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How Dean Platt Hopes to Impact Undergraduate Education

Dean Platt Head ShotThe following is an excerpt from an interview with David Platt, dean of the undergraduate programs at the McCombs School of Business, which originally appeared on the Poets & Quants website. The full interview is available on Poets & Quants for Undergrads.

The undergraduate business program at The University of Texas at Austin's McCombs School of Business is one of the crown jewels of the state research university. Each year thousands of students in the state scramble to get a coveted seat in the program, which receives more than 7,000 applications a year for about 4,000 seats. Overseeing this large and growing program is David Platt, associate dean for undergraduate programs at McCombs, who took the helm at the school in June of 2012 after nearly two decades teaching undergraduate and graduate business students at the school.

Under Platt's leadership, the school's reputation and stature in the undergraduate business school community has grown. The program has steadily climbed up in Bloomberg Businessweek's ranking of undergraduate business programs, jumping to sixth place this year, up from ninth place in 2013, and 17th place in 2012.

What's your background, and what have you done at the school?

I'm new to the dean world; I've been at this job about two years, as of June 1. I've been on the accounting faculty here for 18 years. I spent the last ten years directing the Center for International Business Education and Research, which in addition to accounting has been a strong focus. I'm a late bloomer in this industry.

I was attracted to the deanship because I've taught all different kinds of courses in the undergraduate, MBA, and executive MBA programs. I've always really enjoyed working with undergraduates. I've raised kids through that age, so feel I'm not totally lost. I'm at an important point in my life where I believe I can make a big impact on them, more so than with MBAs. I think everyone agrees there is a lot of value in MBA programs in areas like networking, creating contacts for the future, and changing career path directions. I think it is a whole different proposition for undergraduates. They're at a point in their life where they're becoming adults, getting not only a business education but a broader liberal arts education, and we can have a big effect on the trajectory of their life if we do this right. That's an appealing proposition and position to be in.

I'm excited I've getting to the two-year mark. I've found in prior jobs that are complex like this, it takes three years before you really feel comfortable. My contacts around the university have improved a lot, and that's important because in undergraduate education you are much more interdependent.

What are some of the stories out there in undergraduate business education that you think are not being covered at the moment? 

I think that value one is one of them. When I did the student loan numbers, contrary to the conventional narrative on student loans, it really got me thinking about the issues and that there are really good programs that are very economical relative to what someone makes coming out of the program. I think there is another side of the story beside the crushing burden of student debt.

Outreach to underserved students is something we are working very hard on and have a long way to go. We serve underserved and minority student populations, and run summer camps; for instance, for high school students who would be helped by exposure to business. We want to make them aware of the possibility of business as a career and learn more about what business education means. We get corporate support for programs because corporations are very interested in our students in general and in our underrepresented students especially. The corporate support side of it is not covered as much, and they work with us closely on this.

Read the full interview on Poets & Quants for Undergrads

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