Richard Durand came to the world of business with an outside perspective. A political science major as an undergraduate, the value of cross-disciplinary education became clear to him early in his academic career.
“My PhD is in marketing, but I also wanted to study consumer behavior,” he said. “It was not common at all to have marketing people go over to the psych folks. It got me into the belief that if you take the strengths of a business program and leverage those with a different discipline, it creates a more unique person.”
As Kogod faculty, staff, students and alumni have learned throughout his six-year tenure as dean, which concludes with his retirement this spring, Durand is one of a kind.
“He has made many significant and lasting contributions,” said Kogod professor Ed Wasil, chair of the Department of Information Technology. “On his watch we have a new building, nearly 20 new tenure-track faculty members, wonderful staff who are very helpful and supportive, and heightened visibility and recognition in national publications. Is the Kogod community better off than we were six years ago? Absolutely, on almost every measure, due to Dick’s efforts.”
Provost Scott Bass praised Durand’s commitment to student-centric learning.
“He has fostered a community of collaboration and excellence that pushed the business school to a new level of academic and scholarly achievement,” Bass said. “The growth of the Kogod faculty in size and quality over the past six years has demonstrated his commitment to sustained investment in faculty research and to the long-term value that faculty contributions, both individual and collective, will bring to the classroom, respective industries, and AU’s collegiate reputation in the decades ahead.”
When Durand arrived at AU from Lehigh University, he saw lots of potential.
“I thought there were some very, very interesting things that could be done across the boundaries, across the schools,” he said. “Through our MBA, our full-time students can now concentrate in areas outside of business. We have people who get a MBA and get a concentration in international relations. Business schools around the country very often deliver a silo approach. We’ve reached out, and we’ve done the same at the undergraduate level. The Business, Language, and Culture program with the College of Arts and Sciences really leverages this beautifully because having people who are in business and understand a foreign language makes them highly marketable throughout the world.”
Under Durand’s leadership Kogod has added MS programs in finance, real estate, and accounting, and beginning next year, one in sustainability management that blends environmental science, policy, and communications with business.
From a total revenue perspective, Kogod has been the fastest growing school at the undergraduate level in terms of credit hours produced, Durand said.
“In the depth of our recession we placed 85 percent of our undergraduate students within six months at an average salary of $50,000—with a signing bonus,” he said. “This past season we have increased our involvement of alumni in helping place our students by some 300 percent.”
Success can be stymied if it occurs in a vacuum, so in order to publicize Kogod’s transformation Durand remade the school’s marketing department, adding Web, social media, and communications experts.
“This [institutional] wonk campaign, we were a lead college in that entire operation,” he said. “If you look at our print campaign it is vibrant and exciting, so we can cut through all of the noise. It’s important to recognize that in the metropolitan region there are more than 25 graduate business programs offered. If we don’t have a crisp marketing strategy then we’re in trouble before we even begin.”
Durand is leaving behind a much different Kogod than he found, not just figuratively, but literally. The 2009 building expansion more than doubled the size of the school.
“It’s not bricks and mortar to me,” he said. “It has more to do with how one builds a culture, a sense of family. We’re ranked very, very highly in student satisfaction. One way we do that is by having lots of places where students can sit and work together. We have three nice lounge areas for the students. We have atriums where students can sit and work in teams. The fact that we have state-of-the-art [classrooms and labs] helps. All of these things add value, though the biggest value is the sense of pride created among our students and the opportunity for them to get to know each other while they’re classmates.”
At 63, Durand is ready to enter a new phase of his life. He plans to help the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management through its accreditation process and in September will chair the accreditation visit to Yuan Ze’s business school in Taipei.
“People say are you going to travel, are you going see the grandchildren?” he said. “The answer is yes, but that’s not it. I’m just ready to sit back, relax, enjoy my wife.”
“The Kogod School is well positioned to move forward thanks to Dick,” Wasil said. “We will miss him.”
The feeling is mutual.
“I am absolutely sure that I will miss being around the people here, many of whom [often] express ideas that I had not been smart enough to think about. I am indebted to AU for letting me have this job. It’s gone by too quickly, but I think we’ve accomplished a good deal, and we’ve got a foundation that’s laid and will bode well for us into the future.”