New Dean Taking Care of Business
"Students cannot be allowed to be selfish."
Long before Alabama A&M University’s new business dean decided to venture into academe, he already had made significant strides in corporate America, where he devoted a quarter-century to the mammoth AT&T. He not only honed his skills in the areas of international business, global alliances and ventures, but he also learned the importance of having quality mentors.
A New Yorker steeped in what has been sometimes described as the unpretentiousness of Queens, Dr. Charles W. Richardson simply refers to his home borough as “a great place to visit,” and lets the phrase take a seat. He attended the private and tech-heavy Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Then, Richardson earned two MBAs, from New York University and Wharton, respectively.
The doctorate in marketing and international business followed later from Pace University’s Lubin School of Business, also in New York City. Among Lubin’s distinguished alums are former presidents of CBS, Verizon and Ingersoll-Rand, as well as Baroness Ariane de Rothschild, president of the Edmond de Rothschild Group headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
Richardson surmised that the combined impact of his mentors while he was in corporate America remind him of the truth behind the Pygmalion effect. His experiences under his first mentor were lackluster at best. A second mentor offered Richardson some valuable insight into “proactive politics.” It was his third and final mentor, however, that gave him a spark, the tools to thrive and the confidence to become and succeed as a district manager.
That fire kept burning as Richardson veered into international business, anxiously seeking out commonalities, forming global alliances, becoming adept in the arena of mergers and acquisitions, and gaining expertise in change management and transition planning.
The path that led Dr. Richardson toward research, scholarship and teaching was narrow, exponentially broadening through time. He recalls serving as a tutor and then teaching algebra. Except for a brief stint in Pennsylvania, Richardson’s involvement with higher education, though, largely went south—but with a capital "S."
From about 2016-2020, the educator-administrator was dean of the College of Business at the predominately white, Roman Catholic Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa. However, his acumen for teaching in the higher education sector was formalized at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). He served as an assistant professor at Clark Atlanta University for 10 years and contributed to business programs at Claflin University and Alcorn State. He joined AAMU’s College of Business and Public Affairs (COBPA) last May.
As COVID issues have pushed some business programs around the country online and often into a more generalist space, Richardson believes a program’s success also should be assessed in terms of the potential community impact of its research, in addition to the formalization of incubator programs.
Although the University excelled in carrying out instruction online throughout the heart of the pandemic, Richardson indicated that COBPA of 2023 and beyond will aim for the resurgence of “on-ground” instruction because “students teeming with life” must be present. “Culture beats strategy,” he said.
“We must be about defining a center of excellence for everything we do,” Dr. Richardson continued. “Yet we must realize that the world continues to evolve.”
Thus, in checking out AAMU last spring, Richardson said he considered many things, large and small, including faculty caliber, website maintenance, administrative stability, suitability of the institution’s location, and whether leadership seemed in tune with the mission.
“Education will advance us,” said Dean Richardson, a message he will continue to share with the local organizations, like the Chamber of Commerce. He is not impervious to noting how societal missteps share the same news pages as pushes for diversity, equity and inclusion.
“Students cannot be allowed to be selfish,” stated Dr. Richardson. “We must ensure that our grads have hearts, as well as bank accounts.” He states that some of the answers to society’s problems rely on colleges’ innovative abilities to extend beyond their campuses. Universities often can achieve innovation simply by connecting with area high schools virtually, he offered.
“We want to graduate experts, who know how to read people and how to talk to people, who are hired for their unique qualifications,” summed up the dean. “We want to develop them personally and academically.”
by Jerome Saintjones