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Reggie Gilyard

By Steve ChurmPublished: November 01, 2012

Dean The Argyros School of Business and Economics at Chapman University, Orange
Hot Factor: A 21st-century leader for one of the best business schools in the Western U.S.

When Reggie Gilyard smiles, he owns you. The new dean of the Argyros School of Business and Economics at Chapman University, the 10th executive to hold this prestigious post, just flashes that mile-wide grin, and you know something good is coming.

It may be why a committee of Orange County’s most influential business titans endorsed his hiring after former dean Arthur Kraft stepped down to concentrate on teaching.

Gilyard, a graduate of the Air Force Academy who later earned an MBA at Harvard University, was working at the Boston Consulting Group in Los Angeles when Tom Campbell, Chapman Law School’s dean, called. He asked Gilyard if he knew anyone who might be a good candidate to run the Argyros School. Ninety minutes later, Gilyard had tossed his hat into the ring.

“All the way through the interview process, I was impressed with the people I would be working with,” Gilyard says.

Under Chapman President James Doti and the stewardship of real estate developer George Argyros and others, the business school has built a strong national reputation, one that Gilyard knows he must protect and expand in the coming years. An immediate challenge: embed himself in the O.C. business community and persuade both professionals and employers that graduate degrees still have immense value.

“We have no problem attracting undergraduates to the business program here,” Gilyard says. “The challenge is on the graduate level. The recession has clearly taken a bite out of MBA enrollment everywhere. Students and employers are questioning whether the investment is really worth it. Believe me, it is; we have to demonstrate it better.”

The first order of business has been the completion of a new strategic plan for the business school with all stakeholders – including faculty, administrators, donors and area business leaders – collaborating to draft a plan for the school’s future. Next will be integrating more of the “practical” side of business into the Chapman curriculum.

Praising the business school faculty, Gilyard noted the need to bring more business leaders “in the trenches” into the classrooms. He also wants to put more students in the field to observe first-hand the challenge facing today’s professionals.

“Business is so complex that the only way to succeed is to experience it,” he says.

Gilyard is not the first in his family to have Chapman on his resume. His father, a career air force mechanic, retired at age 38 and received a master’s degree from the school in child and family counseling.

“He would get up at 4 a.m. to deliver papers to supplement his retirement pay while going to school,” says Gilyard, who is married with twin 3-year-old girls. “That’s commitment.”

The new dean then pauses – and smiles. Indeed, something good has come to Chapman.

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