Gies creates new dean position


Ryan Chow

Dr. Robert Brunner poses in front of the globe in Wohlers Hall on Thursday. He is the Gies College of Business’ new associate dean for innovation and chief disruption officer.

By Ashley Fu, Staff Writer

When Amazon grew into the largest e-commerce retailer from a bookseller on the internet, the market was disrupted, leaving companies to find new business models to keep up with the competition. As such phenomena become more commonplace due to rapidly advancing technology, the Gies College of Business is aiming to keep up.

The college is creating the position of associate dean for an Innovation and Chief Disruption Officer to better prepare students for the rapidly changing business world. Robert Brunner, professor in Business, has been appointed to the position.

“So much of what modern businesses are trying to deal with are because of technological innovations that disrupt entire sectors of the industry so you have these companies that are struggling to stay in business,” Brunner said.

Brunner said the position of the CDO is not found in other business schools.

“We’re not trying to copy what other places are doing. We’re really trying to be innovative and trying to see how do we move into this future where data and technology are changing everything we’ve done,” Brunner said. “There’s a lot of people here that are supportive and push us in that direction. I think it’s going to be exciting.”

Brunner has a doctoral degree in astrophysics and was a professor in astronomy at the University prior to his position as an accountancy professor at the College of Business.

He was interested in the application of data science in fields such as food production and safety and security for storms.

Brunner said he worked around campus and found a nice home in the College of Business because business exists to solve big problems.

“The term ‘disruption’ is really a term that has to do with the process of innovation,” said Jeffrey Brown, dean of Business.

Brown said a Harvard Business School professor wrote a book roughly 20 years ago on how big, successful companies can suddenly go out of business due to competition with young start up companies.

“We in the College of Business are very focused on not only teaching innovation but actually being innovative,” Brown said. “A great example of that is when three years ago we introduced an online MBA which we call our iMBA that came out and provided a super high quality education at a small fraction of a price of whatever MBA programs are charging.”

Brown said the college created the iMBA program with a completely different business model compared to traditional business schools. As society is technologically advancing at a rapid pace, the old business models will be outdated.

“If you think about it, the business of educating people hasn’t really gone through a fundamental change in thousands of years. It’s always consisted of overly simplifying some smart person sharing their knowledge with learners,” Brown said.

Brown believes the college has found the perfect person for the job.

“(Brunner) is one of the world’s leading thinkers in data science. He’s really thinking about where that field goes from here, including things from machine learning and AI. And so in a sense, it was also a wonderful opportunity to take advantage of his strengths that would really help with our college.” Brown said.

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