DEAN PROFILE: ROBERT JOSS OF STANFORD BUSINESS SCHOOLBy Rebecca Knight 2009-04-13
When Bob Joss arrived at for the first time as a young PhD student in 1965, business was not considered much of an academic discipline.
“It was for students who couldn't get into law school or medical school,” he recalls. “We were second-class citizens looked down upon by the academy.”
When he arrived at Stanford for the second time in 1999 – this time as the business school's eighth dean – things had changed.
“Now business schools are at the centre of the university,” he says. “It's increasingly hard to be a great university without a great business school.”
Prof Joss retires this year after an enormously successful 10 years at the helm at one of the most prestigious business schools in the world.
During his tenure, he raised hundreds of millions of dollars for Stanford, helped develop the redesigned MBA curriculum and – his proudest accomplishment – forged bonds within the university to encourage greater collaboration among students and faculty.
“Everyone is talking about it, and Stanford is doing it,” says Prof Joss, 67. “Business schools are by definition multi-disciplinary schools. We have social psychologists, statisticians, political scientists, economists coming together and concentrating on a problem: how do you get an organisation to work better?”
A native of Washington state, he spent most of his career in banks.
Prof Joss received his PhD from Stanford in 1970, and went to Washington DC as a White House Fellow and deputy to the assistant secretary for economic policy at the US Treasury department.
Deciding against a career in academia, he joined Wells Fargo Bank in 1971, rising to vice-chairman in 1985.
He left Wells Fargo to become the chief executive of Australia's Westpac Banking Corporation in 1993, where he was credited with managing its turnround.
Prof Joss rethought the bank's strategy, directed its return to financial health, and restructured the organisation's culture to emphasise teamwork, customer focus, and community support.
After six years in Sydney, he returned to Palo Alto, California at the peak of dotcom mania.
In his first months as dean, cable news crews were constantly on the campus lawn, and it seemed MBA students were forming new internet companies every day.
“Coming back to America from another country, I hadn't been swept up in all this dotcom stuff,” he says.
“There was a hubris that was unreal: the climate and the culture and the unbridled optimism. There was arrogance that anything was possible.”
Prof Joss soon discovered he had a lot to learn about the way academic institutions function.
“I don't know what it's like to be a professor, working your way up, trying to get tenure. I came in as dean, which is a rarefied atmosphere,” he says. “I came to the university understanding that it was a different culture. I knew I needed to listen and learn about the things people value, how decisions are made, how people get ahead.”
He understood one thing in particular: the university was in need of more innovative and cross-disciplinary collaboration.
“We needed to figure out a way to make the university do great things collaboratively.
“What does it take to be a great university in the 21st century? It takes integrating knowledge around big issues like human health, education, climate change,” he says.
Over the past decade, the business school introduced cross-disciplinary MBAs, and two joint degrees: the MBA-MS environment and resources and the MBA-MA in public policy.
Prof Joss also helped launched three academic centres – the Center for Leadership Development and Research, the Center for Social Innovation, and the Center for Global Business and the Economy – that, like the School's Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, created a critical mass of cases, courses and activities in each area.
Prof Joss has been an adept fundraiser as well, increasing the business school endowment from $387m in 1999 to more than $1bn today.
He also accepted one of the largest gifts to a business school – $105m from Philip Knight, the founder of Nike and a Stanford alumnus.
The money will help fund the new 360,000sq ft, environmentally sustainable campus that is expected to be completed in 2011: the Knight Management Center. “The space is going to be fantastic, but what's more important is what's going on in the space,” he says.
In 2007, Stanford introduced its redesigned, highly customised MBA curriculum.
The programme offers a more global view and expanded leadership and communication development. “We're taking a much stronger role around thinking and research around leadership,” he says.
“We've always been good about teaching students how to think critically, but increasingly we want them to have [leadership] experiences while they're still students. To prepare students to actually lead on a global stage.”
The programme has four focus points: first, it aims to give each student a highly personalised experience by offering a wide-ranging menu of courses. Second, it attempts to intensify the school's intellectual experience through smaller, high-impact seminars focused on analytical thinking.
Third, it increases global business education opportunities through both new course options and a required international component.
And finally, it expands the school's focus on leadership and communication through courses that examine students' personal strengths in the topic.
In spite of the deepening global financial crisis, which has in part been blamed on the perceived avarice of Wall Street bankers, Prof Joss still believes business is a righteous occupation.
“By definition, managers are those who get things done through other people, who unleash talent in others. To me that is a tough job. And to do it well is an enormous benefit to society. It is a noble calling.”
“We're looking at something that got out of whack. Management wasn't valued as much as the deal or the transaction,” he says.
“The role of business, the role of good management has never been more important. There's a crying need for it. When it's done poorly, there are terrible consequences.”
1971年，他决定离开学术界，加盟富国银行(Wells Fargo Bank)，1985年升至该银行副董事长一职。
1993年，他离开富国银行，成为澳大利亚西太平洋银行(Westpac Banking Corporation)首席执行官，因成功令该银行复苏而受到赞誉。
乔斯还帮助创建了3所学术中心——领导力发展和研究中心(Center for Leadership Development and Research)、社会创新中心(Center for Social Innovation)及全球商业经济中心(Center for Global Business and the Economy)。与该商学院的创业研究中心(Center for Entrepreneurial Studies)一样，这些学术中心在每个领域都创建了大量案例、课程和活动。
这笔资金将用于资助环境可持续的新校区——奈特管理中心(Knight Management Center)。新校区占地36万平方英尺，预计将于2011年完工。他说：“这里会非常棒，但更重要的是这里会发生什么。”