Five Questions for Presidio Graduate School’s
New President Mark Schulman
Following the recent appointment of Dr. Mark Schulman as provost, the board has asked him, and he has graciously agreed, to serve as the president of Presidio Graduate School as of June 1, 2016. In this role, he will continue running the day-to-day operations of the school. His leadership includes taking over full strategic and administrative responsibilities while working with the board, students, and faculty to expand our programs, strengthen fundraising and alumni engagement, solidify our financial position, and enhance the school’s reputation and reach. Dr. Schulman will remain in his role for a term of one year while the board conducts a thorough analysis and search for the school’s permanent leadership. We wanted to learn more about Mark and introduce him to our extended community, so we sat down for a Q & A.
Q 1. What about Presidio Graduate School inspires you?
A: What doesn’t inspire me about Presidio Graduate School?
A deep commitment to innovation, social justice, and sustainability enables Presidians to transform business and public policy. Before this appointment, I had been familiar with PGS for quite a while and am now becoming more deeply involved while gaining personal insights to the people behind the change. I’m also seeing first hand how the shared values strengthen the PGS community. Already it has been a rewarding experience and seeing the many ways that I can take part, both as a leader and as a collaborator, as we work toward making the mission become a reality, inspires me.
Here’s one small, but specific, example: recently we had a six-hour board retreat. Halfway through, the facilitator came up to me and said that she had come to the meeting with minimal knowledge of PGS but, after just half the day, she felt personally motivated to become more involved in sustainability. Hearing about PGS, the values it represents, the changes Presidians have already made in the world and where we are headed, has a galvanizing effect on people. The PGS mission, and the strategy to achieve that mission, inspires others and makes them want to join and support the school as we impact positive change on our planet.
Q 2: As you move from your role as Provost to President, how will you contribute to PGS?
A: In my role as president, my first priority is to ensure that PGS remains on the positive trajectory that it has been on in its recent past. I will spend time on the different aspects that a president of any higher educational institution must, and begin with an internal focus on efficient and effective operations.
In 2016, the school received a multi-purpose three million dollar charitable gift from the Enlight Foundation—quite a statement of support for the school! I am excited to be working with the team of people at PGS to build on that generosity and recognition. We will continue to enhance our fundraising and alumni engagement while increasing our brand awareness to attract the most promising students to the school.
Specifically, we are working on the start of the online program to expand our reach while continuing to support and enhance our hybrid program and enable our faculty and students to thrive. My job is making sure this is the best possible experience for students and to ensure the alumni community is motivated to stay connected and proud of their alma mater upon graduation and throughout their careers.
Q 3: You have spent the better part of your career in higher education. What do you think about online learning versus our hybrid model or traditional in-classroom learning?
A: The various approaches to teaching and learning lead to different ways of thinking about the “delivery system” of education—they all have a place and each have virtues and disadvantages. When we start our online program (which we hope to launch in the fall), we will be able to replicate what is valuable in our hybrid model and not stray too far from what alumni and current students find most valuable about an education at Presidio Graduate School. I see online education as a way for us to extend what we already do well and have a broader impact through scaling the program.
Personally, I believe it is always important for people to have face-to-face connection. We are looking into enhancing our online communities with new technology and attempting to build in a few residencies into the online model for people to still meet in-person and build deeper connections than a solely online experience.
Q 4: Do you believe an educational framework for sustainability can be broadly replicated? If yes, how do you think PGS will keep its current competitive advantage?
A: Higher education is changing so much these days—not so much a rapid change, but more the implications of what higher education means for individuals, communities, companies, organizations, and local and worldwide economies. In order to stay sharp in terms of analyzing and understanding what is going on, it is important to look as deeply as possible at what these words mean—an educational framework for sustainability. Five years ago, an educational framework for sustainability did not mean the same thing as it does now. Nor will it mean the same thing five years from now.
We are seeing emerging business models and PGS not only has to think of its current competitive advantage, but also what will make it a place that students want to come to, faculty want to teach at, and alumni are proud of, today, five years from now and well beyond. We don’t have all the answers, but we are thinking about it and talking about it. We will be successful because we understand, in the most profound way possible, what makes us who we are, and will continue to make changes based on that knowledge. I expect us to move forward with more partnerships, more students, and recognition that what we’re talking about (in the MBA and MPA programs, in both the private and public spheres) are the important issues. The ways we talk about these issues are the ways they need to be talked about. This is what change looks like.
Q 5: What matters most to you and why?