very happy to know I can rely on them going forward. We have active alums who are very recent graduates all the way to alums who graduated more than 50 years ago.
I have never seen such connection and commitment, and I am extremely grateful for it. These alums come onto campus and speak to our students and mentor them with a real-world perspective that otherwise would be extremely challenging to create. They nurture their job prospects, and they advise and support us as faculty so that our research and programming has a consistent reality check that keeps us ahead of the curve.
Like everyone, we are facing tremendous economic challenges, but because of the commitment of our alums, we are dealing with them positively, optimistically and with a certainty that we will surface from this even better.

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