Wilfred Zerbe remembers the last time he spoke to the Rotary Club of St. John’s.
“I thought it went pretty well,” the dean of business administration told the club Thursday at the Sheraton, of his previous address, in May 2011.
Then, in response at the time to a question about how the school competes with universities with deeper pockets, Zerbe mused about the possibility of increasing tuition (on Thursday, he wryly called it “a word which started with T and rhymes with ‘fruition’”). In 2011, Zerbe suggested a tuition increase — not that one was ever in the works — would provide the school more revenue while giving it more credibility in a market that suggests a business school with higher tuition must necessarily be a better one.
“The resulting dialogue gave me an expanded perspective on the T-word, and the role of fees at universities in Newfoundland and their history, and the different views about them and certainly the strength of feeling about them among their constituents,” he said.
There was no such speculation this time — instead, Zerbe reminded the club that for the school of business to continue to be an successful, relevant and competitive institution for students and faculty, it needs to do three things, said Zerbe.
“First, that we build and build on our existing strengths and core disciplines of business to ensure that our graduates can make exemplary contributions to achieve success wherever they choose to pursue their careers, whatever sector of the economy, whatever their location.”
The school must also continue to develop expertise to be able to contribute to the province and maximize the development of the province’s natural resources — not just oil and mining, but culture as well.
“Third, that we develop our capacity to help manage the unique challenges facing Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Zerbe said the school is on track for all of those goals.
“Over the past two years, we’ve identified and pursued three strategies for achieving our mission,” he said: renewal, targeted growth and differentiation.
Renewal means increasing student quality and enhancing teacher effectiveness, he explained. Targeted growth is building undergraduate programs that meet local and market needs, while differentiation means creating a clear and differentiated brand for the school.
After the 20-minute speech, Zerbe opened up the floor for questions.
“What do you think of tuition?” called an audience member, prompting laughter, including from Zerbe.
“I like tuition,” was all he would say.