Dean Fraser Graduates
Respected administrator discusses his 12 years at Stern, the school’s future
Published: Monday, May 14, 2012
Updated: Monday, May 14, 2012 22:05
Twelve years is a long time in any job these days, but most of us at Stern would like to see Dean Gary Fraser stick around at the school for at least a few more.
So it was sad to hear news of his departure from Stern this summer to take a new role as Assistant Dean and Executive Director of MBA Career Services at the USC Marshall School of Business.
Dean Fraser’s Stern roots run deep. He received his MBA from the school in 1992, and after stints at Sara Lee, Cadbury Beverages and Kraft/Nabisco, he returned to Stern in 2000 as Assistant Dean of the Office of Career Development, where he set about building strong ties between faculty, administrators, corporate partners and students.
Indeed, Dean Fraser’s knack for connecting with students had won him many fans in the student community where he has helped many Sternies over the years. Students recognized his efforts by voting him Administrator of the Year in 2003, 2006, 2007, and in 2012 after removing himself from the voting from 2008-2011. He also was voted Dean of the Year in 2005. The Oppy’s Editor in Chief Roland Jones sat down with Dean Fraser in the final weeks of his time at Stern to reflect on the past 12 years and discuss his new role at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business.
How does it feel to be leaving Stern?
Dean Fraser: I’d say I have mixed feelings. I’m really excited about having 329 sunny days on average each year in California, but this is also bittersweet for me. What I’ve had here at Stern has been really special, and deciding to leave really was a tough decision for me. There’s also the fact that I’m a Stern alum. I’ve seen it evolve into the great institution it now is, and I’ve never worked anywhere for so long — before this, I think the longest I worked anywhere was three and a half years. So from a professional perspective, this has been a dream job for me. You need to be careful in life about getting your dream job too early, because after that, what do you do? And to tell you the truth, that’s my fear. This could be the best job I’ve ever had. I’ve worked with some really great people here, both administrators and faculty, and, you know, I can only hope to replicate some of that going forward.
What will be your fondest memories of Stern?
Anything that involves students showing who they are and their personalities. Whether that’s a skit in Follies, or hearing that a student got his or her dream job, or working with student leaders to accomplishing something they didn’t think they could accomplish. One of the best things about this job is seeing a student going into the second year of the full-time program, or the third year of the Langone program, and seeing them go into a leadership role and really evolving. You see them become more of who they can become, and you see the MBA process being transformational for them, because that’s ultimately why you should get a MBA. It’s to dramatically change something about who you are and to achieve what you want to accomplish, and to see that process actually take place and play a part in it — it’s a treat.
Is there one special Stern moment for you?
I think it would be when I was voted administrator of the year for the first time. We had just launched the Career Center for Working Professionals, and 2003 was a very difficult year because the job market was so bad. So despite the difficult times, to have students feel that I was someone who was important to them in that way meant a lot to me.
What will you miss the most about Stern?
The students — the best thing about the job and the hardest thing about the job. But the interaction is great. Every year I meet about 700 new Langone students and about 400 new full-time students, and it’s a great experience. I’ll miss that.
How has the school evolved during your time here?
When I went to Stern it was a very different experience. It was very much a commuter school and had a different vibe. When I came back in 2000 I was really struck by how much the school had evolved in those 8 years. It had become a school where students were engaged and wanted to be there around the clock. It was a very good school back in 1992 and now it’s a great school, and to see that transformation has been tremendous.
Where do you see the school going next?
There’s a lot of talk about being a top five school, and my view is you should try to be the best business school you can be, and if that puts you in the top 5 then that’s great. The major investment banks go to one of five or six schools, and one of them is Stern. We are one of a handful of schools that the major consulting firms go to. And American Express is hiring more people from Stern than anywhere else. In some ways you have to operate like a top five school before you actually become one, and I think we are on that path. The type of student who comes to Stern now is very different. People are choosing Stern as their top choice now, and that bodes well for the experience students have when they get here. In the past we felt we got students who thought that Stern was one of their top choices, and by the time they graduated they believed this was the best place for them. Now we’re bringing in people who know this is the right choice for them, and by the time they graduate they have confirmed that. And I think that’s the type of thing a top 5 school has.
How will you handle the change from New York to L.A.?
My job won’t be dramatically different, but moving to the West Coast will be a big change. I’m an East Coast person. I grew up in Brooklyn and I’ve spent most of my life in New York and New Jersey. In New York it’s car, train and bus, but L.A. is all about driving, so it will be difficult to adjust to that. But it’s a large enough metropolis that there are lots of things going on. As a New Yorker I appreciate the range of activities you can do in a big city, and that’s what I’m looking forward to. And I take comfort in knowing there are Stern alums out there, so I’m excited about connecting with those people.