University Park, IL,
11:54 PM

Conversations with Leaders: Jun Zhao

Jun Zhao, the great-granddaughter of a prominent philosopher, feels privileged to share one bit of cultural wisdom with Governors State University business students.

“‘I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand,’ that’s one of my favorite quotes by Confucius,’’ said Zhao, Dean of the highly esteemed College of Business since 2017, and Division Chair of Management, Marketing, and Entrepreneurship before that.

Zhao’s great-grandfather, Ping Liao, was a scholar at the turn of the 20th century who co-founded Sichuan School of Chinese Philosophy (which later became Sichuan University) in Southwest China. Her parents, and grandparents, before them were all educators, establishing a family legacy that led Zhao to GSU in 1999.

In the last decade, she has served in roles across the campus, from professor to committee chair, and has been recognized by her peers and administration with the Faculty Excellence Award and the (former) College of Business and Public Administration Faculty Service Award.

She’s also won industry recognition with articles published in journals such as Academy of Management Review, Management Research Review, Chinese Management Studies, and Journal of International Education in Business.

At GSU, Zhao’s strategic thinking and organizational management skills help achieve the vision for the COB: a high-quality business school education, which she calls an economic equalizer.

The GSU COB is a standout by any measure, having earned the gold standard of business schools—the  Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) which stamps less than 5 percent of business schools world wide.

The  AACSB accreditation, coupled with expert scholars and partnerships with industry leaders, boosted the status of GSU’s five undergraduate programs and three graduate programs, including the MBA degree.

Zhao said the program should be the go-to for business students in the South Suburbs.

“We want students to know we offer the best value in the highly competitive business school education. We should be viewed as the school of choice for top talent in business and economics in Chicago’s Southland region and beyond,’’ Zhao said.

And people are noticing.

In the last two years, the MBA student enrollment has grown by nine percent, primarily online where two new tracks—Supply Chain Management and General Management—are designed to meet students’ needs.

Zhao also reports more companies are seeking to partner with the program, joining the likes of accounting firm Legacy CPA; financial institution Wintrust; logistics and transportation leader JB Hunt; and major manufacturer Mi-Jack, which has experienced such great results with an GSU intern that company officials are seeking more talent.

Another student was hired by JB Hunt as an analyst after earning an MBA degree in the Supply Chain track.

The student had been a corporate chef before deciding to pursue an MBA. Today he is a transportation manager at Fuchs Lubricants and planning to share his knowledge and experience with students.

Bullseye, said Zhao.

“This is what really makes our jobs exciting — to know you have that type of impact on the community you are part of. That’s what’s inspiring.”

Students’ needs also inspire Zhao to continue tweaking the MBA program. This year, it was students who received finishing touches.

Personal branding, professional networking, and conflict resolution were among topics covered in a new two-course series. The professional development classes are led by industry leaders who share their beyond-the-classroom perspectives on content that wouldn't be covered in traditional courses. 

“These soft skills aren’t easily taught in the classroom,’’ Zhao said. “Students need to hear real-life examples from people living it every day. This is the nitty gritty knowledge that will be very valuable as students prepare for career advancement after completing their graduate degree at GSU.”

This year, Zhao’s team is planning to revise the Master of Science in Accounting and Master of Science in Managaement Information Systems programs to create more flexibility in course delivery and admissions pathways.

Pathways lead to access lead to jobs. That’s the ultimate destination, Zhao said.

“We enjoy seeing our students utilize their knowledge and skills gained to impact their communities and contribute to the economic success of the society.”