Looking Back

Images by Christa Neu

This past summer, Georgette Chapman Phillips announced her retirement effective June 30, 2024, after serving 10 years as the Kevin L. and Lisa A. Clayton Dean of the College of Business.

Phillips is a professor in both the Perella Department of Finance at Lehigh Business and in the Africana studies program in the College of Arts and Sciences. She holds a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School. Previously, Phillips was a vice dean of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

The following are some of her reflections on her time at Lehigh Business.

Lehigh Business Dean Georgette Chapman Phillips
2014 | Official university photo from first year as dean.

I KNOW FIRSTHAND HOW EDUCATION CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE. My grandparents had a high school education, my parents have college degrees. I am fortunate to have a graduate degree. Each generation in my family went further in their education than the previous. Education may put you on a trajectory you might not even be aware of. I decided I would have the biggest impact on the greatest number of people by going into administration.

I LOVE BEING DEAN. The role gives me a discreet yet powerful set of variables to work with. Although I had a joint appointment in both law and business at Penn, I gravitated toward business as I’ve seen how impactful business education can be, at the undergraduate, masters and executive education levels in making a difference in your life and career.

I HOPE THAT I'VE MADE A DIFFERENCE. Recently, a young woman walked up to me and said, “Thank you for being dean.” I said, “You’re welcome!” She continued, “It means a lot to me to see a woman in the position of dean of the business school. It sets an example.”

You know the saying, “If you see it, you can be it.” -Dean Georgette Chapman Phillips

LEHIGH WAS A PERFECT FIT FOR ME BECAUSE THE INSTITUTION HAD, AS WE SAY IN REAL ESTATE, "GOOD BONES." There were many opportunities for me, but some places were just so big and so totally entrenched in their standard operations that you couldn’t move them; they didn’t have the wherewithal to affect change. I could see that there was capacity and appetite for change at Lehigh. The hiring team was very clear with me that the goal was to move Lehigh upward, into the next echelon of business schools. I was chosen to raise the stature, visibility and prestige of the College of Business. My work here at Lehigh has been an eventful, sometimes challenging, ride. Looking back, it’s clear we’ve made great strides towards achieving our goal.

THE BIGGEST, MOST DAUNTING CHANGE IS MODALITY, assessing online versus on-campus graduate programs. There is room for both in-person and remote MBA and MS. The key is to determine the optimal balance. Prior to the massive market shift to online MBA, our FLEX MBA was modality agnostic—you could be in the classroom or live online. This was a point of distinction in the part-time MBA world. Now that online is ubiquitous for part-time programs, we need to successfully
pivot and find a way to regain distinctiveness.

WHEN WE TALK ABOUT SUCCESS, I LIKE TO TALK ABOUT PEOPLE, PROGRAMS AND PLACES. People—our faculty and staff are amazing. Our research profile has exploded in both prestige and visibility. Programs—I am proud of the changes that we’ve made in the undergraduate, part-time MBA and our 1-MBA programs that are setting our students up for success beyond their first post-degree jobs. Places—the Business Innovation Building is the capstone for all our hard work these last 10 years.

Founders Day with Dean Georgette Chapman Phillips and past Provost Pat Farrell and students
2014 | Founders Day with then Provost Pat Farrell and students.

LEHIGH BUSINESS IS A BUSINESS SCHOOL THAT IS COMMITTED TO RESEARCH AND ATTENTIVE TO TEACHING. There are some academic institutions where students are seen as distractions. At other institutions, research is not the driving force of faculty excellence. I am proud that Lehigh Business shatters both stereotypes. We combine world class research with care for the student experience. We are indeed special.  

I OFTEN SAY THAT CLIMBING MOUNT KILIMANJARO WAS THE HARDEST PHYSICAL ENDEAVOR I'VE EVER DONE. Building the Business Innovations Building was the hardest professional achievement I’ve had—and COVID didn't help.

I BELIEVE THAT EVERY INSTITUTION NEEDS NEW BLOOD. I brought in fresh ideas for the first five years and spent the next five years implementing those ideas. It’s time for a new perspective, new eyes. I am proud to say I am leaving Lehigh Business in a better place than when I started. That’s what every leader hopes to achieve.

As told to Rob Gerth.

2017 Donuts with the Dean
2017 | Donuts with the Dean.

Highlights During Dean Phillips’ Tenure

Expanded Faculty 

  • Grew full-time faculty from 79 to 97.

Revised Undergraduate Curriculum

  • Added communications, leadership, data analytics and coding skills into the undergraduate core curriculum.

Fostered Entrepreneurship Offerings

  • Began Startup Academy jointly with Lehigh@NasdaqCenter, giving students fully funded internships with startups in Silicon Valley. With Baker Institute, created Lehigh Ventures Lab for student, faculty and alumni founders.

Established Vistex Institute for Executive Education

  • Launched an executive education program with a transformational gift from Sanjay Shah ’89 MBA of Vistex, Inc.

Prioritized Data Analytics

  • Created a DATA department, with a major in business analytics (both undergrad and MBA), certificates in data analytics and international business as well as a minor in fintech. 

Expanded Graduate Programs

Focused on Research

Engaged in Social Impact

  • Began summer programs to attract minority high school students to Lehigh. Won Inspiring Program in Business Award from Insight Into Diversity magazine. 

Added to Lehigh Business Footprint 

  • The 74,000 sq.ft. Business Innovation Building with flexible classrooms and collaborative spaces was constructed.