Clemson business college grads will be prepped for workforce, says new dean

Wendy York on a success strategy of academics and real-world experience

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Wendy York, dean, Clemson University's Business College.

Born in Salt Lake City with stops in Omaha, Dallas, Southern California, and other points around the globe before ever stepping foot in the Palmetto State, Wendy York, the new dean of Clemson University’s Business College, walked a long road until stumbling on what she called “the best-kept secret in the country.”

A graduate of Stanford University and the Harvard Business School, York said the South Carolina college is “more than football.”

“Clemson’s Business College is the best-kept secret in the country, and our academics are on par,” she said. “We are on the move.”

York’s journey to academia included stops at Epsilon Data Management and Bank of America before taking time to raise her children and volunteer with their local school system.

Upon returning to the workforce, York found a perfect home as assistant and associate dean of her alma mater’s graduate school of business. Six years into her time at Stanford, a headhunter called her to recommend Clemson University.

“The only obstacle was I am not a Ph.D.,” she continued. “But I had nothing to lose, so I was me in the interview, flexible and brave enough for new challenges and to pivot and dance.”

York says the university “had the guts to bring in a nontraditional hire.”

Q&A with Wendy York:

UBJ: How well does the business school integrate with the rest of the university since Clemson is primarily known for its technical schools?

York: The business school is becoming a collaborative campus resource for infusing the business mindset within the technical degree programs, partnering initially with the College of Engineering, College of Science, and the major of construction science.

This interdisciplinary collaboration is playing out through a number of channels. There are Creative Inquiry undergraduate research classes and other cross-disciplinary learning opportunities in which students from business and other degree programs are collaborating like they will be required to do when they enter the “real world.”

UBJ: Many corporations are looking to universities to produce workers and employees with “shovel-ready” business skills. Is your vision of the business school to focus on academic foundations or teach immediate shelter-ready skills? 

York: I don’t think it’s “either or.” It must be both. Clemson’s business education curriculum is being designed to produce business-ready graduates with the skills and values needed to succeed in a dynamic global economy.

Our business graduates are being prepared for the workforce with more than just solid course content and the latest technology. They are receiving student enrichment services and out-of-classroom-learning, which develop leadership, decision-making, and critical-thinking skills.

UBJ: We are hearing from industry that new employees lack skills to effectively think critically and solve business problems. Do you see the business school shifting toward more of a liberal arts education, which teaches critical thinking, or staying focused on these functional knowledge courses?

York: Again, our students must have both. They will be effective communicators who are also technically confident in business analytics. Critical-thinking skills are vital to strategic business decision making. Our educational goals and objectives are designed to build a relevant, forward-looking curriculum that teaches our students business-critical skills.

Beyond traditional classroom curriculum, we are teaching our students problem-solving skills by placing them in real-world settings through domestic and international internships. We have many examples where students are contributing to day-to-day business operations across not only all our business disciplines but with the other technical colleges.

UBJ: How is Clemson dealing with the hyper-specialization and rapid shifts occurring in the modern workplace?

York: In order to remain current and be a relevant educator of tomorrow’s business leaders, the College of Business has numerous alumni and industry partnerships in place and is continually expanding relationships to meet student and industry needs.

These connections with business and industry may be research-related or can be solution-based projects with leading companies in fields like advanced manufacture, business analytics, and medical sales, to name a few of the exciting initiatives we have in place and are setting up at Clemson.

We’re in the right place at the right time!

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