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Service and Self-Reflection

Dean Caryn Beck-Dudley talks with the SVBJ about lessons learned at the Leavey School of Business

Dean Caryn Beck-Dudley talks with the Silicon Valley Business Journal about lessons learned at the Leavey School of Business

You can learn a lot looking through the personal items someone has in their office. For Caryn Beck-Dudley, it’s the shrine to fly fishing she keeps on part of a wall in her space at Santa Clara University that stands out.

At the center of the display is the fishing creel her grandfather used, and inside it is one of his old rods, as well as his fly box. Surrounding it are photos of Beck-Dudley and her late husband fly fishing in Utah, Montana, and Florida.

This ode to tranquility is in contrast to Beck-Dudley’s day job: educating future entrepreneurs and executives at the at the private Jesuit institution’s 95-year-old business school that Money Magazine ranked as having the No. 10 best undergraduate business program in the country.

What is it about fly fishing that speaks to you?
It’s one of the few activities that I engage in where your mind has to totally shut off and you have to focus on what you’re doing. So even if I don’t catch anything, I’m 100 percent focused on the fly and the fish and the river that you’re fishing in, and so it gives the mind a complete break. Plus, you’re always in beautiful places.

How long have you been in the Valley? 
This is the start of my third year. I was the dean at Utah State for four years. My academic career actually starts there. I’m a lawyer and a political science undergrad. I’m the least likely person to be a business dean. I wasn’t interested in business at all. My dad worked for U.S. Steel and my mom was a school teacher, so I don’t really have business people in my background. I loved politics. I went to law school because I met my late husband and he was doing a Ph.D. in soil chemistry at Washington State and there was a law school at the University of Idaho. Then I became a business faculty member because I practiced law in Salt Lake City, and he took a faculty position at Utah State.

You’re not Catholic, yet you’re a dean at a Jesuit university. What appeals to you about SCU’s approach?
The nice thing about the Jesuit brand, to me, is a lot of self-reflection: How can I be a better person? Another piece is an accompaniment, that you’re not on your own. That someone accompanies you in that search for being a better person.  

The Jesuit tradition is all about service to humanity. There’s a lot of things you can do that would be really harmful to people and you might make a lot of money at them. I would hope that our students would think long and hard about whether or not that’s actually what they want to be involved in. 

One topic you’re very interested in is artificial intelligence. What are some of the questions you’re asking?
What does that mean for the human soul? How do you use that responsibly? How does Santa Clara talk about artificial intelligence, since we know that you don’t stop it? You know that artificial intelligence is coming.

What’s another topic that’s top of mind for you?
Women’s economic empowerment. What does that look like? In Silicon Valley, I was shocked at the low numbers of women who were in technology, the low number of women who were on boards here, how hard it was for women to get venture funding here. The flip side is there are a lot of women who are entrepreneurs. They want women mentors, they want women role models, they want to know what that looks like.

Looking ahead, what trends do you see coming on the business front in 2018?
I’m actually looking more in the three, to five, to ten-year range. I think there’s going to be a shakeout of businesses. I just don’t think it can sustain the growth that we’ve seen. I’ve lived a lot of cycles and the growth seems to be not sustainable. It’s not based on anything. It feels an awful lot like the real estate boom, it feels an awful lot like the dot-com boom. I’m not sure how much money you can make in apps.

SCU has a new online MBA program. Tell me about it.
A lot of people wondered why we were doing that because our bread and butter is face-to-face interaction. It’s because, in this area in particular, a lot of people work too much. They can’t come to school twice a week. They might be in China, they work for Apple, they might be in Australia, they might be wherever. And then traffic here’s too bad. This totally solves that problem. It’s the only growth area in the MBA market.

This article was written by J. Jennings Moss of the Silicon Valley Business Journal for Social Capital, a feature that introduces readers to the person behind a local leader's public persona. Click here for the original story.



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