BizTimes Bubbler Executive of the Week

Dan Horton, Dean – School of Business at Alverno College
Institution address: 3400 S. 43rd St., Milwaukee, WI 53234-3922
Industry: Education
Number of employees: Over 400
Family: Wife: Sue is a watercolor artist and former RN; three children, three grandchildren
What was the smartest thing Alverno’s School of Business did in the past year?
“I don’t think there was any one smartest thing—we have continued to pursue our four strategic goals of Building Curriculum, Building Faculty, Building Enrollment and Building Connections. For example, we have added some courses targeted to sales as we know that is a career growth area as firms seek to build diversity in their sales teams. We have hired two excellent faculty members with broad business experience as part of our succession planning efforts, and we are building relationships in the community with a special emphasis on women’s groups and organizations that mirror our student body diversity—like TEMPO, Professional Dimensions, Milwaukee Women Inc., the National Society of Hispanic MBA’s, Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee, and Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation.”
What’s new in your school?
“We are introducing a new program targeted to students with an Associate’s Degree from MATC, WCTC, Gateway and other technical colleges. The program schedule fits the needs of working adults and incorporates a hybrid approach with both online and face-to-face classes. Of course we will continue to deliver our ability-based curriculum that has distinguished Alverno for 40 years.”
How do you recruit students to your school of business and work to keep them in the region upon graduation?
“We have been working with area high schools and technical colleges to increase the visibility of our business school. Alverno has long been known for our strong programs in education and nursing, but the business school has been around for a shorter period and our MBA program was launched in 2006. As a large proportion of our students are from the southeastern Wisconsin region, we know most remain here and contribute to our communities both in their business and nonprofit organizations and through volunteer service. Service has been a part of the Alverno mission since the founding of the college more than 125 years ago.”
What will be your institution’s main challenges throughout the school year?
“Like many institutions, we must continually adapt to changes to help our students meet the needs of the changing marketplace. At a time when other schools are talking outcomes and abilities, we have a solid foundation focused on the ability-based education that has made Alverno the only school in the state to be recognized by US News & World Report as one of the top three colleges for student learning in the Midwest. Specifically we will revise our class content, upgrade our ability to use technology in the classroom, and partner with more employers on internships and recruiting activities.”

In what ways do you tackle the challenge of placing more women in executive roles and on leadership boards in southeastern Wisconsin?
“We all need to play multiple roles to meet this challenge. First and foremost at Alverno, the students we are graduating now will be prepared to assume executive roles down the road because we are developing the important skills of collaboration, communication, problem solving and analysis universally valued in leaders. Second, we work with other partners sponsoring events to raise awareness of the challenge of placing women in leadership roles. An example is our Alverno Forum last March where we focused on the importance of mentorship and sponsorship in developing talent. Finally, we advocate through blogs and opinion pieces communicating research and best practices.”
Do you have a business mantra?
“‘A manager does things right; a leader does the right things. I hope to do both.’ Source: Peter F. Drucker, arguably the most influential management thinker of the past 50 years.”
From a business standpoint, who do you look up to?
“Some well-known business writers have influenced my thinking over the years…Peter Drucker, Jim Collins, Stephen Covey, John Kotter; as well as some not immediately recognizable like Ben Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, and Dewitt Jones, National Geographic photographer, both of whom I met when I worked at S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. Perhaps the most influential business professional was a mentor of many people at S.C. Johnson, Neal Nottleson, retired vice chairman. Neal always displayed a deep concern for people and modeled ‘doing the right thing.’ He had an ability to focus on the important issues while recognizing the entire team for their contributions.”
What was the best advice you ever received?
“It wasn’t exactly advice – when I moved into my first office at SC Johnson there was a poster with a quote from H.F. Johnson, Sr. I kept that poster in each of my offices during my 33-year career and have passed it onto my son who is now a marketing director with the company. That quote has made a lasting impression on me. At a December gathering, Mr. Johnson said, ‘The goodwill of people is the only enduring thing in any business. It is the sole substance. The rest is shadow.’ This was great advice in 1927 when first spoken and today almost 90 years later.”
What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you in your career?
“During a trip to Mexico City in 1993, members of our local company asked me to attend a football (soccer) match for the Mexican national team at Estadio Azteca. I was very excited to participate but had not planned ahead so I needed to get something warmer as the forecast called for cool temperatures. I had very little time so I stopped in a hotel boutique and purchased the only sweater in my size, a yellow-gold Polo label that cost at least twice what I would have paid back here in Wisconsin. When my hosts came to pick me up they all got a strange look on their faces before breaking into large smiles. I had inadvertently purchased a sweater indicating support for the visiting team, the Jamaicans. With 95,000 boisterous fans packing the stadium, my new sweater became an expensive seat cushion as we agreed it was better to be a little cool than to stand out in the sea of green supporters cheering La Verde.”

What do you like to do in your free time?
“I enjoy spending time with my three granddaughters and my family. I also enjoy nature photography and genealogy.”

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