Changes Coming to the Syms Administration
Over the past six years, the Sy Syms School of Business has been one of the brightest facets of Yeshiva University. In that time span, the Syms student body has nearly doubled in size, the college has received prestigious accreditation, and it has established several masters-level programs in various areas of business, just to name a few highlights. All these accomplishments can be directly credited to the work of Syms’ head administration, which has consisted of Dean Moses Pava and Associate Deans Michael Strauss and Avi Giloni.
Last week, it was announced that the school will be seeking new leadership, as Dr. Pava will be stepping down from his position as dean and rejoining the faculty as a full-time professor and researcher.
The history of this dynamic administrative trio is quite interesting. In late 2010, YU President Richard Joel was searching for a new administration to head the Sy Syms School of Business, in what he describes as “a pivotal time for the school.” While the college had been successful until that point, it was looking to take a major step forward towards reaching the upper echelon of business schools in the country. One immediate goal of a new administration would be to achieve accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB); a prestigious honor which would require the school to fit strict guidelines in terms of its mission, faculty, curriculum, and professional engagement. Another goal was to create an Honors program in Syms, an opportunity to attract first-rate students and to develop a fleet of entrepreneurial leaders. In many meetings with the faculty about these initiatives, President Joel found Dr. Pava, who at the time was a professor of accounting and held the Alvin Einbender Chair Professorial Chair in Business Ethics, to be particularly passionate about these ideas, and decided to offer him a position as Dean of the college.
Michael Strauss came to Syms as a professor of management in 2008 after a long and successful career in the business world as an executive in many large corporations. Once Dr. Pava, a career academic who had never actually worked in business, was hired as dean, the administration felt that Dr. Strauss, who possessed extensive field experience, would be an excellent partner who could balance out the administration.
Dr. Avi Giloni started his professorial career at Syms in 2000. He specializes in data science, statistics, and academic research. Dr. Giloni was brought on in 2011 as the final piece of the puzzle when he was named Associate Dean. Thus, Syms was securely in the hands of three administrators who were each independently very successful and who possessed complementary skillsets to run an undergraduate business school.
From the moment that they began working together in 2011, the three deans knew that this would be a successful partnership, especially with Dean Pava as their leader. “I credit the success of the program to Dean Pava,” associate Dean Strauss remarked. “I never worked with somebody who was able to create such a close working relationship with his colleagues. Even though we all came from different spectra, I can count on one hand the number of times that we disagreed. Dean Pava is not just a guru in ethics, but his personality is really what allowed him to shine and create this close partnership.”
“Our combination of skills played a pivotal role in what the three of us did,” Dr. Giloni reflected. “We are friends, we work very well together, and the fact that we have both different opinions and mutual respect allowed us to succeed.”
And succeed they did. A complete list of the accomplishments of this trio includes the following:
-Achieving AACSB Accreditation,
-Creating a chapter of Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society,
-Launching the SSSB Honors and Entrepreneurial Leadership Program,
-Launching new Academic Jewish Studies Program emphasizing Jewish values,
-Developing the new BIMA major,
-Increasing undergraduate enrollments from approximately 400 students to over 700 students,
-Increasing the quality of incoming students as measured by average SAT scores,
-Increasing the number of student internships,
-Significantly improving job placement,
-Significantly improving student advising,
-Launching fully online MS in Marketing Program,
-Developing plans for additional graduate programs including MS in Tax, MS in Finance, and one year MBA program,
-Designing several blended and online courses,
-Hiring several new high quality faculty members in all of our disciplines,
-Improving quality and quantity of faculty research (including the establishment of regular faculty research seminars),
-Improving relationship with Board,
-Improving and streamlining SSSB curriculum,
-Participating as active members in the Aspen Undergraduate Business Consortium (a group of 30 of the top undergraduate business schools in the country examining ways to better integrate liberal arts and business education).
While each of these achievements would warrant an article of its own, it can be succinctly summarized by stating that they far exceeded the expectations set out for them. “One of the benefits of being in a university are that your weaknesses can be compensated by others strengths,” said President Joel. “We built a team [in Syms] that worked effectively, and students are very satisfied with the product of their efforts.”
In addition to Dean Pava returning to faculty as a professor, he will also be assuming leadership of the Business Honors and Entrepreneurial Leadership Program, a position that has been held by Dr. Giloni since the honors program’s inception. Dr. Giloni will be leaving that position, and has also stated that, although nothing is finalized, he is likely to step down from his position as Associate Dean as well and rejoin the faculty as a full-time professor and researcher. Dr. Giloni is at the forefront of Syms’ Data Science initiative, and hopes to be able to narrow his focus towards improving that area of the college should he officially step down.
To find a replacement for Dean Pava, a job listing for dean has been posted on the YU website, and the Office of the Provost under Dr. Selma Botman has begun to arrange a search committee to interview and evaluate candidates for the position. According to Dr. Botman “both internal and external [to YU] candidates will be considered.”
President Joel described the school’s vision for its new dean. “We are looking for someone who is entrepreneurial and committed to moving the school ahead, while at the same time being committed to the core business values of the school.” President Joel also indicated that the incoming president, Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, would certainly have an opportunity to weigh in on the decision of whom to hire.
When asked about the uncertainty that comes with bringing in new administrative members, Dean Strauss commented “our administration has clearly indicated the direction that we would like this program to continue to move in. We hope that our plans will continue to have support from the new dean and that the administration will continue to move the school forward in this same direction.” Dean Strauss did mention the possibility that the Provost’s choice for dean would impact his own decision of whether or not to stay on as Associate Dean. “If and when they find a dean, I may work with him or her, or I may allow a different person to take my place so that I can continue to add value to the school and be involved with students,” he said.
When asked if he thought this potential overhaul of the administration would bring an end to the good times of the previous years in the Sy Syms School of Business, Dr. Giloni replied “It’s not the end of an era. It’s very common for there to be changes in leadership in a business school. 5-10 years is typical time to stay on as dean; it is healthy for a school to be able to move on.” In addition, the deans all stressed their commitment to Sy Syms and their willingness to provide help and support to any future administration.
After his long and successful tenure as dean, Dr. Pava looks forward to continuing on in his expanded future role on the faculty. “The past six years have been an exciting time for me and a tremendous learning experience,” he said. “Next year, I look forward to being able to spend more time with our unique students, which in the end is what makes Yeshiva University truly special.” Dr. Botman expressed appreciation for Dr. Pava’s work for the university: “For the past six years Dean Pava has committed himself to the administration of Sy Syms School of Business, steering it through AACSB accreditation and expanding its faculty and programs. He has now decided to turn his focus back to his teaching and scholarship roles, both of which he loves. I look forward to his continued contributions to teaching and learning at YU. He deserves the University's gratitude for his dedication to Sy Syms, its students, and its faculty. “
For updates on the process as the search for a new dean progresses, make sure to keep an eye on The Commentator’s social media accounts.
Image credit: yu.edu