Q&A with Incoming Eller College Dean Leonard Jessup
By Liz Warren-Pederson
UA and Eller College alumnus Leonard Jessup will become dean of the Eller College of Management in May. The UA announced his appointment in late January, following a nationwide search headed by a committee of university leaders, faculty, alumni, and students.
Jessup is currently chair of the Department of Entrepreneurship and Information Systems and director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at Washington State University (WSU). He completed his doctoral studies at the UA in management and organizational behavior and MIS under the advisement of Eller Professor of Management Terry Connolly and Regents Professor of MIS Jay Nunamaker.
In 2000, Jessup was recruited from a tenured faculty position at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University to head the Department of MIS at WSU. During more than a decade at WSU, he served in a variety of leadership roles, including dean of the College of Business, vice president of university development, and president of the WSU Foundation.
eller buzz checked in with him to learn more about his background and what’s ahead for the Eller College.
Eller Buzz: Could you talk about what motivated you to pursue the position of dean here at Eller?
Leonard Jessup: My time at the UA as a student in the late 1980s was transformational for me and changed the trajectory of my life, both professionally and personally, in ways that are profound and still paying off. I will forever be indebted to the institution and people who helped shape my life. I was excited about the prospect of coming back and giving back to the place and the people who gave me so much.
EB: Can you talk generally about where you see the Eller College going?
LJ: I have long felt that the Eller College can and should be considered to be among the very best in the nation. All of the ingredients are there for Eller to be as good as the business schools at Berkeley, Michigan, Virginia, UCLA, Texas, North Carolina, Indiana, or any other top public program in the country. I also see real opportunity for the UA and the city of Tucson to be as great as, say, the University of Texas and the city of Austin. Just as the success of McCombs School of Business is a critical driver of the success of UT and the city of Austin, the Eller College can and should be a critical driver of the success of the UA, Tucson, and the state.
EB: Part of being a critical driver of success is economic, and the creation of a culture that values innovation; and the Eller College's McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship is working hard on that front in our region. At WSU you headed the entrepreneurship program. Can you speak to the value of entrepreneurship to you, personally?
LJ: I descend from Italian immigrants on both my mother’s and my father’s side of the family. As was the case for many immigrant families, our family name was changed when my grandfather came to America. Like many immigrants, they came to America in search of prosperity and a better life. My family is a long line of small businessmen and women dating all the way back to our origins in “the old country,” and as I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, the conversations and stories around our dinner table constantly revolved around starting or growing businesses.
That entrepreneurial tradition has continued in me, and although I chose a career in higher education, much of my research in information systems has focused on technological innovations and how we deal with them.
EB: Can you talk a little more about your research?
LJ: My current stream of research is focused on corporate innovation and on the commercialization of technological innovation. Specifically, I’ve published work on the internet and open innovation, new venture strategies, social networks, social entrepreneurship, and more. Earlier in my career, I concentrated on groupware, wireless collaboration, electronic commerce, and technology-supported learning and decision making.
EB: You also come to the Eller College with considerable experience leading fundraising initiatives at both the college and the institutional levels.
LJ: I not only tremendously enjoy this aspect of the job, but I think that the personal qualities that go with it – drive, energy, enthusiasm, passion – are a part of my DNA. I continue to be MVP Gold on Alaska Airlines and have enjoyed immensely my time connecting with WSU alumni, donors, advisory board members, partners, and friends. I look forward to meeting my fellow Wildcats over the coming months and expect I’ll be logging even more frequent flyer miles.
EB: What did the experience of heading the WSU Foundation add to or change the way you look at the role of the business school in a university?
LJ: During my time at the Foundation, we completed the University’s campaign feasibility study and comprehensive campaign plan. That experience not only enabled me to see how a business school can be successful at raising money, but perhaps more importantly, it showed me how a business school needs to fit with other units around campus, both academic and administrative, in ways that not only help the business school to be more effective, but also to help “raise all ships.”
EB: To wrap things up, what would you like alumni, students, faculty, and staff of the Eller College to know about you?
LJ: I have devoted my professional life to higher education and in particular to the core values underlying the American land grant university. I am passionate about the Eller College and I will be a tireless, passionate advocate for Eller and the UA and for the ways the institution can change people’s lives, just as it did mine.
Learn more about the Eller College of Management.