“Take the Right Risks”

Matthew Slaughter, dean of the Tuck School, talks technology, Trump and teachable moments.

What’s at the top of your list right now?
I have three priorities. First is continuing to innovate and reinvigorate our M.B.A. program, the heart of what we do. Second, create exciting new programs in both the pre- and post-M.B.A. space. The third is to strengthen our financial health.

What new programs are in the works?
We’re about to run another module of a new program we created last year called Next Step, which is for military vets and former elite athletes, mainly Olympians. Many companies around the world are looking to hire them, but often the skill set required can be challenging. 

You also have a new elective course, the “CEO Experience.”
That’s taught by former N.H. Gov. John Lynch, who takes students inside the mind of the CEO through case studies and guest speakers. Jeff Blackburn ’91, a senior VP at Amazon [and Dartmouth trustee], spent a day here where he had students who had written a case on the company help him teach it. It is a remarkable class. 

How is technology affecting your curriculum?
Our curriculum needs to provide students with enough content and exposure to frontier ideas, such as how tech is disrupting whole parts of our world—for good in many ways—while making sure people are aware of the civil society, labor market and political implications of some of these tech innovations. We’ve created several classes that focus on technology, including one on design thinking, in which you think about the technological feasibility of ideas and products with an empathetic focus on the end users. We also teach a couple of courses on the fundamentals of web programming, data analytics and e-commerce. Those are invigorating electives our students have loved. 

Are more grads heading into tech jobs?
Last spring almost as many students matched with a company in technology as in finance. It’s 20 percent in each of those two broad industry groups. Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft all have a substantial on-campus recruiting presence here now. 

Why should an M.B.A. candidate choose Tuck?
The essence of what distinguishes Tuck from peer schools is our collaborative, trusting community. It allows people to ask the right questions, build the right teams and take the right risks to transform themselves and the broader world. Our community facilitates success through failure, so there’s an opportunity to stretch oneself. Taking risks means you often fail along the way before you succeed.

What do you offer to undergraduates?
For a handful of years we’ve been teaching for credit three distinct Tuck classes to undergraduates in accounting, marketing and strategy. They’re extremely popular. 

How have ethics issues affected your curriculum?
There’s a lot we do in the classroom to help students connect with how gender, diversity, civil society and public policy connect with leadership decisions they may face. We have a course, “Ethics in Action,” that’s framed around basic distributive justice principles: Is it ever ethical for individuals who own homes to default on those homes, even if they could make the payments? What’s the highest tax rate individuals should pay?  

Those are tough questions.
Tuck is a place that is safe for difficult conversations. I’m a committed believer that our community allows our students in and out of the classroom—and faculty and staff—to really grapple with some of these issues that our world is rightly confronting, such as the #metoo movement. 

In what ways is Tuck an international school?
One of the most important ways the global economy connects with and allows Tuck to thrive is immigration. The class of 2019 holds passports from 38 countries, and 36 percent of our faculty are of international origin. One of the strengths of Tuck, like much of higher education over the past century, is an openness to the flow of people and ideas. If we start to restrict that, it will impair the teaching we are able to do.

You’ve said that early in your career former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke mentored you. What did you learn from him?
To establish an hour a day for reflection. Serving as dean involves a fair bit of travel. The times I’m away from the school are wonderful times to coalesce thoughts, to canvass lots of different ideas and perspectives. Walking the dogs is also tremendous reflection time. 

If you had 60 seconds to give advice to President Trump, what would you say? 
The same advice I’d offer any U.S. president or important leader: A blend of reflection and action allows you to cultivate the aptitudes of wisdom and wise leadership that allow you to succeed more. The most important aptitudes of wisdom are confident humility about what you know and what you don’t know, empathy for diverse experiences and aspirations of other people, and judgment about when and how to take risks. 

What did you learn when you taught undergraduates here before you became dean?
One big thing was just learning to teach. I didn’t teach in grad school, so it was a wonderful environment to develop that craft, and I use that word purposely. Teaching is a craft, so discovering my voice in the classroom was a tremendous opportunity. A second broader thing was the opportunity to take talented, curious young adults and show them a world that’s different from what they thought it was.

Betsy Vereckey is a freelance writer who lives in Hanover.

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