One year into his gig as dean of the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona, Len Jessup is manning the helm of a school that is entirely self-sustaining, highly ranked in multiple categories and looking to grow.
Jessup took over the deanship in May 2011 after leaving Washington State University where he had served as dean of the college of business and director for Entrepreneurial Studies and where he had worked since 2000. In an interview last summer, Jessup told Inside Tucson Business his main goals were to improve Eller’s national rankings against other business schools and to make the school generate enough revenue to pay its own way.
“It was a great year, I felt like we accomplished a lot as a team, we made a lot of traction on a whole array of strategic initiatives,” said Jessup when asked how he would describe his first year at Eller. “We’d said we wanted to collectively help to bring everything up to the next level of quality that the MIS (Management Information Systems) program and the McGuire Center (for Entrepreneurship) achieve and from that point of view, the external metrics, it was a good year we did really well in rankings in particular with the grad programs that we really focused on.”
U.S. News and World Report ranked Eller’s MIS program seventh and the entrepreneurship program 10th among national MBA programs in 2012.
Jessup said the school is working on to continue improving the MBA offerings including a pilot run of a new course this fall that pairs students in the MBA program at Eller with graduate students in other disciplines to write business plans and develop commercialization strategies for emerging technologies developed at the UA.
Jessup said the school has already reached the other main goal that he came into the deanship with — ramping up revenue so the college would be self-sustaining. Besides improving revenue flows and fundraising, Jessup said, higher enrollment and rising tuition costs helped get the school into the black.
“All of that has kinda come together for the Eller College,” he said. “We just saw the data, we’re now self-sustaining. When you think about all the money that everybody brings into the building with the students and the tuition they bring into the building with them, the grants the faculty bring in with them and our revenue generating programs like executive education, executive MBA, private giving and philanthropy — we’re now self-sustaining.”
Jessup said that from those diverse sources the school brings in somewhere between $80 million and $90 million in revenue. That includes the roughly $5 million in gifts and pledges that Jessup and his four-person fundraising team brought in this year. The school spends roughly $50 million to operate.
“This college doesn’t use any state tax dollars,” Jessup added. “We’re generating more than we use.”
In addition to fundraising Jessup said last year he intended to ramp up executive education courses as a way to tap into a lucrative market. Executive education revenues at other major business schools bring in as much as $20 to $30 million annually at schools like the University of Texas at Austin and the University of California at Berkeley.
“If you look back over the last 10 years, we’ve averaged about $300,000 a year in revenue generation from those programs,” said Jessup who cited southern Arizona’s mild winters as a major advantage in attracting winter visitors for executive education programs. “We think that the market is there for us to be doing 10x of that. We think that could be a $3 million a year program for us.”
Eller already offers executive education retreats at Loews Ventana Canyon resort and is in negotiations with Miraval and Canyon Ranch resorts to develop curricula for programs there, Jessup said.
So with financial self-sufficiency out of the way and a year of strong national rankings for the program Jessup can focus on a new initiative to try and export Eller’s entrepreneurial spirit to the wider campus. Tech Launch Arizona was announced last year as a way to streamline and consolidate the offices and processes of geting university-developed technology out into the marketplace.
“(Tech Launch Arizona) is all for the purpose of getting more technologies from the U of A either get licensed or to spun out as companies — kind of like Ventana Medical Systems — into the local and state economy to try and help the state to grow,” said Jessup.
Jessup headed a commission that spent the past eight months searching for a director for the initiative. He says an announcement about the filling of that slot is forthcoming.
Parallel to the Tech Launch Arizona initiative are plans for a new building to house the Tech Launch Arizona offices as well as the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship. Jessup said estimates for the cost of the building, which is currently in the concept stage, run around $45 million. The building, he said, will house all of the market end components needed to create what he calls a “pipeline” of product development. When talking about the future of that pipeline Jessup compares the potential in Tucson to places like Austin, Texas, and La Jolla, Calif., that have capitalized on technologies emerging from universities nearby to develop resilient industries and fuel economic growth.
“Somewhere like La Jolla, they’re engine is up and running, it has been for 20 or 30 years,” said Jessup who visited the community near San Diego several times in the past year. “So they’ve got his pipeline just cranking, of drugs and devices and diagnostics and delivery and everything is just there it’s all been built up — the funding services, the professional services everything. So that pipeline never really missed a beat. During the downturn those were industries that kept going and people kept investing in them because people needed those medical services and treatments.”
All the elements are in place here in Tucson to create a pipeline of our own, says Jessup.
“We’ve got the makings for that here,” he said. “And you see evidence of it. We’ve got a great medical school and a couple of companies in diagnostics that are doing a good job up in Oro Valley and I think the same thing could happen around clean energy, we just have to keep building that ecosystem.”