In the next several issues of Update, we are profiling the deans of our colleges and schools. In this issue, we highlight
Dr. Rajiv Grover, dean of the Fogelman College of Business and Economics and Sales
and Marketing Chair of Excellence.
Dean Rajiv Grover
What is your favorite U of M tradition?
“We have this program called Etiquette, where we teach students about the art of fine
or formal dining along with social interaction. The students also go through a mocktail
hour where we teach them how to hold a glass of wine and hors d'oeuvre and shake hands
while making eye contact. We have a number of students who do not necessarily know
the art of fine dining and formal interaction, and this is where we teach them.”
What other life lessons do you try to instill in students?
“You’ve got to always do the right thing. You’ve got to continue to do the right thing.
I’m here to help people do the right thing. You have got to build your brand for the
long-term. Cutting corners or being political might get you short term gains, but
is not the best strategy for long-term success.”
Why did you choose to come to the U of M in 2007?
“The University of Memphis Fogelman College of Business and Economics is the only
AACSB-accredited school in this large region. Quite a few metropolitan areas have
more than one accredited business school that competes for good students and good
employers. When I came here, I was the one trying to convince the people here that
they are sitting on a gold mine consisting of FedEx, International Paper, Smith &
Nephew, Medtronic, AutoZone and other companies in Memphis. A business school is a
professional school, and a professional school means it is out there serving customers.
We are training students to be more than just thinkers. We are training students to
add value to these firms. We could clearly be the main source of human resources for
these companies in Memphis.”
What do you enjoy most about being dean?
“The most enjoyable aspect is that one can craft students the way one thinks is right.
For example, if I’m going to serve my customers (the organizations out there), my
customers will need certain attributes from my products, i.e. the students. As a dean,
I can instill these attributes in the students by the programs I put into place.”
What is the most challenging aspect of your position?
“The most challenging aspect is that a cultural change has to be inculcated in the
people — a cultural change that spells out that hard work and quality work will be
rewarded. Friendship ties and relationships just won’t cut it. In order to reach higher
levels of excellence, one has to implement meritocracy rather than give in to relationships.
For meritocracy to be embraced, members of the organization need to know what is merit-worthy.
For that, people need to know the vision and the plan so they know what we are striving
for. Only then can they be evaluated on proper dimensions. Going from the previous
culture of the ‘buddy system’ to a system of meritocracy is the most challenging aspect.”
Tell us about your philosophy for running a business college.
“My core philosophy, which I have been propagating for the last 15 years, is that
our students are our products; our businesses, nonprofit and governmental organizations
are our customers; and the people who make the product are the faculty and staff.
Another prong of my philosophy is that I would like to train my students like a medical
school trains students for medicine. What I mean by this is that medical schools teach
the basics, e.g., biology, chemistry, physiology, etc., but then the students also
see patients, diagnose ailments and prescribe medicines. Similarly, in our case, our
students need to know the basics of economics, statistics, accounting, psychology,
and so forth, but then they also need to see the patients (organizations with issues)
and they should be able to diagnose those issues and prescribe solutions.”
What is the most memorable day or event during your tenure at the U of M?
“The day when we announced the Customer-Driven MBA program. Pitt Hyde, along with
several other leaders from the city, came and talked with the gathering during lunch.”
What’s the best advice you’ve given to a student?
What’s the best advice you’ve received and who gave you the advice?
“There have been so many people giving me good advice. One thing I’ve learned is that
I should always surround myself with people who are wiser than I am, smarter than
I am and people who have relevant experiences in the domains that I don’t. And I listen
to these people. Anything and everything that I have done over the years is all based
on advice that has been given to me. When you start taking advice from other people,
you start connecting the dots. Ultimately, what comes out might be very different
from what A said, B said and C said. But you need to have the acumen to combine what
A, B, and C said to come up with something that is palatable to all the stakeholders
and that you then implement. Another point that I would like to make is that I always
find people who use the fewest number of words to communicate a thought or advice
to be the most helpful. There have been so many people who have said things to me
in less than five or 10 words that are stuck in my brain. One day, I hope to write
a book on all the advice that has been given to me that I’ve taken to heart.”
What did you want to be when you grew up?
“I didn’t know I wanted to do something honorable. I didn’t know I wanted to do something
with integrity. By rejecting what I didn’t like, and feeling good about what I liked,
I realized that what I’m doing now is what I really want. I just don’t understand
lies and dishonesty. I just can’t handle it.”
What are some of your hobbies?
“I like to play (bad) golf, I love theatre and watching avant garde, abstract and absurd art movies and plays.”
Tell us about your family.
“I have two beautiful daughters. One is a scientist at Amgen in Seattle. She just
finished her PhD from the University of California at San Francisco. The other one
is finishing from the University of Southern California as a business major. She has
accepted an offer from Oracle and she is relocating to the Bay area of San Francisco.
My wife and I have been married for 30 years. She was a professional in her own right,
a medical doctor, and she went on to get her MPH and MBA to become a healthcare consultant.
Now she is busy taking care of her husband so that he can be brought up well – just
like all my friends in the community are doing. It takes a village to raise Grover.”