By Francesca Di Meglio and Whitney Sparks
Matt Cohen had one additional assignment to do before graduating from the S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., in May, 2005. As a Roy H. Park Leadership Fellow, he was required to create a community service project. He designed a retreat for 10 inner-city kids from New York City.
The program entails turning the Johnson school into a business summer camp, from July 24 to 27, for the group of high school sophomores and juniors, selected from local mentorship programs.
"The idea was to give them a taste of college life," says Cohen, who will start his job in investment banking at Bear Sterns (BSC ) after the retreat. The kids will experience the full flavor of campus life -- from roommates to dorm food.
The 10 students will participate in such things as a College Admissions 101 class and an Apprentice-like business competition. They will also use a ropes course to build teamwork skills. Later, they will return to Manhattan for a tour of businesses institutions, including the New York Stock Exchange and Madison Square Garden.
Cohen says he just hopes the activities score with the kids, who might not otherwise get a chance to see what a college degree has to offer.
Leadership Series at Lundquist
Maybe it won't be so lonely at the top anymore for some chief executives -- thanks to the new 10-week CEO Leadership Series designed and led last spring by former MediaOne Group Chairman Chuck Lillis and his wife, Gwen, at the Lundquist College of Business at the University of Oregon in Eugene.
Twenty participants selected from the school's pool of eligible MBA students met in small groups with four CEOs of Fortune 500 companies: SuperValu (SVU ), Columbia Sportswear (COLM ), Whirlpool (WHR ), and the Williams Companies (WMB ).
The students also engaged in extensive research on how bosses conduct business.
The research was used to create an original course based entirely on how to lead an organization. The range of issues covered in the class included managing large enterprises, from human resources to product development, and the dearth of resources devoted to "help students understand the complexity" of it all.
Students met weekly to hear speeches by the CEOs and the Lillises, who gave a series of lectures on leadership. Gwen Lillis is a former faculty member at the University of Colorado.
All four of the executives who participated briefed the students on the details of their companies' operations, making themselves available for questions and giving presentations to the entire class at the school.
"We lent our time for the benefit of fresh thinking," says Jeff Noddle, CEO and chairman of SuperValu (SVU ), a retail grocery and food-supply giant based in Minneapolis.
New Dean for Carlson
The Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis recently appointed a new dean, Alison Davis-Blake, who will take over in July, 2006.
Davis-Blake, who will become the 11th dean and the first woman to head the school, will spend the next year continuing to serve in her current job as senior associate dean for Academic Affairs at McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin.
Already flying back and forth between universities, Davis-Blake will also take on a consulting role at Carlson to ease her transition.
In the meantime, Associate Dean Michael Houston and retired Wells Fargo (WFC ) Chairman Jim Campbell will run the Carlson school. They assumedresponsibility upon the recent departure of Dean Larry Benveniste, who now heads Goizueta Business School at Emory University in Atlanta.
With 15 years at McCombs under her belt, Davis-Blake has a strong base of academic knowledge. She earned a doctorate in organizational behavior from Stanford University. And she is the daughter of retired Carlson professor Gordon Davis.
Of the 200 candidates the search committee originally considered for the Carlson dean, Davis-Blake stood out, especially after an outstanding performance at a public forum at the school, says Connie Wanberg, vice-chair of the search committee and the Curtis L. Carlson Professor of Industrial Relations.
"People expected [Davis-Blake] to get the job after hearing her speak," Wanberg says. "She clearly is a strategic thinker who got along well with our various constituencies."
A believer in the Carlson school's potential, Davis-Blake has already begun to set her priorities. "I'd like to enhance the quality, visibility, and brand image of the school, so it can move forward," she says.
Topping her to-do list is an expansion of the undergraduate program, which enrolls 1,700 students and has to turn away about 85% of applicants because of limitations of space and the number of faculty and resources.
She also plans to cultivate relationships with the business community in the Twin Cities. Already planting the seeds for a new and improved Carlson school a year before arriving, Davis-Blake says she should have a smooth transition into the life of a dean.
Di Meglio is a reporter for BusinessWeek Online in Fort Lee, N.J.
Sparks is an intern for BusinessWeek in New York.