The Innovator

December 19, 2023

By Luke Woodling ’17MBA

Anil Menon, dean of Crummer Graduate School of Business
Photo by Scott Cook.

Anil Menon is leaning into Rollins tradition while keeping his eyes firmly on the future as he leads a new era of growth at Rollins’ Crummer Graduate School of Business.

Supply chains thrown into gridlock by a global pandemic and spiraling military conflicts. The 24-hour news cycle and relentless onslaught of information. The rapid emergence and transformational promise of AI. The world—and the world of business—is becoming increasingly complex, hectic, and uncertain, and the pace is likely only to accelerate.

So how does graduate business education prepare the leaders of today and tomorrow not only to thrive in this fast-evolving environment but also to lead positive change for their organizations, for their customers, and for the world? That’s the seismic question facing Anil Menon, the new dean of the Crummer Graduate School of Business, as he directs the next phase of progress at Rollins’ top-ranked business school.

Fortunately for Crummer, you would be hard-pressed to find a leader better suited to answering it. Menon, after all, has helped successfully lead change at companies like IBM and Cisco during transformational periods in their histories. In fact, one of the common throughlines across Menon’s diverse career is an appetite for following opportunities that positioned him at inflection points in evolving fields, industries, and organizations.

Anil Menon, dean of Rollins’ Crummer Graduate School of Business
Photo by Scott Cook.

A Wealth of Experience

Menon’s career spans everything from faculty positions at a pair of respected business schools to strategic leadership of business initiatives at some of the world’s largest companies to advisory roles to world leaders.

Menon has a PhD in statistics and marketing from Texas A&M, but he completed his doctoral dissertation at the Strategic Planning Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, an international research and consulting think tank established by GE and the Harvard Business School. He began his academic career at Texas Tech’s Rawls College of Business, where he achieved tenure and promotion to associate professor, before joining the graduate faculty at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.

Menon left Emory in 2001 for IBM, where he would help manage the company’s sweeping transformation from hardware company to a business technology titan. He held multiple leadership roles at IBM, including chief marketing and strategy officer for the company’s global hardware business. During his time at the tech giant, he also served on the IBM Strategy Team, which advised the CEO on overall business and investment strategy.

At Cisco, Menon served as global president of the company’s Smart+Connected Communities division and as deputy chief globalization officer. That experience led him to the World Economic Forum, where he again held multiple positions, including managing director, member of the managing board, and senior advisor to the chairman. Along the way, Menon also acted as senior advisor on sustainable markets to King Charles III when the current British monarch was the Prince of Wales.

Most recently, Menon served as executive vice president of community and urban services at Sharecare, Inc., a digital health and well-being company based in Atlanta, where he and his team developed new tools and solutions that integrated health outcomes into infrastructure investments and smart city solutions.

While at Sharecare, Menon served on the board of directors for the Center for Customer Insights at the Yale School of Management and as an industry advisor and affiliate faculty member at MIT and its Senseable City Lab. He previously served on the board of Coca-Cola’s tech incubator, Citibank India’s board of advisors, and as a trustee of the NewCities Foundation.

Rendering of the new building for Rollins’ Crummer Graduate School of Business
Part of Rollins’ new Innovation Triangle, a planned 44,500-square-foot business center will provide unparalleled opportunities for a collaborative and innovative educational experience.

Perfectly Positioned for Growth

Menon’s affinity for centering himself at turning points—combined with a recommendation from former IBM colleague and Rollins Trustee Rodney Adkins ’81—is what led him to take a meeting with President Grant Cornwell this past summer. Though the idea of leading a business school hadn’t been on Menon’s radar, he quickly embraced the opportunity. Cornwell left those conversations convinced Menon was the right person for the job, while Menon came away convinced that Crummer was ideally positioned to meet the moment. Ask Menon why and he’ll point to an array of assets that range from Rollins’ personalized approach to education to the College’s location in one of the fastest-growing regions in the nation.

It starts, of course, with Crummer, which has consistently ranked as one of the nation’s best business schools for leadership development and whose MBA programs have ranked as the best in Florida.

“Crummer’s success is rooted in an excellent faculty that is focused on our students and their success,” says Menon. “You have this rich history of personalized attention and a commitment to engaged learning that you don’t find at other institutions.”

Menon also cites Crummer’s track record of curricular innovation that includes the development of an Executive Doctorate in Business Administration—the first AACSB-accredited degree of its kind in Florida—as well as the launch earlier this year of a new Flex MBA, a hybrid program that allows busy professionals to attend nearly half of their classes online.

“The size of Crummer is also an asset in this regard,” says Menon. “We don’t have departments, so it’s much more cohesive, and we’re small enough that we can be much more nimble and responsive than larger schools that are divided into silos.”

Another reason Menon is so bullish on Crummer’s potential is less obvious but no less influential: the fact that it’s a graduate business school housed at one of the nation’s top liberal arts colleges. After all, Menon argues, all current and future executives need a foundation in the liberal arts—from critical thinking and creative problem solving to collaboration and communication—to successfully lead in an increasingly challenging business landscape.

“The complexity of business today is dramatically different than 20 years ago,” says Menon. “A lot of the challenges business leaders face go beyond what we think of as traditional business. It’s no longer just financial or operational. Now you have to understand the history of countries as well as macroeconomic, political, and technological trends. So you have to become more of a renaissance person to know how to navigate this complex environment.”

The potential of a new facility is another pillar in Crummer’s solid foundation for the future. The planned 44,500-square-foot building, which will be co-located with the newly expanded Alfond Inn and a new Rollins Museum of Art, would transform Crummer’s connection to the Central Florida community and energize the school’s commitment to innovation, excellence, and impact.

Rollins business professor and students engage in discussion.
Crummer’s expert faculty as well as the school’s commitment to personalized attention and engaged learning were part of what drew Menon to Rollins.Photo by Scott Cook.

Respect the Past, Build the Future

While Menon recognizes Crummer’s rich potential, he also knows the school can’t stand still as the business world changes around it. So on his first day at Rollins, Menon assembled the entire Crummer faculty and staff for a full-day retreat. He kicked off the session by sharing three quotes that he’s lived by throughout his career. All three underscore the importance of embracing change.

“The first one was ‘You never stand by the same river twice,’” says Menon. “The river is never the same and you’re not the same because everything is constantly changing. Impermanence is normal and you’ve got to learn to let go.

“The second was ‘The ship is safest in the harbor, but that’s not the purpose of the ship,’” he says. “It might be safest to keep doing what we’ve always done, but that’s not the purpose of business education. Business is changing and we need to change along with it as well as help to shape its future.

“The third was ‘You can’t contemplate, you have to act,’” says Menon. “We’ve got to move, and we have to have a sense of urgency.”

Menon has done just that in his first few months at the College. In fact, he’s already collaborating with Rollins, Crummer, and alumni leadership to architect a strategic framework that will shape the school’s future.

“We are embarking on an ambitious journey to mold and elevate globally minded leaders who are adept at creating both economic value and meaningful social impact,” says Menon. “We are going to do something that will differentiate us meaningfully, something that is unique to Crummer and unique to Rollins, something that we can do better than any other school.”

The goals set forth by Menon are as transformative as they are strategic. First, there’s an emphasis on developing leaders who have a global mindset and who are proficient in adapting to diverse environments while upholding the highest ethical standards. The emerging plan also emphasizes innovation and entrepreneurial thinking with a focus on preparing students to meet both market demands and societal needs with creative solutions. Lastly, Menon’s vision calls for an integration of interdisciplinary expertise that will leverage Crummer’s unique position within a liberal arts context, blending robust business acumen with the broad, critical perspective that is the hallmark of liberal arts education.

Together, these elements form the bedrock of Crummer’s future under Menon’s stewardship—respecting its storied past and proud traditions while boldly forging a path toward a revolutionary, bright, and impactful future.

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