Professor Robert Ruekert, a tireless promoter of the Carlson School’s Undergraduate Program, passed away on September 1. He was 59 years old.
Ruekert received his BA in journalism and his MBA and PhD in marketing all at the University of Wisconsin. An expert in brand management and new product development, he joined the Carlson School in 1981 where he taught in the Department of Marketing. His research has been published in top-tier marketing journals, including the Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Marketing, and MIT’s Sloan Management Review among others.
In 2001, Ruekert assumed the role of associate dean of Undergraduate Programs, in which he led many initiatives to improve the quality of the program. Through his efforts, the Undergraduate Program grew by more than 50 percent, experienced a complete revamping of its curriculum, and moved into its new home, Herbert M. Hanson, Jr. Hall, called by many “the house that Bob built.”
“Bob’s legacy will leave a lasting imprint on the Carlson School,” says Dean Sri Zaheer. “His devotion to the Undergraduate Program and the school as a whole created such a palpable energy around him and brought us to such new heights that it’s hard to image how the school would have been without his passion. All of us will greatly miss him.” In Ruekert’s honor, the Bob Ruekert Undergraduate Scholarship Fund has been established. Those interested in donating can visit the Carlson School’s giving page.
Ruekert stepped down as associate dean in May of 2011. To honor his accomplishments, a special gathering took place in the Atrium that same month. At this event, a video presentation was shown, featuring many of those whom Ruekert had touched over the years. An essay by Ruekert, in which he provided thoughts and reflections on his tenure, appeared in the spring 2011 issue of Carlson School and is reprinted below.
Reflections on Undergraduate Business Education
BY PROFESSOR ROBERT RUEKERT, ASSOCIATE DEAN
For many faculty administrators, tenure in office can be rather short. Either such talented people find they enjoy and are successful in their positions and are asked to move up the academic hierarchy, or they find that their true calling is what brought them to academics in the first place—teaching and research—and return to their non-administrative status. Thus, it is unusual to find someone like myself who has found such satisfaction in serving as associate dean for the Undergraduate Program for the past 10 years.
As I reflect on that 10-year period, I find that the world has indeed changed in broad, powerful ways that have affected all that we do in our Undergraduate Program. While these changes are many, I group them into three major themes: including students, faculty, and the strategic importance of undergraduate education.
The Undergraduate Program at the Carlson School has seen tremendous growth in interest from both incoming freshmen and transfer applicants. We have experienced double-digit growth in applications year after year. This year we have more than 6,500 applications for about 490 seats in our freshman class. The key result of this growth in interest is that our student body consists of the very best students, capable of extraordinary academic achievement. But our students today are also quite different than their counterparts from a decade ago. As part of the Millennial Generation, many of our current students are deeply interested in changing the world. They want to make a difference in their communities, not just by volunteering, but by building new organizations designed to create significant social change. I have tremendous confidence that our students of today will definitely change both the corporate and social landscape in deep and sustainable ways.
The role and challenges facing faculty is a second area of change over the past decade; in many ways following the demands placed by our student body. The classroom experience of today is dramatically different from that of 2001. Gone are days of faculty lecturing for full class periods. The typical class period now involves student interaction in the learning process. Small group exercises illustrating and deepening the learning of concepts permeate most class sessions. Group assignments and projects are the norm. The use of technology continues to grow both in the classroom and in tools that organize everything from the course syllabus to quizzes. Faculty are also being asked to be more connected to students outside of the classroom, and to act as mentors to assist in their students’ personal and professional development. Increasingly common is having faculty develop courses that combine learning on campus with education abroad. In short, the demands on faculty have grown and diversified considerably over the past 10 years. Never have faculty been a more important factor in our program’s success.
The third change I would like to highlight has been the growing strategic importance of undergraduate business education to the health of the business school as a whole. Ten years ago, our industry, especially the top 50 business schools, was primarily focused on graduate education, especially the MBA. Across the nation, a call for investment in undergraduate education fell on deaf ears. I am very proud of the fact that the Carlson School was a national leader in recognizing the critical importance of undergraduate education in meeting the school’s strategic objectives. We launched an expansion of our undergraduate student body and built a world-class facility, Hanson Hall, to serve our students’ needs. We also committed to a new curriculum that now requires all students to have an international experience as part of the degree. In short, undergraduate education at the Carlson School is one of our hallmarks. As one of our recent accreditation team members commented, the Undergraduate Program is a “jewel in the crown of the Carlson School.”
As I prepare to leave my position as associate dean, I am truly honored to have been a part of these massive changes we have witnessed. The Undergraduate Program is on very solid ground and is meeting all of its strategic objectives. I am also confident that these trends will continue, as they have been engrained in our school’s culture.
I am also extremely thankful for the support I have received from my bosses—the deans who have served over this 10-year period, the tremendous faculty who have stepped up to enhance what we do, my wonderful group of highly professional and caring staff, and to the hundreds of students I have gotten to know over these years. I am truly a lucky man.