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Duet: Rob Klassen and Mark Vandenbosch

  • Pat Morden
  • |
  • Sep 1, 2014

Rob Klassen, MBA '89, and Mark Vandenbosch, HBA '84, step into School leadership roles.

Duet: Rob Klassen and Mark Vandenbosch

How did your research interests develop?

Vandenbosch: Marketing has two source disciplines—economics and psychology. I started very much on the economics side, working on game theory and related topics. But over time, through teaching Executive Education here at Ivey, I came across situations that didn’t necessarily fit the game theory model. Now I spend a lot of time doing research looking at competitive-oriented activities. My research is based on taking real-world problems and studying them from an academic perspective.

Klassen: With an undergraduate degree in engineering, operations management was a natural move. When environmental issues began to hit the radar in the 1980s, it made sense to me to bring together the ideas behind engineering, process management and product design with public policy issues. At the time, any environmental research in business schools was on the regulatory side. Now of course that’s all changed and there’s a big focus on sustainability. I would love to say I saw it coming, but I was just fortunate to be looking at these issues as they emerged.

You’ve both taken on significant administrative responsibilities. Why?

Vandenbosch: I’ve reached a stage in my career where I feel I could have a positive impact on the School. Ivey is bigger than any one person, and I believe it’s my responsibility to leave it better for the next crowd.

Klassen: For me, the emphasis for the past 20 years has been on research driven by my own personal agenda. This is an opportunity to take on a new challenge, work toward a different set of goals, and contribute to the School as a whole.

What are the major challenges in your new administrative areas?

Klassen: Continuing to grow a high-quality faculty. We have outstanding people, and we want to reinforce and support what they’re doing. Especially with pre-tenure faculty members—and we have a large number of them—we need to provide strong systems to help them build their research careers and teaching capabilities.

Vandenbosch: Business education is a global industry and there is no other industry in the world where the largest player has less than two per cent market share. The business education market is incredibly fragmented, with many different programs and platforms. A lot of sub-markets are becoming mature. To compete we have to differentiate ourselves while balancing the needs of multiple stakeholders, including potential candidates, current students, and recruiters. It won’t be easy.

Klassen: Ivey set some important directions with our new strategy in 2005, and that gave us a platform on which to compete. But the market continues to change, and we have to adjust accordingly.

What is your vision for the impact you will have in these positions?

Vandenbosch: When I was HBA director, we started the process of growing the program, and some alumni were concerned that we were changing it. I told them that the HBA is dramatically different from when they went to school— and also exactly the same. In other words, there was renewal in what we were offering and how we were offering it, but at the same time we kept the core ideas, values and process constant. If I achieve my goals, a lot will be different in five years, but the core of the School will still be the same.

Klassen: I would extend that to faculty. What we value in our faculty members is what we have valued for many years—a strong research reputation, contributions to the body of academic and managerial knowledge, and a capacity to work effectively with our students wherever they are in their development. But the way faculty members do it is changing rapidly. We need to support them in the change process.

Vandenbosch: I always ask alumni one question—where did you sit on the first day of class? Virtually everyone can go and point out the seat. To me that symbolizes the impact that Ivey can and does have, and that won’t change.

Photo: Nation Wong
Art Direction: Greg Salmela, Aegis