Kavajecz reflects, looks ahead after first semester

When Ken Kavajecz became dean of the Martin J. Whitman School of Management in July, his first goal was to get acquainted with the people in the school, he said.

With this in mind, Kavajecz said his first few months as dean were focused on listening, in order to get a better sense of the goals, aspirations and concerns of students and faculty in Whitman.

This has also influenced the way students at Whitman perceive the dean.

Kelly Thompson, a junior finance major, said Kavajecz seems friendly and approachable.

“Whenever I’ve seen him interacting with students and faculty, he never hesitates to smile and say hello,” she said. “I also like the fact that — being a finance student myself — he was an acclaimed professor of finance at his previous position.”

After taking the first few months to listen, Kavajecz said his next priority was to focus on the undergraduate program at Whitman by engaging in a curriculum review.

“So this would mean revising our curriculum to be better suited to our students in getting jobs and opportunities once they graduate,” he said.

Another goal Kavajecz has is to build community and professionalism, which led to the creation of a project called IMPRESS. He said IMPRESS is not a class but a co-curricular program that fosters those ideals, as well as hosting group sessions and seminars.

Although a development group is still working on the project, Kavajecz said next semester’s incoming class is going to have a good understanding of IMPRESS.

Beyond a curriculum specifically for Whitman students, Kavajecz said the business school is also working on a program for students in other colleges on campus.

Business Essentials I and II are part of a two-semester sequence that promotes an understanding of every aspect of business, including topics such as marketing and finance, he explained.

“Business Essentials targets non-Whitman students on campus so that any student who’s interested in getting a grounding in business can do so,” Kavajecz added. “Frankly, it doesn’t matter what school or college you’re in, you’re going to work in a business.”

Though Kavajecz’s full schedule has lent him several successful initiatives and plans, he said he wishes he had more time in the day to talk with more individuals and groups.

“I’ve met with a good fraction of the school, in small group sessions and one-on-ones, but I would’ve wished I’d gotten to more people,” Kavajecz added.

However, Kavajecz has done a great job at listening, said Amanda Nicholson, associate Whitman dean, in an email. She also said Kavajecz is “calm” and “extremely professional.”

Nicholson said she worked on several initiatives with the dean, in order to help improve the overall Whitman experience. She added that she believes these initiatives will raise the business school’s ranking and its overall quality.

“The new dean has a vision and a plan for Whitman which is clear and focused, and he brings with this a wealth of experience to help guide its implementation,” Nicholson said.

Still, Scott Peters, sophomore finance and accounting dual major, hopes to see some policy changes. He said he would like students majoring in Whitman to also be able to minor in the school.

“A minor can really broaden a student’s knowledge and make them a more valuable employee in the future,” Peters said.

Thompson, the junior finance major, said she hopes to see more of an inclusion of Bloomberg certification terminals in finance courses. She said she would also like to see the continuation of Microsoft Excel courses throughout a student’s four years at Whitman, instead of limiting it to just first-year and transfer students.

“I also hope to see him strengthen (Whitman’s) reputation, which I anticipate he will,” she added.

Kavajecz said one thing he learned from the students and faculty is that they are ready and open to improvements and to take on responsibilities.

Said Kavajecz: “It has been wonderful.”


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