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University of Iowa Business Dean Looks to Better Prepare Students

One year into her tenure as the dean of University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business, Sarah Gardial has her plate full.

Gardial, the college’s first female dean, has been working with members of the business community to address problems facing graduates and the changing business climate.

“I’m getting out around the state, meeting with Rockwell Collins, John Deere, the insurance companies in Des Moines, but also with mid-size companies and start-ups,” she said. “And I’m asking them two questions. How are we doing—are we turning out the types of students you need and creating a pipeline? And what else can we do for you?”

The answer to both of her questions revolves around the globalization and ever-changing nature of business.

Employers would like the University of Iowa to offer continuing education classes outside of its MBA program, she said. The university is reaching between 700 and 800 people a year with its MBA program, but employers want more, she said, in the form of workshops and certificate programs.

“Business is continuing to evolve,” she said. “So people are now looking for a lifelong education.”

Gardial said the business school could offer several types of continual education programs by next summer and then work on growing the curriculum.

The solution to her other question isn’t as easy, though, she said.

Iowa employers believe graduates are proficient on the technical side of things, like finance and accounting, but they aren’t prepared when it comes to communication skills, leadership skills, or the ability to work with people around the globe.

“How do we prepare students to be successful in a virtual, global world?” she said. ”The basics are there. But the vehicle in which they’re used has changed.”

To tackle this issue, she recently assigned faculty members to look into the problem and develop ways to better prepare students.

“You can look at this change and be afraid,” she said. “Or you can look at it as an opportunity. There’s not a single business school that has the answer to this question. So why not us?”

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