Maintaining BYU’s Legacy
December 27, 2011
Legacy. There may not be a college campus in America where that word is more important than at Brigham Young University.
Setting his sights on maintaining the school’s history of being ranked among the top business management schools in the nation is what Gary Cornia feels is his largest responsibility as the new dean of the Marriott School of Management at BYU since taking the helm of the school on July 1.
“The thumbprint I want to leave on this school is building on the framework and foundation that Ned Hill (who served as dean until returning to the classroom as a professor this past summer) and others have created,” Cornia says. “We have programs that are rated among the best in the country; our academic reputation precedes every one of our graduates.”
A native of Ogden, Cornia never attended BYU as a student. He earned degrees from Weber State University, Utah State University and his Ph.D. in public finance from Ohio State in 1979. His goal was to be an educator.
“I’ve always wanted to be a professor,” he says. “It’s the greatest job known to modern man. To help young people think about interesting questions they have—and watch them find the answers—it’s the best job imaginable.”
A father of five and grandfather of six, he initially came to BYU in 1980 as an assistant professor, having been a lecturer and assistant professor at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte for four years. After serving as associate dean at BYU until 1998, he left for one year to become visiting scholar at Georgia State University, was a Reily Fellow at LSU for another year and taught at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy before returning to the BYU faculty. But this fall, for the first time in 30 years, Cornia was not in the classroom.
“It’s been an adjustment,” he says of his move to administration. “I’ve had to put off some of the research I’ve been doing. But I am so glad and appreciative of the chance I have to lead this school and this cause.”
He is proudest of the school’s legacy for ethics, especially at a time when the financial world is being rocked by perceptions of corporate greed, mismanagement and fraud. “The accounting program in the Marriott School can’t produce graduates fast enough for the firms,” he says.
The MBA program at BYU is in the top 25 in the country and the number one regional school in the nation, according to the Wall Street Journal. The accounting program has been ranked first in the nation by the Romney Institute, and Business Week magazine, along with comments from corporate recruiters rank the school’s undergraduate program first and graduate program second in the nation for ethics.
“It means our graduates are trusted and sought after,” Cornia says. “Our challenge is to make sure our students have been sufficiently challenged while they’re here and prepared for the world they will face.”
That strong ethics background, coupled with a student population that is highly bilingual (due to a vast majority of students who learned languages while serving on LDS Church missions), has created a talent pool of graduates that is highly-prized. Within 60 days of graduation, 95 percent of MBA students find work in their professions.
“That’s a legacy I intend to help maintain,” Cornia says.”