After several weeks of deliberation, Senior Vice President and Provost Mark McNamee announced over winter break that Robert T. Sumichrast, current dean of the Terry College of Business at University of Georgia, has been appointed the new dean of the Pamplin College of Business Virginia Tech.
Despite having a qualified candidate pool, McNamee said Sumichrast stood out from his two main competitors.
“Any one of the three could have made a positive contribution, so it was an interesting problem to have: a choice,” McNamee said. “Robert Sumichrast emerged as an outstanding candidate. He had a great vision for the college, terrific experience (from) two major universities … his ideas and plans for the college made sense.”
Among the qualities that best suited him for the job: his history as a Hokie.
Sumichrast served as an associate dean at Tech, before moving on to be dean of other business schools.
“He’s been gone long enough to bring in a whole new set of fresh ideas, but he could get a very quick start,” McNamee said. “He knew some folks, he knew the institution, he knew he would like it here, and I think he was excited to come back and help move the college to another level.”
In an interview with the Collegiate Times, Sumichrast discussed his tenure as a Hokie, the experience he gained at other schools, and his hopes for the semesters to come.
What can you tell me about your background as a leader within business academics?
What can you tell me about the time you spent working at Virginia Tech?
It was a wonderful time in my life. It was right after my time in graduate school. I started as an assistant professor in a department called management science at the time. Made a lot of good friends; I met the woman who I eventually married, and we got married at the War Memorial Chapel. We lived in Foxridge Apartments when we first were married. So we have a lot of good memories from that time. Of course, I was able to make progress on a professional basis as well; I was eventually promoted to full professor, and as I mentioned, to associate dean.
So I guess we could say you’re sort of a grassroots Hokie then?
You could say that. That’s right.
What can you tell me more about your time as dean at the University of Georgia?
I’ve had a good time at the university, and it’s an excellent business school. I enjoy the people I know here, and the students. I enjoy being close to Atlanta. So there are a lot of good things about University of Georgia. We’ve got a great music scene in Athens. Since I’ve been here, we’ve focused on improving our undergraduate programs, our MBA, and our faculty and their research capabilities. One of the key things we look at for our undergraduate programs is placement. We’ve done our own survey of graduates in the business school shortly after graduation, and after the recession hit in the May 2008 class, only about 46 percent of graduates had jobs shortly after graduation. Each year that’s increased up to 79 percent with the most recent class.
Wow. That’s impressive.
So there’s a lot of improvement there. We’ve seen our MBA’s with the highest placements ever, and an average starting salary of about $95,000 a year. So, I think putting a lot of emphasis on placement has been very beneficial for our students.
Well, it sounds like you’ve done a lot of good over at the University of Georgia. Why is it that you decided to come back to Tech?
Well, first of all, the Pamplin College of Business is a very excellent business school, and as is the university as a whole. A lot of the reason was because I saw professional opportunities to improve the school further and build on what Dean Sorensen has done. But certainly a lot of the reason is personal. The ability to go back to where I started my career, to be closer to my family, to connect with so many people we knew for years — it was too wonderful to pass up.