Named the sixth dean in the UTSA College of Business’ 43-year history, Wm. Gerard (Gerry) Sanders began his duties as Dean and Bodenstedt Chair on June 1, 2013.
Sanders comes to UTSA from Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business, bringing a wide range of administrative, academic and leadership experience. Joining Rice in 2008, he served as a professor of strategic management and the area leader of the Strategy and Environment group. Previously, he led the Department of Organizational Leadership and Strategy at the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University.
A native of California with strong Texas ties, Sanders’ research focuses on corporate governance and executive leadership and their effects on strategic decision making and company performance. He has published studies on the effects of CEO stock option pay on firm risk taking; the role of top management work experiences on firm strategy; and the nature of what firms learn from their board members’ experiences.
His research has been published in leading management journals including the Academy of Management Journal, Strategic Management Journal and the Journal of Management. His work on stock option pay has also been featured in The New York Times, The Economist and Bloomberg Businessweek.
Prior to entering academia Sanders spent more than a decade working in institutional commercial real estate investment with Equitec Financial Group, The Koll Company and Bechtel Investments. Sanders received his Ph.D. in management from The University of Texas at Austin and holds a bachelor’s in finance from Brigham Young University.
What interested you about the deanship at the UTSA College of Business?
I’m excited to be at UTSA–excited because of the unique position UTSA is in and its bright future. UTSA is like a diamond in the rough. Forty years ago UTSA was a dusty campus, and it has emerged into a vibrant university.
The building blocks are in place to transform the university exponentially. We are part of a great system of schools. We have an excellent, committed faculty and our students are talented and ambitious. It is important to always remember where you came from and where you are going as an institution.
Although you’ve been here only a few months, what do you envision as your top priorities?
My first priority will be to focus the college strategically into areas that will lead to excellence. I’m more interested in quality than quantity. We will build world-class programs in select areas. The potential for the College of Business is unlimited right now.
How can the college partner with the community to achieve these goals?
In my travels through the community speaking to business owners and leaders, I’ve met with business leaders who are eager to engage with the college and see us reach the next level. It is our mission to engage the business community to help address matters of concern that will benefit the economy of South Texas. They are willing to support us with their time, efforts and resources.
One area of engagement that has led to much success is mentorship. We’ve seen that through programming in the college’s Center for Student Professional Development and within our entrepreneurship programs. I plan to build on these initiatives to allow more opportunities for our students to engage with business leaders.
How is the world of business different today from when you received your degree, and how can the college adapt to address these changing needs?
Big data, cyber security and cloud computing are just three examples of the dynamic business environment. These exciting business fields were hardly even part of the business vernacular a decade ago.
Business is constantly changing and will become even more complex in the next decade. We must not only prepare our students for this environment, but also to be innovators and leaders who can adapt to shifting business phenomenon.
As a leading researcher in strategic management, what academic lessons can you apply to the administration of the college?
Strategy is often thought of as an intellectual exercise to formulate the winning game plan. But, in reality, the best strategies aren’t so much about having the best plan, but rather having a good plan that can be executed with reliability. A winning strategy is only successful if you can implement it.
How can the college contribute to President Romo’s vision of becoming a Tier One university?
I have some ideas on that, and I’ve also engaged the college’s leadership team in a dialogue to help us articulate what Tier One means for a business school generally, and what it means for UTSA specifically.
First and foremost, Tier One for us translates to excellence. We are building a school of business that delivers excellence. This will be showcased through the teaching of our faculty, the knowledge that they create (research) and our student outcomes.
What do you consider your biggest challenge as dean?
My greatest challenge as dean is that I’ve had to come to realize that the college can’t be everything to all people. We have limited resources like all companies, so we need to ensure that we are not spread too thin. The college will need to become more efficient, and we need to make important decisions about where to focus our efforts.
Which of your mentors have influenced you the most?
Throughout my academic career I have been most influenced by Alison Davis-Blake, the Edward J. Frey Dean at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. She was my Ph.D. dissertation advisor at UT-Austin and has remained my mentor throughout my career. She is the smartest person I know, but beyond brain power, she has an innate understanding of how to get things done.
What is the one thing you learned in business school that you’ll never forget?
During a strategic management course, my professor gave a lecture on our last day of class that has stuck with me throughout the years. He shared an analogy about diamonds—how they sparkle and look pretty, but that they are also incredibly sharp cutting tools.
In manufacturing, workers are trained to understand how to position the diamond correctly in a cutting tool to utilize its sharpest edge.
Individuals are also like diamonds. We each have our own unique facets. We must study and polish our diamonds to look for our sharpest edges. Selecting a career path that utilizes our sharpest edge allows us to lead a rewarding life. At each major life decision, I reflect and make sure that I’m cutting with my sharpest edge.