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Bill Boulding portrait
Bill Boulding Photo by Chris Hildreth

Bill Boulding

Dean, Fuqua School of Business

By BILL BOULDING, Dean, Fuqua School of Business  

After almost 40 years at Fuqua – more than 12 as dean – I still find myself marveling at this great institution. In our fifth decade, Fuqua thrives on all measurable dimensions as a business school – among the most selective in admissions, most desirable for recruiters, with the world’s most productive research faulty. But the impact can’t always be quantified. Daily, I’m amazed by the brilliance, tenacity and commitment of our community in finding ways to innovate and use business as a force for good in the world. Perhaps that’s because, throughout our history, we’ve always been committed to two areas – maintaining relevance and developing the best in each other.

Much of the credit for Fuqua’s ethos goes to Tom Keller, who served as Fuqua’s dean from 1974 to 1996. Tom understood that as a newborn business school competing against legacy brands with much deeper pockets, making sure our curriculum was relevant to the needs of the business world was essential to our success.  Tom believed that when we couldn’t compete against centuries of reputation, we most definitely could on relevance. He created an environment where faculty were intellectually nimble and deeply connected to each other across disciplines.  Tom created the culture that has developed into a way of working he labeled “Team Fuqua” – the instinct to pull out the best from others to achieve a collective goal. That way of working has truly been the school’s special sauce and underpins the success we’ve had in the metrics valued by the outside world. Tom’s vision and leadership remain the cornerstone of our success decades later.

Rex Adams had the unenviable task of following Tom as dean, serving from 1996 to 2001. However, Rex was clearly up to the challenge – possessing a passion for the student experience and a love for our students. He connected with them on a deep level that cemented Team Fuqua within the student body, in addition to the faculty.  Doug Breeden followed Rex from 2001 to 2006, bringing the foresight that our faculty needed to grow in size and thus helping increase our faculty reputation as among the top in the world. Next came Blair Shepherd, who served from 2006 to 2011 and took us to even higher levels by growing our global presence and international reputation.

I was lucky enough to step into the dean’s role in 2011 feeling I was standing on the shoulders of giants – the incredible deans who had come before me. I had been fortunate to be part of the upward trajectory from when I first joined the faculty in 1984, serving in leadership roles for the majority of that tenure with the privilege of an inside view of the hard work that had gotten us there. It’s not surprising our community continued to innovate from that position of strength. We unleashed program innovation unprecedented in not only our history, but among our peers. We doubled down on Tom’s mission of relevance, adding six new degree programs and scaling three degree programs, bringing our portfolio to 10 degree programs, plus our Ph.D. program and a suite of non-degree programs. I don’t know another faculty or staff body that could achieve such incredible outcomes in such a relatively short period of time – but again we have the advantage of the Team Fuqua way of working. No longer is Fuqua worried about competing on reputation. We became one of the few schools ever to be ranked No. 1 by Bloomberg Businessweek – and are widely recognized as leading the industry in efforts to increase access to business education and improve economic opportunities that help lift economies here at home and around the world.

However, Fuqua’s great successes are also told one story at a time. They are found in the faculty whose ideas, research and expertise are driving the business community forward; in the students who bring a mix of intellectual horsepower, emotional intelligence and a desire to do right by others; and in organizations and communities all over the world who are impacted by our alumni and their abilities to do both well and good. As we live in an ever-evolving business landscape, which will most surely be reshaped by artificial intelligence and other innovations, I have no doubt Fuqua is well positioned to continue to define the future of business education. We will always remain relevant for what the world needs and we will always remain committed to developing the best in ourselves and others.