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Dean finds unique vision

Ann Marie Jakubowski | Wednesday, March 20, 2013

To Roger Huang, the infrastructure of one of the nation’s top business schools looks a lot like the global financial markets he has spent his career studying.

On March 1, Huang shed the word “interim” in his title to take on responsibilities as the Martin J. Gillen Dean of the Mendoza College of Business, succeeding Carolyn Woo. A member of the Notre Dame faculty since 2000, Huang taught in the Finance department and specializes in international financial management and financial market microstructure.

Huang said the interactions within a given financial marketplace are very similar to the educational transactions that take place daily in the College, except the participants trade teaching and learning instead of stocks and bonds.

“The financial market microstructure involves the study of how participants in financial markets of all kinds interact to transact with one another,” Huang said. “It has to do with questions like what are the trading costs, what structure would promote these transactions [and] what are the rules and regulations that are needed for a fair and orderly market.”

Huang studied the international market system for his doctorate at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and he said he sees the parallels between the market participants and the people involved in the educational system.

“In fact, [the financial market microstructure] has a lot of relevance to what I’m doing today as dean in the sense that you talk about processes, about rules, protocols, best practices, operating rules and incentives,” Huang said. “We have multiple marketplace participants here, interactions between students and teachers, between staff and alumni and benefactors and supporters.    

“Of course, we are not transacting currencies or bonds and stocks, but here we are partaking in the learning process and how to best support the education process for our students.”

 Before coming to Notre Dame, Huang taught at Vanderbilt University, the University of Florida, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Purdue University. He said as a Catholic, Notre Dame has “a special place in [his] heart” and a connection with Woo first brought him to the University.

“Carolyn Woo and I both came to the United States from Hong Kong in the same year, we both graduated from Purdue in the same year with our bachelor’s degrees,” Huang said. “We parted ways for awhile [after Purdue] and then Notre Dame brought us back together.”

Huang said he was invited to give a seminar at Notre Dame, and when offered the chance to join the faculty, “it didn’t take much” to persuade him.

Bloomberg Businessweek has ranked Mendoza’s undergraduate program as the nation’s number one for three consecutive years and the MBA program ranked 20th overall in their system. Huang said these numbers are not the foundation of the College’s identity, though, and Mendoza’s defining goal is to share the idea of commerce as service to mankind.

“The vision or mission that was given to us by our founder [Cardinal John O’Hara] in 1921 is to make the world a better place,” he said. “When we teach our students, it’s not just about learning the tools of the trade, so to speak, but also how to use them properly for the benefit of society.”

While other universities might express similar aims for their programs, Huang said Notre Dame is unique in its consistent commitment to this vision.

“From the time we were founded until now, we have never wavered from our vision. It’s not a fashion thing for us,” Huang said. “Other schools have made this a calling card since, say, after 2008, saying they’re about business for good, … but we have been doing it long before it was fashionable, and we will do it when one day the other schools might abandon it.”

During his time as interim dean, Huang finalized a partnership between Mendoza and Renmin University in Beijing, China, to train Chinese graduate students pursuing careers with nonprofit organizations. This partnership, part of Mendoza’s unique Master of Nonprofit Administration (MNA) program, will begin next year to bring students from Renmin to Notre Dame to complete a dual degree program.

“In Mendoza, we have a competitive advantage in our Master of Nonprofit Administration program and we are very proud of the program,” Huang said. “It’s one of a very few that are housed within business schools in the United States, which is very important. Nonprofit organizations need to be profitable in order to be sustainable, hence the need to be able to understand business, so it is crucial to be housed in the business school.”

Huang said the pilot program will be small at first, but Mendoza hopes to eventually accommodate between 12 and 20 students.

“China nowadays is experiencing a huge growth in nonprofit organizations, and all the people over there need to have some training in nonprofit administration,” he said. “This program will enable them to participate in that quest.”

Mendoza’s elite reputation among the nation’s business schools is exciting, Huang said, and he plans to leverage it to share O’Hara’s vision and give students an opportunity to make a difference in the business world.

“I hope we share [with our students] a Notre Dame brand of business education that will give them not only the tools to change the world, but hopefully also the commitment to changing the world,” he said. “They can make the world a better place to live in with those tools, and that’s exactly the hope I have for them.”