Pius J. Egbelu http://som.njit.edu/dean/index.php was recently named dean of the NJIT School of Management (SOM) http://management.njit.edu/ and appointed Distinguished Professor and holder of the Then & Clark Chair. NJIT asked the new dean a few questions; his answers follow.What influences in your life led you to become an engineer, an industrial engineer?
As a boy growing up in Nigeria, I had the opportunity to take trips to manufacturing plants where I saw raw materials become products. Seeing the stages of the production line intrigued me. Fascinated by that general procedure, I saw industrial engineering as my career path — I was partially right.
Given your education and career experience, what brought you to SOM?
I started as an assistant professor at Syracuse University and eventually became dean of engineering at Louisiana State. Along the way, certain things became clear to me. The close linkage between technology and how it can be managed effectively throughout our lives led me to consider management. Combining the operations manager and the industrial engineer is not unusual. Rather, it is a natural choice.
What distinguishes SOM from other management schools?
The opportunity to study business models at SOM is distinguished by an emphasis on the applications of technology. Here, at every turn, technology supplements the core business background common to all management programs. For example, interdisciplinary links with Newark College of Engineering are very strong. NJIT’s multidisciplinary student teams drawn from management, science, engineering, and the liberal arts have an important edge over traditional schools of business.
With all the options available at NJIT, why enroll in SOM?
As I’ve mentioned, the opportunity to work on interdisciplinary teams is unique and very valuable. It’s an advantage our neighboring schools do not have. But technology is just one part of it. There is nothing we do in life that does not require and emphasize business concepts. If someone has a vision of being a manager of any kind, SOM is a natural place to start, the place to see the light.
What trends are most significant in management education today?
In two words: globalization and technology. The 21st-century world is changing rapidly, at an alarming rate. That is why we must have a “living curriculum.” We need a deeper knowledge of other cultures, which makes study abroad very important for undergraduates, not just for our executive MBA students. We must recognize that we are truly living in a global village.
Yet we must also focus on our role in local development, as many management schools are doing across the country. In New Jersey, this means preparing students to contribute to industries cited in the Strategic Job Growth Plan recently issued by Governor Christie’s office. These include pharmaceuticals, the life sciences, finance, manufacturing and health care. The SOM curriculum must be continually updated to meet the 21st-century needs of our students and New Jersey.
How is SOM partnering with business and industry to the benefit of students?
SOM has many industry partners. Their help, especially through our advisory Board of Visitors, ensures that we have a curriculum designed to meet actual business needs. Our students are challenged with problems that come directly from companies — real-life challenges that can be brutally harsh. Equally important are the coveted internships that our industry partners provide.
Is interest in entrepreneurship growing?
Definitely. There’s a great deal of interest in our technological entrepreneurship program, and courses like New Venture Management and New Venture Finance draw students throughout the campus. They are heavily enrolled.
We teach students how to move from concept to commercialization and to develop realistic business plans. There are also opportunities to work hands-on with experienced entrepreneurs at the NJIT Enterprise Development Center — the EDC — the state’s first and largest business incubator. Having the EDC on campus is a significant asset. It’s a real-world entrepreneurial lab. There aren’t many schools that can boast of what we have at the EDC.
What are the most significant areas of faculty research?
In years to come, I think there will be an increasing focus on practical applications for business development and effective management in a broad range of core areas. Among them are health care, alternative energy, the environment, and the many challenges of succeeding in the global marketplace. Intermodal transportation, finance, and my own area of interest, supply chain management, also come to mind.