I wouldn’t say advice, but because we’ve all been there, I’ll be able to share some of the experiences and very often, no matter who we are, we will always look back and we will think counterfactually. Counterfactually meaning that it could have been otherwise, if only I had done that or if only I had not done that. Don’t worry, we all will learn from the mistakes and if we think counterfactually and you say, oh if only I’d have done that and you then start complaining, regretting, it’s not going to help. We should think counterfactually, and say if only I’ve done that, so it means that moving forward, I learn a lesson from it. And I think as faculty members, because some faculty members, and I say this not in a derogatory sense, come fresh from school, they haven’t worked before, it’s really not easy to do translational work, which I think is the way to go because you were a student and then you become a professor, so to speak, and you haven’t actually had the transition, that some of us have, where you have been in the real world working. And that is, I would say a limitation. If you’re into research areas that actually require you to talk a lot about the real world, which I believe is every discipline. And so that’s something which is all faculty, not only in this university but everywhere in the world would need to deal with. And the way to go is not asking you to resign, and go and work outside for a period of time, but in your work, just like students do internship, you need to get involved into national service, national service in a sense of working with agencies to contribute your time, volunteer work, do consulting work whether paid or unpaid. And then you begin to experience the world, and experience the joy and possibility of translating your knowledge to solve a problem, and allow the real-world to provide you real problems that is worthy of academic research. And I think that is important and I think young faculty needs to do that, to be very honest, it is going to be difficult because you have tenure pressures, because you do if you are on tenure track, you need to get tenured. Even if you’re not on tenure track or term track, meaning you can get renewed, you need to ensure that you have decent research, and you need to teach well and so you have competing demands on your time. But I would say that I would like to think that most of the time, we hire the right people, who if you have good strategies, and you’re persistent and work hard, you can do it. And once you look back and say that, “You know, if you spend the next six years doing that, six years later you cannot get your six years back. What do you really want to do that is meaningful. It will involve some risk taking, some discipline and allocation of time, but we should ask ourselves and not say because I have tenure pressures, I’m just going to do research and have good decent teaching and forget about the real world. I will deal with the real world after I get tenure. Unfortunately, most people think like that practically, but I think it will be a mistake to think like that. You need to start working with the real-world, even as you proceed. But it requires probably good mentorship.
Well, you know, I'd been planning to go to Africa for a long time. I hadn't had a break from Deanship for 26 years, you know I've done 26 years on the trot until the end of December, beginning of January, whichever date you want to date it at. I planned Africa. I got money from the European Foundation for management development, and from GMAC. I persuaded them that was an area that needed to be looked at. My view is Africa is a completely forgotten continent in many ways and really people need educating about it. So I got a research grant. SMU didn't have to pay for my sabbatical, so I've been paying for my own sabbatical. And you know, I've got a book going to be coming out next June for the first part of the Africa Studies. The second one coming out after that and then the Latin American one coming out in-between. And I've got five books planned for the next two and a half years. It's really because traveling in Africa opens your eyes. And so people have got this perception of Africa as it's constantly have wars, constantly have strife. I mean it's not perfect, but a lot of that couldn't be farther from the truth. There's some tremendously entrepreneurial Africans, yearning for people to work with them. But they don't want a repeat of British, French, Belgian, Portuguese colonialism, or North American academic colonialism if you understand what I am saying. They want, and what I've learnt is I have to tell the story completely different from the one I thought I was going to tell, which is ok. I mean, I think people need to know more about Africa then I thought they needed to know. And there are some fascinating projects going on which I'm sure can keep me going for, that's a question about the function of your health and everything. I have got enough work for ten years if I wanted it. So I've been doing that. I am also teaching. I taught the executive MBA course again, I taught it every single year since it has been going. And I taught the PhD course in General Management, which I teach with the professor from NYU. And I also taught the Doctoral course in Strategy for the new DBA program. So I've been a busy boy. At the same time, I have also been teaching an MBA Consulting course, which is a project course with Johnson & Johnson, which is a company I've worked with for a long time. So the students are organized into five projects, which are projects of interest to Johnson and Johnson. And I am mentoring them and tutoring them to develop consulting projects for them. Well you know there are many consulting projects but nevertheless, I'm trying to teach some skills of consulting. That's the most difficult course to teach. Anybody who believes that projects and experiential learning is easy is an idiot. I mean the SMU-X initiative, they should be giving a faculty member double the teaching credit for doing that. The amount of time I spent anchoring between people in Johnson and Johnson, the students, mopping the students brows occasionally, is I mean I've done it twice last year, I did it with Phillips, even when I was Dean. And I found that fascinating too but its hard work and I am not sure I am going to do that again even though it goes down very well, it's hard work. So I've been teaching as well but I have been teaching over time since, throughout the time I have been as Dean so nothing has changed. But more graduate stuff now than it ever was.
Perhaps even more important than that was the fact that Singapore was seen as an academic backwater. I think we have changed that to a certain degree in very concrete ways. The other two universities before they became autonomous were not really free to set their own salary levels. We said we have, being a business school, we have to have international salaries. Business schools have the highest-paid faculty in the world. Finance, the highest. Well, they’re like almost like investment bankers because they criss-cross. So we had to bite the bullet and with MOE’s indulgence we offered salaries that were really competitive with US institutions. That’s a problem that, for example, Cambridge isn’t able to do as a state university. So that’s why it’s a big bane, a brain drain now from Cambridge, and Oxford to the best US universities. Research we were willing to pay for. So the whole climate in Singapore has changed. National Research Foundation is giving incredible grants to top scientists to come here. People go to a university largely because of a) they have decent salary for themselves, and b) they offer decent grants, and c) the soft part, you have a community of like-minded people. So that’s all happening, but the time when we started it wasn’t really happening yet. So we had to tailor our strategies accordingly.
We are supposed to be an American university so they try to attract people from the US type things. And we started early by saying that we will benchmark ourselves against certain level of American university, right. Different from NUS and NTU. That’s why when we first started, some people from the other two universities accused us of spoiling the market. But then they learn very quickly and now they’re outbidding us anyway, not all the time but sometimes they do, right? But I don’t think we can choose to ignore the market if you want people from there. Why do people relocate to Singapore? I always tell them, I’m sure Singapore got some attraction for people but I don’t think people come here for love, right? Not for money fully too, but then the compensation package must be attractive enough, right?
Sure. We didn’t start off as writing a column under the By-Invitation series. It actually started when I was at a conference. Well, back track a bit, I think it started when I was looking at issues of fairness, both at the workplace, as part of my research where fairness is multi-dimensional, that the outcome might be fair, but if the process is not fair, it matters and vice versa. And then it dawns upon me that many people, both in leadership and as followers, live everyday with these different dimensions of fairness but actually do not distinguish them. And when you confuse the various dimensions of fairness, you may have many missed potentials, and you’ve had many unintended and unnecessary problems. And I began to feel that this is something where the science needs to inform the public, so that whether you’re dealing with personnel selection or you’re implementing a policy, understanding different aspects of fairness is important. I then wrote an article on fairness, which goes something like the outcome is important but so is the process. And that was the first article I think that was published in 2011. So it was not invited by The Straits Times, I just submitted the article and I said, well whether you want to publish this. So I was proactive in that sense, and they read it, they liked it and they published it and it received lots of attention from many people, both public and private sectors. That motivated me immediately to say that, actually as scientists, you really can say something that not only the so-called intellectuals will respond but just members at large and the challenge is to continue to have enough people to do that translation from science to practice. Then I attended a conference by the Institute of Policy Studies that NUS organized on population matters, where I really got interested in looking at issues on immigration and so on. And this is quite noteworthy. After that conference, I felt there were so many issues on social integration, especially with relationship between locals and foreigners in Singapore that have not received the attention that it deserves in terms of translating science into practice. I then wrote a very, very long article to The Straits Times, again unsolicited, on local-foreigner relations. It was so long but the editor liked it and the editor told me that we are going to do this for the first time. We are going to break your article into two articles and we will publish it on a Saturday, I think, on one particular day and Part Two we’ll publish immediately the next day which has sort of never been done before. And that got published about 1000 plus words each and it drew lots of attention and up to today, I understand from the SMU library, it has the most downloads among all the Straits Times articles that I’ve written because it talks about the challenges of cohesion, and the ways to deal with integration issues. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, then, at that time on the day that they were published, read the articles and thought it was interesting and relevant and he posted it on his Facebook with a long paragraph commenting that these are the relevant issues with some potential, sensible solutions. Of course that probably helped the downloads and many people then went and also read the article and so on. So it’s not every day that you get the attention of the Prime Minister, and that then tells me that again, it’s important to write your articles in a way where the public can understand. That then started a series of articles, and of course not long after a few articles, The Straits Times invited me to be part of this column where Professor Tommy Koh, Professor Kishore [Kishore Mahbubani], Professor Chan Heng Chee and others take turns together with myself to write articles once every, about 2 months or so.
I didn’t think about this so much at the time myself, but Kwon Ping picked up on it and said it was a really important message and it was that, I left the presidency but I remained on the faculty and continued to be active within the university as a faculty member.
The other thing that I decided was that I’m not going to do a shotgun approach in terms of developing the faculty, because that’s going to be an exercise in futility and nothing will get done if you try to do everything all at the same time. And I already had five or six to work with anyway and they do cover different areas. And so my initial strategy was focus on econometrics and attract good, young econometricians, as well as senior ones, who are interested in being in Asia
But at the same time also hire other people, as opportunities arise in other [key] areas that we still need to fill up because you need macroeconomist, microeconomist, public economist, monetary theory and all sorts of other areas. But econometrics and statistics, partly because that is my area of expertise, that developed very quickly and we were able to attract very good people. Assistant professor level, those just getting their fresh PhDs, it was no problem attracting them over as long as they were interested in coming to Asia. My having taught at the University of Pennsylvania, where about three-fourths of the time I was teaching the PhD programme, also helped me identify students that were PhD graduates from Penn who might be interested. And I over the years attracted about six or seven of them to come. All of them were my former students in econometrics and I know them, they know me, and they felt very comfortable coming here. They’re still here, all of them, but now getting to the point of tenure decisions and things.
As much as you expect and desire the students to be quick minded and spontaneous the faculty themselves must be so. Yeah, so I think that definitely when someone joins SMU to teach at SMU he or she must be prepared to change. I would say that you must be very confident, you must not be camera shy and just take the questions as they come. So if you’re spontaneous about it, it makes the class learning much more interesting, and that’s important, yeah.
I think that by and large and I don’t think it has changed over the years, I found that the students who come to SMU actually are quite enthusiastic and they’re prepared to speak up in class. So, I’ve always found SMU students to be engaging. I like teaching students at SMU, the atmosphere’s lively, et cetera. But of course much depends on the instructor in making the subject come alive and yeah, it’s not that easy. But by and large SMU has excellent teachers. In general at SMU the teaching rating is four out of five, and that’s extremely high, because three is the average. I mean, in the scale of one to five three is average so four is very good, you know. So I think we have managed to get very good teachers or at least, you know, help teachers to become very good.
The senior faculty are always hesitant to come and because what you want are still relatively young, but pretty well established, who would provide mentorship, and at the same time project the image of the university internationally. From the beginning that was hard and up to now that continues to be, to me, one of the major [challenges]. The other is because it’s a new university, the policy making or policies in place sometimes get developed as we go along. Of course there are ways of looking at how other universities have done it and then, and then patterning your structure and processes after that. But you’ve got to remember we’re in Asia, we’re in Singapore, at the same time we want to be competitive internationally, and there are times when there could be clashes of priorities and of cultural perspectives on how these things should be done.
There’re also certain technical matters like the different tracks in the faculty, which is not common in many places, having a practice track that is of sizeable quantity and also performing very key functions and responsibilities in the university is not a common thing in the university scene in the United States, and so we have to develop a well reasoned out and consistent set of policies for this, we’re still doing it up to now. I mean the process continues, the process of improving how to approach all of this.
Almost immediately and that was the most difficult part. At the very beginning in the early ‘98 and early ‘99, it was thought that the NUS business school at undergraduate level would close. And therefore only be doctorate and MBA [would remain], I suppose. This would have meant in all likelihood that there would have been experienced faculty available. But that didn’t occur such that when I came in, one of the huge problems was where were we going to find enough faculty members.
Very quickly also something else occurred. Tan Teck Meng said that we were supposed to take a thousand students the very first year. And I said, “That’s impossible.” It just would be impossible to find enough faculty to teach that many; we’d get off to a very bad start with very mediocre teachers. And by the way, since we weren’t getting the NIE site, where would we even put these people? So I remember speaking to Dr Tony Tan on both grounds explaining this and he said, “What number do you see as right?” and I said 300. Actually the Wharton School at that point was only taking in 400 in its first year. So we set it at 300. Even so, you had to recruit [faculty for] a class and well, it was difficult. We put ads out and everybody was using all their contacts and we did lots of interviewing and it was very intense.
I think it’s very important for Singapore’s university scene because for one thing, if I take an example, faculty recruitment. This whole idea of a job talk is extremely important and it’s taken on, you know, adopted in NUS and NTU, which is a very good thing, because I think it makes sense that for academics, they should have a say as to who joins them. So I think it’s a very important change. And then other aspects like interviews. I think NUS and NTU are using interviews more, so and they’re also more holistic in their admissions process. I believe that almost everything different we do, they take a look at it, right, and those things that they think are useful they will adopt and adapt. And that itself is a very positive thing for the university scene in Singapore, because now it’s actually quite different from before.
I was very accustomed to the fact that if you join as a, usually as a young faculty member, just having received your PhD, you’re on a tenure track and you get reviewed at a certain point, then you come up for tenure and you get judged, a very full evaluation. I mean I just knew the whole process. As a Deputy Dean, you run those processes. And the Wharton School right now, for instance, has 219 full-time research faculty. One year, we brought 20 in at one time, so we certainly know this and the ranks and each discipline and different pay-scales by discipline and all these sorts of things. So that was easy for me because I could see the whole thing in my head.
But what was very different was that at NUS and NTU, let’s say in 1999, you only had external evaluation or external review of persons when they came up for full professor, and following the British system, there were very few full professors, very very few full professors. So it meant that most people spent their entire academic life never having an external review, that’s one thing.
And the second thing was they didn’t have a system that’s called “up or out”, in other words, so you came and you stayed seven or ten years and you didn’t get tenure but you just stayed. There seemed to be almost no consequence of not receiving tenure. So when I put into effect the three ranks in the system, it was a very big change.
Well the problem we were facing is the problem that any young school faces. Who are you and why should we bother to come there? I remember the first year I was out here I helped at least the Marketing group with recruiting and some of the other areas like management. What was happening is that people would sign up with SMU for an interview, and two days before the conference where we were interviewing them, they'd call and say, Oh we have an opportunity to interview with some other company, can I reschedule my interview with SMU? So we were on the dance card but sometimes people didn't want to dance with us. The situation now is very different. I think the reverse happens. People tell us that they don't have a spot open but they will create that spot to be able to interview with us. So the situation has flipped around. It's largely, not partly it's largely, because of what we have achieved on the research front. And so people know us today and they didn't know us earlier on. So some very very strong performances: econometrics and School of Accountancy, the research record of our faculty in that area, we're now consistently number of four, five, six in the world, not in Asia. Accountancy this year is ranked number eight I believe globally and number one in Asia in terms of academic research. Finance is number two. Management and Marketing, depending on the year we are looking at, are probably number three and four.
Well, one of the challenges that I'll bet is still going on because I've been out of touch for a while it turned out, that if you really aggressively recruited, you could attract assistant professors. That was not a major problem. The deans might say it was a major problem, but I wouldn't say it wasn't a major problem, because it got done, it got it done well. But trying to attract people at the level of full professor, senior associate professors, was a tough nut. Because once you get somebody embedded in their own society, their own culture, their own university most universities in the US will let somebody take leave for a couple years. But if you stay longer than a couple years, it's over. You lose tenure, you lose your rights. That made getting senior people very difficult.
And that really gave a challenge once more, people came to the fore. Because you had people at the level of associate professor, some of them untenured, sometimes assistant professor, who were doing things that normally you would want full professors to do. Because relatively young folk in the university my model is, don't load them with a bunch of committees and activities, let them work their teaching, let them work their research, let them come up to speed and be ready for it. We couldn't do that. No way could we pull that off. So a lot of junior people got involved in that.
Well, I'm the thing I am most proud of is that I was born in Wales, therefore I am Welsh; I am not English. I am British. And my career has been really between Britain and several other places outside of Britain and I can go through them. I went to school in Wales, and in London I went on a scholarship to Dulwich College which is a public school, private school in Britain and extremely good academic school. But my heart was always in the welsh valleys so whilst I enjoyed the academic side of it, I wasn't too thrilled always with the very British side of British public school. I went from there to university then to graduate school and as an assistant lecturer in the London School of Economics, which was over 50 years ago. I then went from the London School of Economics to the University of Chicago as a Fellow of the University of Chicago and National Opinion Research Center for a period. Then I went back to the University of Edinburgh as a lecturer in Mathematical Statistics. So I am a Mathematician and Mathematical Statistician by background. And then from there, I finished my PhD and then I went to Harvard Business School as a Ford Foundation visiting assisting professor until London Business school was completed and built in Regent's Park which was in 1970 so I went to LBS in 1970 as an Associate Professor of, believe it or not, Statistics and Operations Research. I was the founding Director of the Doctoral Program, which I directed from 1970 to 1977. I also set up a group there called Decision Analysis Research Unit which got a ton of money from not only the British government partner, Trade and Industry and Atomic Energy Authority but also from Philip, Shellock and Unilever. And it was through that work in London Business School that I actually started doing work in Strategic Management. It was quite by chance. I was giving a seminar at LBS and one of the professors of strategy came up and said, Well you are actually doing strategy modelling and I said, Well really and he said yes. To cut a long story short, he invited me to co-lecture with him. So I started off as a professor of strategy in London Business school right about mid-1970s with no formal training whatsoever other than I have been to Graduate school and Business School. And then my career was both in Decision Theory, which is what my PhD is, but also in Strategic Management and therefore I brought to Strategic Management the lens of an analyst and a mathematician in the first instance. And so from London Business School, while I was in London Business School, I simultaneously had an appointment at the European Institute for Advance Studies in Management which was in Brussels and that was Ford Foundation funded. And I had that position for at least ten years until 1982 but in middle 1970s, I was appointed as a Foundation professor of Management as the Australian Graduate School of Management. There were four or five of us who were friends from University of Chicago who played in the sandpit, setting up a new Business school. And so I did a bit of everything there, I would run the MBA program, I would run the executive program. You know, we all, built a school and so that was my first experience of leading a school. I also then in the United States taught in MIT and Northwestern and then in the late 1980s, I'd been in and out of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Some of the colleagues there asked me if I would put my name up as Dean, which frankly I didn't want to do because I have One of the tenets of my career has been, I've never stopped doing research, it has been something I want to do and I never want to stop teaching so eventually I was persuaded by the Provost in Urbana-Champaign to put my hat in the ring but I made a deal with him that if I were appointed, then I needed full-time researcher assistant and I still wanted to teach. So eventually, I was appointed. So I did 10 years as Dean there. Prior to that, I had already been given an endowed chair at Urbana-Champaign, which I kept while I was Dean. I continued to do research. I mean my research has been very much in strategic management, but in a number of various strategic analysis, competitive strategy, actually the interface between behavioral strategy and analytic strategy and in all sorts of topics, I just get interested.So then I did 10 years in Warwick Business School as Dean. And towards the end of that, somebody here nominated me to be Dean at SMU.I actually never applied, I never thought of coming to Singapore. So you know it happened relatively quickly, at the beginning of 2009 I guess. So effectively I did 5 years from 2010 to the end of 2014, gave up in January 2015. And now, in the last year, I've actually, thanks to Arnoud, I had a sort of sabbatical. Well it isn't a sort of sabbatical, it has been a sabbatical. I have been traveling and doing funded research project on the evolution and rate of management education in Africa and in Latin America. So I've been traveling a huge amount. So that roughly is my background. Its 50 years as an academic and enjoyable years. Made a lot of mistakes on the way and hope you learn from mistakes. I can tell you every single one of the mistakes. Don't think I will remember all the successes but the mistakes you never forget.
So I entered the University of Singapore in 1969 and practically got absorbed. And my head of department and the vice chancellor, who was then Dr Toh Chin Chye respected member of our community, deputy prime minister and all that he didn't see it fit for me to leave the university even though the Public Services Commission wanted me to go to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
So I finished the honours degree in 1973. Then they gave me a scholarship to do a master's degree, then the government gave me a Colombo Plan scholarship to do a doctorate at the University of Adelaide. So all of that took quite a few years, but from 1973 onwards, when I graduated with the honours degree, myself and another classmate called Maxwell LeBlond quite a famous Singaporean personality we were both immediately inducted into the teaching faculty of the university.
So that in brief is my career up till about 1991. I stayed on in the English Department [at the National University of Singapore]. The university moved from the Bukit Timah campus to the new Kent Ridge campus, so everything was now wonderfully embellished and all that. We had a great time discussing the politics of space in the use of the new university. This is interesting because the old university in Bukit Timah was structured along the old colleges of England, so East, West, North, South, right? And people, when they walked, you always met each other. So the science faculty, the arts faculty, the whatever faculty there were, you met in the quadrangles, the green. But this new university, you radiated out which meant that you almost never met anyone. You just sort of went out and there were no quadrangles and all that. And, of course, because I'd been involved in student union activities and all of that, this was a very quick reminder of how the government had, in a way, managed the university students. Because we were naughty, you know, we were young. And so in the old Bukit Timah campus, we used to demonstrate, lead matches down the quadrangles, protest and all of that. The Vice Chancellor would come down from his high office and say you guys are being very naughty, I'm going to get the police on you and all that, and once or twice he did. But in the new campus in Kent Ridge, there was no place to do that. There was no galvanisation of student power and that kind of thing. But guys like me by then were already on the other side, and what I found very interesting was that the swanky new facilities were very, very good, but a little bit of the old warmth that we all enjoyed at the cosy campus in Bukit Timah was somehow eroded.
Anyway, I continued until 1991 when the newly born-again Nanyang Technological University because Mr Lee had shut down the old Nanyang University and for 10 years it remained as NTI, Nanyang Technological Institute and in 1991, he brought it back under a new name, NTU. So the university stages were restored. So they wanted somebody to help them set up a literature and drama department. So they asked for me. Anyway, cut a long story short, I was sent on secondment to NTU to set up this brand-new department called Division of Literature and Drama. So I did that. And I continued doing that.
I graduated from NUS [National University of Singapore] with a bachelor of Social Science. My major is actually economics and sociology. And I was an MAS [Monetary Authority of Singapore scholar, but I did not have to serve the Monetary Authority, so I worked as a foreign exchange trader for four and a half years in the DBS Bank. Throughout the banking career, I always knew I wanted to get back to academia because I loved teaching. And there was a Fulbright Scholarship that came in, in the 1985 [should be 1983], and I was asked if I would like to take on that scholarship. So, you know, as all things happen, I have a sponsor who was then dean of the NUS Business School, so Professor Lee Soo Ann said, Would you like to have this scholarship, but you have to do a PhD in an American institution because it is from Fulbright.� And I applied, got into NYU [New York University], finished my PhD in the year 1989 [should be 1988], so it is from 83 till 89 [should be 1988]. And in 88, I actually had the opportunity to be a visiting professor in University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. So that was great because it allowed for me to have access to MBA [master of business administration] students while in Michigan.
So in 89, I returned to Singapore and served my bond in NUS. I was then only interested in doing my teaching and research and no admin [administrative] position because tenure is the most important priority. So, I merely do a lot of undergraduate teaching, lots of MBA teaching, have two girls along the way, which is an important priority for someone who is like late, you know, going for my PhD and returning. But those early years were very critical because it allows for us to express what it is like to do an American-style education, get to practice it in the classroom.
As a practice faculty I had come from research track faculty. Even though I had a lot of experience and interest in preparing people professionally at the undergraduate level for…practice in professional-type careers, I’d loved the world of ideas [both] in industry and research and think they’re important. So there wasn’t really a conflict there. But there was a positioning that the school would have a…an applications and an applied focus, systems-oriented focus. Now, this does not mean unintellectual, and this doesn’t mean that research can’t be world-class, first-rate best journals and all that. It just meant that it’s okay to build a philosophy and a community that really was not theory in isolation. If you really wanted to do the theory in isolation go someplace else. If you’re trained to have the intellectual capacity to do that, but want to do it with at least an aspiration for impact and application—even if not directly [with] today’s industry version of it, [but with a future version]—then come here and we’ll really help you.
So I think it’s this interesting way to simultaneously tolerate—not so much tolerate, that’s not at all the word—but to have this coexistence of ideas that are intrinsically interesting in their own right, because of their both beauty and transformative potential, even if that potential is quite down the road—and here’s where things are today, and the complexities of today, and what should happen tomorrow to ameliorate some of the complexities of today. And I would say in SIS, it’s not been a schizophrenic thing. It has not been schizophrenic to say it’s okay for these two kinds of attitudes to coexist. And I think in a lot of engineering-like programmes, they coexist. In medicine they coexist. In places like architecture, they coexist. In some of the social sciences and business, there’s a little bit of this [attitude], well, if it’s too applied, it’s not academic. You know it’s like, why is this? And I’m not even talking about SMU, I’m really talking about the global community, places that consider themselves good business schools. They almost have to justify if something is too applied. Of course, in a good engineering programme nobody ever worries about that kind of thing, they celebrate it—gee, I had this really powerful idea, nobody could ever think of it before, I thought of it, I did it, and look how it’s helping people.
I guess a big decision that I‘m taking for granted, is that we would hire computer science-trained people who had the technology background in computer science and information technology, in addition to some people who came out of business school-like training to analyze the impacts of the information systems from a business perspective. And that was the big thing, that we’re not a classical computer science school, but we’re going to hire a large fraction of our research faculty from computer science programmes.
And the CMU faculty were very helpful, because even when I would talk to people on the phone who were faculty candidates and say we’re going to do part of your evaluation interview at Carnegie Mellon, it was helpful. And to actually get the feedback from the CMU faculty who were our kitchen cabinet, who were part of this consulting arrangement, really did help.
So step by step, and we did it, we built up a few research faculty and the very first research faculty we hired in August and September of 2003, [the] very first ones to come right at the beginning of first semester, they’re with us today, and actually both of them were converted from assistant professors to associate professors with tenure. So we’ve been very fortunate that that worked out, and not only that, internationally, by any metric, they’ve done beautifully. And when you think of the fact that relative to other computer science programmes, we didn’t have a graduate programme, and all the emphasis on new curriculum and whatnot. Yet, they managed to flourish, and even do well, on any international benchmark in terms of their publication output, and and their ideas. And what they do fits the spirit of the school well. So we were blessed that way. I think that we were able to find people who were willing to take the chance on the new school and we selected for a certain kind of attitude, and for a certain kind of predisposition to quality academic work in a systems and applied context, and for people who, without any compromise in research, were willing to say, the quality of education is also really important.
Research, we started off with no research faculty, right, because the start-up team that came and joined the accountancy school, they were all administrators and teachers, and so we had no research faculty. And the way we started was that we went and we attended the American Accounting Association annual meetings and we went to those meetings and we met with PhD students who were about to graduate and were looking for a job and we actually approached them one by one. And we sold them SMU and our new programme and so on and then we invited them for campus visits. And the first two research faculty came to us, both were Asians. One was a Korean who was trained at University of Illinois. University of Illinois is actually ranked number one in accounting in the US. And he wanted to be in Asia so then I realised the way to get research faculty to join us is to find those who like to be in Asia.
So we started with two and then the two faculty then help us to recruit others. And so over time, from the two, we have now increase to about, currently we have thirteen. And all the faculty that we hired, they were just rookies, just fresh out of the PhD and it was really difficult to develop, for them to develop because we had no senior faculty. And also to be published in the top journals in accounting, a lot of rookie faculty prefer to stay in the US because the journals are in the US, the reviewers are in the US and all the conferences and the workshops to go to are in the US. So it was a big challenge for us to develop all these junior faculty.
And so we had to be very supportive in terms of allowing our faculty to go on overseas conferences, to present their papers at workshops and so on. In the early years, I actually didn’t even limit the number of conferences that our research faculty could go to. I just told them as long as your paper is accepted at a good conference, we will fund you, you go. So they went. And then they had a good experience, they talk to their friends and more faculty joined us.
And in order to try to allow them to have exposure to senior faculty, we invited senior faculty to come for short visits. There were, in the early days, there were two or three faculty who were available on a one-year sabbatical so we invited them to spend one year with us. These were the avenues for our junior faculty to have interaction with senior faculty. And then in 2005, we managed to hire a chaired professor from University of Illinois, who joined us and became our associate dean for research. And with him joining us and he being an internationally renowned researcher, we were able to hire more faculty plus bring in a lot of the top researchers to visit us for short periods of time. And in the last three to four years, the research output in our school has actually gone up tremendously. And in fact, last year we were ranked tenth in the world for accounting research in a survey that was published by the Accounting Review. For then that was a school that is nine years old.
The hiring, if I may, we can break it up into three phases. Phase one was before the students arrived. We needed people that would help with designing courses. We concentrated on senior faculty who would be able to interact with parents and students when we do our marketing. We do have people who are very keen to join a new university. Like the planning team, we were attracted by this very romantic notion of starting a new university. Phase two was when the university started. We focused on younger people. At that point in time the agenda was to increase our research presence. So we focus on people who had a slight bent towards research, and not just good teaching. Very quickly after the second group of people arrive, we still find that we have teaching needs. And so what we did was to hire a group of very good teachers, and these are our teaching faculty or adjuncts. These are people from industry or people from the other universities with a very, very strong teaching bent.
The key responsibility for Academic Affairs Committee was to determine the nature of the gold standard at SMU. Were we going to be twenty-two carat gold or eighteen carat gold or...? Every university is gold, but there’s gold and there’s gold. And I had seen in another institution how easy it is to for the standards to drift down, rather than to build up, and to meet an aspiration that you set. So that we would not offer tenure to people coming in straight away. There are some who warranted it who would be offered tenure. But one of the things you find with a new institution is the senior leaders of that institution seek to recruit into it.
The other thing that came through—this reflects Janice’s background, I think this is one of the real contributions that she brought in the early years of the Academic Affairs Committee—was to recognise that really, there is a research-stream academic and there is an education or teaching-stream academic, adjunct or teaching or education, whatever you call it over here. But there was a research and tenure track, and if SMU was to be a research university then you needed the two tracks, which is not a common arrangement. It may have been fairly common at University of Pennsylvania, I’m not sure, but it certainly is not common in other universities because there the academic argument is well, an academic is an academic, you teach and you research, and you teach and you research, and you can’t split it out. But, in fact, you can, with honour and dignity for both sides of that equation. It’s not as though the researcher doesn’t teach and teaching is important. It’s not as though the good teacher doesn’t do research as well. It’s just that you’ve got different standards and a whole lot of other different arrangements. That’s the second thing I think that the Academic Affairs Committee delivered to SMU. We’ve had to tweak it at about Year 10 but it’s still essentially that model.
I wrote a recruiting letter. Jin Han [Han Jin Kyung] who at the time was an untenured associate professor but was an area coordinator for marketing. He was the most senior marketing guy, so Jin and I in the summer of 03 wrote a letter.
First of all we wrote to my friends, and we send it out under my email number so that my friends would read it within marketing.Also I knew that there was an economic bump in the US at that time. And I knew when I arrived that there was going to be no recruiting at Stanford and many of the other major schools weren't going be in the game. And I said, "Man, look if we wait three or four years, economy's going to turn around, it's going to be hard but the young guys and women coming out now are going to probably find it, might be a little bit more interesting to talk to us." Take a chance. And so I used the economic circumstance. I said if we wait too long, we can't sit on it, we got to go for them. And so this is how we started out my letter to my friends. I didn't just say, "Hey, please send me your students." What I did was, I said this is, and I am quoting now, the first paragraph to the letter arrives from Jin Han and Dave Montgomery.
(Reading from the papers he is holding) What university numbers on its staff the founding editor of Journal of Consumer Research, the first departmental editor for Marketing at Management Science, the co-founder of the TIMS Marketing College, the co-chairperson of the first ACR [Association for Consumer Research] International Conference, the co-chairperson of the first AMA [American Marketing Association] international conference, the co-chairperson of the first marketing science conference, a co-author of the Asian perspective edition of the fundamental Kotler marketing text, and the authors or editors of over thirty books and monographs on marketing? It's Singapore Management University, SMU. The dynamic new upstart university in Singapore that is raising the bar on standards of excellence in research and teaching within Asia and the global community.
Now I figured that at that point -- and then we went to say, by the way we have some opportunities we'd like to talk to your students, please let us know. And so Jin Han and I and I think it was Rama [Seshan Ramaswami] we all go roaring off to the American Marketing Association educators' conference in August and interviewed like crazy. And basically with this kind of a thing - look, there are lots and lots of little places popping up all over the world, this is a serious one. And I think we had reason to make that claim, and I mean some of it was still a little bit hope, but it was reasoned hope, I think. That was one way, the other thing is we worried about trying to get people to come over and visit, largely because we wanted people to know us, we wanted to have something that would establish the research atmosphere and credibility and actually ideas for course, all this stuff that goes on about what an academic is about and what excellence and academia is all about. And so you want people from the places that are excellent, who are really outstanding, and have them get to know us. And then if I need a review I can write to them, and they know our people, and then they're likely to do the review.
And so one of the things we did was we started a research camp, what we called marketing camp and finance camp. What a camp means was...and we had one in marketing at Stanford, but we actually copied our accountants at Stanford who started the idea, so we stole their idea and started running these camps where you invite friends in, and you have a research get-together for two or three days, kind of a mini conference and a selected group of friends. So, the first mini conference in marketing [at SMU], we had Rick Staelin [Richard Staelin], one of the inaugural fellows of marketing science. We had John Lynch, one of the markers that you use in terms of behavioural science in marketing with Chuck Weinberg [Charles B. Weinberg], also one of the inaugural fellows of marketing science and Andrew Ainsley from UCLA. These folks were the people that came out, and the finance group had a great bunch too.
Well it turns out I've always been a recruiter. I had a particular philosophy which was really a counterpoint to Chicago [University of Chicago] which used to like to terrorise people. And my philosophy was that you ask good intellectual pointed questions, but you're nice, you're polite, and if you decide not to make an offer, people are going to be really sorry you didn't because we'd sure like to go there. And that really comes back and pays off long term in terms of, that kind of reputation, I think, really does good things for you.
I tried to apply the same thing in trying to talk to a young faculty about what the advantages might be in a place like SMU which was admittedly, we didn't have senior faculty and it's still a problem. It's going to be a problem for a long time because we're going to home-grow, we're home-growing now which is going to work. That works.
One of the reasons you probably need a longer tenure track at a new university is that we have fewer senior mentors for the younger faculty coming along. When I was at Cornell, there would have been a dozen of my colleagues up and down the corridors who were as grey then as I look now. I could easily turn up and you would get assistance. One of the things I found out about mentoring is that the individual mentee needs to have a choice. It’s much better to have twelve people out there who could possibly do it, but to focus on the two or three you would feel most comfortable with. If there is only one or two—well, the mentee has to take what is offered, I suppose. And even the best one in the world, some of the relationships won’t be as positive as they could be. So that’s one of the challenges of SMU and I think that’s one of the reasons that the tenure clock was extended.