It is hard to comprehend that since I last wrote this column, the Owen community twice has been tragically touched by terrorism. In March, Taylor Force, a first-year MBA student, was killed while on an immersion trip to Israel to learn about global entrepreneurship. Taylor was exactly the kind of quietly confident and highly accomplished student that exemplified the Owen School’s ideal of leaders without egos. He was a West Point grad who served in the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan. Inside and outside of the classroom, people valued his insight, his service and his friendship. The Owen community is a better place because Taylor chose to be a student here.
Later that month, while our community was still in mourning, we suffered another loss. Justin and Stephanie Shults, 2009 graduates of our Master of Accountancy program, were killed during the terrorist attack on the Brussels airport. The couple met at Owen, developed many lasting friendships here, and chose to become global citizens by moving to Belgium for their careers.
These were dark times at our school, but I was so inspired by the outpouring of support from the Owen community. Emails and calls poured in from around the world, with alumni asking how to send condolences to the families and if there was any way to help out during these trying times. Because of your support, Owen staff and students were able to travel to the memorial service for Taylor Force in Texas. Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos announced the creation of the Taylor Force Memorial Scholarship, which will provide financial support for military academy graduates to attend Owen, with first preference given to graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point, Taylor’s alma mater. We are grateful for the many contributions that poured in from the Owen community for both the Taylor Force Scholarship and the MAcc Program Fund in memory of Justin and Stephanie Shults. (See scholarship information below.)
The Owen community has only begun the healing process. Mending will take time, but we received a much-needed dose of good news this spring. Owen earned its highest-ever ranking by U.S. News and World Report, jumping five spots to No. 22 in their ranking of full-time MBA programs.
As you have often heard me say, no ranking reflects the true value of the Owen School experience and our unique personal approach to business education. However, any time I see the hard work of our students, faculty and staff acknowledged, I can’t help but be pleased. The ranking simply reaffirms what I know to be true—we are doing amazing things at the Owen School, and our strategy of doubling-down on personal scale education is producing positive results. This year, the Center of Social Ventures launched with many new and expanded programs, including the inaugural Social Ventures Summit. The Financial Markets Research Center led an Omaha trip to visit Warren Buffet. And just this week, we announced the Center for Health Care Market Innovation that we are launching this summer (more on that in the next issue of Vanderbilt Business).
Beyond any individual ranking or accomplishment, I am most excited about improving our fundamentals—Owen is enrolling higher-quality students than ever and placing them in high-paying, fulfilling careers at increasingly higher rates. That has never been more evident than in the class of 2016 that recently bid farewell to dear Owen. The class’s placement success was one of Owen’s best by nearly every metric.
I am proud of what we are accomplishing at the Owen School and look forward to future success as we sharpen our strategy.
All the best,
M. Eric Johnson
Ralph Owen Dean
Bruce D. Henderson Professor of Strategy
Contributions to the scholarship funds I mentioned may be sent to:
Vanderbilt Gift Processing Office
2301 Vanderbilt Place
Nashville, TN 37240-7727
Attn: Taylor Force Memorial Scholarship or MAcc Program Fund