20th Anniversary Interview: Karen Dowd

KDowdKaren is currently assistant dean of career management and corporate engagement at the Simon School of Business, University of Rochester. She is a former board member of MBA CSEA and co-chair of the 2014 Asian Conference.

1. What was it like being around when the organization first began? What was going on in the industry? The job market?

As I recall the job market was very difficult in the early ‘90’s and schools were having to be creative and think outside the box, but the “search firm” model and the practice of working closely with each student hadn’t yet taken hold. The rankings by this time were in full swing and that was affecting everyone’s work and increasing emphases on metrics and results. The conversation changed from career planning to placement pretty quickly once the rankings had taken hold.

2.    Why did you first become involved in the organization?

The reason I became involved is I had started a smaller group, the MBA Placement Directors’ Group, in 1986, with Randy Powell, Indiana University’s long-time and legendary Careers Director, now retired. I met with the people who were beginning to talk about founding a larger, more inclusive group in 1992 or 1993 and spoke at the first couple of meetings about our experiences. At the time I emphasized the importance of collaboration and information-sharing amongst members. The rankings started in 1988 and profoundly changed our profession forever. People were losing their jobs over the rankings. At our meetings people were ranting about the way they were being rested on their own campuses. Randy’s and my group, and then the MBA CSEA, gave professionals the opportunity to improve themselves, to share war stories, to exchange best practices, and to have hope in years when things were tough.

3.    What is the biggest thing you’ve gained from your involvement through the years?

Too many things to recount here! The MBA CSEA has been a constant in my professional life, a source of collegiality, deep friendships personally and professionally; a chance to be creative, conduct and learn about research/data, learn about other schools, meet companies, and travel to fun places!

4.    What, in your opinion, is our most significant accomplishment as an organization to date?

1)    Hiring Megan was the best thing the organization has done to become more professional and grow in prominence and significance.
2)    Start annual meetings in Europe and Asia.
3)    Include employers.
4)    Partner with GMAC on research.
5)    The standards of course!

5.    What advice to you have for us for the next 20 years?

Keep up with the same continuous improvement mentality the organization has had since Day One and that will hold the group in good stead over the next twenty years. Offer programming for new members. Start a research publication. Offer programming for Deans. Acknowledge members who are retiring. I missed saying good bye to several good friends because I didn’t realize a particular meeting was their last!

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