20th Anniversary Interview: Paul Poissant

poissantPaul is director, employer relations at the Smeal M.B.A. Program, Penn State University. He is a current MBA CSEA board member and Standards committee member, with previous experience on the Global Conference and other committees.

1. When and why did you first become involved in the organization?

I earned my MBA at Penn State in the spring of 1992, and initially worked for a research center in the College of Business. When the Associate Director of Professional Development for the MBA Program took another job at Penn State, I pursued the opportunity and was hired in October 1993.

Since I was familiar with statistics from my MBA studies, my Director assigned me the tasks of computing our program’s employment statistics, benchmarking our stats against other programs, as well as managing the distribution of employment data to the various media outlets conducting MBA rankings. After comparing the statistical methods we were utilizing against what I found at other schools, as well as the various methodologies the media were employing in 1993-94, I remember going to my Director and Dean and telling them “there is almost no consistency to be found across how anyone is developing their employment data!” (My undergraduate degree is in Business Logistics (aka: Supply Chain Management), so consistency in processes and process metrics is a big deal to me.)

Fortunately, my Director was friendly with Mary Rose and several other founders of the organization. She told me there was growing number of people in the profession who were frustrated with the situation, and that a group was forming in an effort to address these issues. That was the first time I became aware of the group that went on to become MBA CSEA. At that time, my Director was the point person for our program’s involvement in the fledgling organization.

By Fall 1994, I had been promoted into the Director role at the Smeal MBA Program, and decided I wanted to join the organization. In my personal MBA CSEA archive, there is a copy of my letter to Pete League, dated November 1994, seeking membership to what at the time was called the National MBA Career Management Professionals Association.

2. What was going on in the industry and the job market when you first became involved?

By 1993-94, Businessweek’s MBA ranking was well established, U.S. News & World Report’s ranking was growing rapidly in popularity, and there seemed to be a new MBA ranking coming out every year. At this point, students and deans were increasingly paying attention to their schools employment numbers, in particular in regards to how the numbers influenced the school’s ranking. (Note: Even though Businessweek didn’t incorporate employment or salary stats in their ranking methodology, they did include verbatim student comments in their profiles of schools, and many of the comments related to employment and perceived career services performance.)

Layer on the fact the U.S. economy was still climbing out of a recession, and it was a recipe for a whole lot of pressure coming down on the heads of the career services staff at many full-time MBA programs. In other words, the forces were in place for the creation of what has evolved into MBA CSEA today. Thankfully, we had a group of founders at the time who possessed the passion, energy, and leadership to drive this positive change for our entire profession.

3. What is the biggest thing you gained from your involvement?

I have gained many things, in particular knowledge and skills necessary for me to perform a number of functional roles during my career. In addition, I have formed numerous relationships, some of which stretch back almost twenty years. Finally, I think everyone in this field has gained an elevated reputation and sense of professionalism thanks to the efforts of this organization.

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

This is a tough call, as MBA CSEA has accomplished many things during its twenty year history. Certainly, the development of the Standards is a bedrock accomplishment of the organization. Though, I think the professional community MBA CSEA has fostered is probably of equal importance.

5. What advice do you have for MBA CSEA in the next 20 years?

I think it was a great move when the organization broadened its membership policy to include employer representatives. In the coming years, I hope to see MBA CSEA continue to grow, greatly increasing the number of employers representatives, as well as increasing the number of schools and employers from outside of North America

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