Tippie College of Business
February 18, 2015
Sara Epstein Moninger

As the undergraduate dean in the Henry B. Tippie College of BusinessKen Brown draws on his experience as a father. Every day he strives to make Tippie the kind of place where his 11- and 13-year-old daughters would have a great educational experience, one where they would develop skills, grow, and become better people.

As a professor of management and organizations over the past 16 years, Brown clearly has made an impact, taking home the President and Provost Award for Teaching Excellence, the Collegiate Teaching Award, and the Outstanding Faculty Service Award, among many other honors. As a dean in a college that plans to expand enrollment, he now has an even bigger opportunity to shape the student experience.

Brown recently chatted with Iowa Now about what makes a student successful and how the college plans to grow bigger and better.

What advice do you share with students?

In our weekly student newsletter I include what I call DRAT, or Dean’s Random Advice and Tips. The advice ranges from very concrete—how to do well in a class, for example—to very broad things that I think help make students better people.

For example, one of the key distinguishing characteristics between students who excel and those who struggle is that students who excel are really present. They’re intentional about being where they’re supposed to be and paying full attention and getting done what they’re supposed to get done. They’re not engaged in wishful thinking or procrastination. They don’t spend all their time on their cell phones or watching Netflix, Hulu, or Vine. At every moment they are engaging with the world around them. They are paying attention and asking questions.

So many good things follow from the simple act of being present. If you stay present, life won’t happen to you. You’ll plan out what you want to experience, and you won’t be surprised—like the student who showed up in my class the other day and didn’t know there was a quiz.

The university is planning to ramp up enrollment. How will the college accommodate more students?

We are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of applications to the college, which is exciting. We’re seeing those increases for Iowa residents and nonresidents, and the quality appears to be rising. Our goal over the next two years to get both bigger and better.

Simply admitting more students makes you bigger, but that doesn’t make you better. We have to expand the base of opportunities available for students and broaden the network of people who are helping coach and mentor them. To do that, we’re going to invite more people to be part of the teaching enterprise. We’ll have our juniors and seniors help mentor our first- and second-year students, and our young alumni mentor our juniors and seniors. And we’ll partner with businesses so that professionals are helping us teach.

It all boils down to reconceptualizing and reframing our teaching methods and processes. We’ll always have—and be expanding—the world-class faculty and classroom experience, but we will add value to the student experience with these other relationships.

What else is new in the Tippie College of Business?

We’re in the process of implementing a new graduation requirement for students who start in fall 2015: They will have to complete at least one major experiential educational event before they graduate—an internship, a course that requires them to work with an outside company or organization, study abroad, or research with a faculty member. We’ve developed a software tool called the Tippie Roadmap to help students think about their career goals and then pick an experiential learning opportunity that advances those goals.

The roadmap will help them to plan the event and also to reflect on it so that they’re prepared to explain to their parents—or in a job interview—what skills they gained. We hope this requirement and tool will help coax into action those reluctant students who rely solely on course work to develop their knowledge and skills. The course work is absolutely critical, but in a competitive job market, students need to have skills that differentiate them from other applicants.

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Did you know? 

Ken Brown’s life has come full circle: His parents met in Iowa City, each earning graduate degrees at Iowa, before moving to Texas, where Brown was born. The family relocated when Brown’s father joined the faculty at the University of Maryland, where Brown went on to earn a B.S. in psychology. He received an M.A. and Ph.D. at Michigan State University before coming to Iowa to teach.