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For Hugh Courtney, dean of Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business, his arrival couldn’t have been better timed.

Courtney began his tenure as the dean July 1, two months later the business school received a $60 million gift from alumni Richard D’Amore and Alan McKim to rename the business school from the College of Business Administration to the D’Amore-McKim School of Business.

“It’s hard to imagine it being much better,” Courtney said of his timing. “It’s not just the naming gift – but I’m coming at a time when the school is at an upward trajectory.”

He said the gift makes for a good topic of discussion when talking about Northeastern to prospective students, alumni, and people connected with the school.

“It’s an extraordinary platform,” he said. “I’m thankful to be in the position.”

In his first semester as the dean of the business school, Courtney said this fall semester was the school’s best incoming undergraduate class in regards to SAT scores and high caliber students. But with the newly named D’Amore-McKim School of Business seemingly running smoothly and in the right direction, Courtney said it doesn’t make his job any less challenging.

“Like any new job, it’s very demanding,” he said. “The nature of business education is changing rapidly. No school can afford to stand still.”

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Courtney and his staff plan to look at the school’s overall program portfolio to see what the future of each program will look like and to ensure the needs of more academically prepared students are being met. He said they need to address several questions in regards to the graduate level online business programs for dual majors, students studying abroad, and the rigor of each course. He said he wants the business school to focus on marketing itself to alumni and media outlets to create more support.

“The first year is a good time to review all of that,” he said.

Another challenge for the Northeastern University business school is continuing its innovative path for its online MBA program. Courtney said the school was the third AACSB accredited school to initiate an online MBA program, but is now in a space that has grown dramatically.

“You can’t win by just being an online program,” he said. “You have to be great. It’s a very competitive space and it’s becoming a crowded space.”

He said in order to do that the school will have two focuses. The first is ensuring the online courses are the best they can be with more interactivity with students in order to make better use of the cohort. The second focus is the school’s hybrid business programs. Courtney wants to create a more strategic process in the use of residencies, whether at the main campus or its other graduate campuses.

He said there are plenty of business courses better suited for an online format, ideally lecture courses. Online courses for lectures enable students to watch and re-watch the lectures rather than scribbling notes as quickly as possible, and it also promotes discussion amongst the student body.

“With other topics, it is better to be in the same area, which is where the residencies come in,” Courtney said. “The optimal option is the mix of both.”

As his first semester is quickly coming to an end, he said he’ll be engaging his staff on product improvement and continuing to create a distinctive student experience. He wants the D’Amore-McKim School of Business to extend its reach by building more residencies around the world and expanding its product portfolio.

“We’re looking at all the programs and just what is in it, but also for what isn’t in it” Courtney said. “It has to get better if you want to compete. One of my jobs as dean is to keep moving us forward. And our staff knows it’s imperative that we keep moving forward.”

–Dustin Bass.