Philadelphia University business school dean moving to Rowan

Philadelphia University business school dean moving to Rowan

Sue Lehrman once founded a college with $500,000 and a leadership team of one — herself.

“As scary as it was, it was a wonderful opportunity and turned out to be a great learning experience for me,” Lehrman said.

Lehrman is the newest addition to Rowan University’s team. This week she was named dean of the William G. Rohrer College of Business. Lehrman joins Rowan after serving as dean for four years at Philadelphia University’s business school.

“Philadelphia University is very entrepreneurial,” Lehrman said. “I said if I’m going to leave there, I needed to come to a place that was a really great fit.”

A West Mount Airy resident, Lehrman will make the 40-minute commute to South Jersey every day, once she starts her new role July 1. In just a few years, she’ll have a new building to work out of too. Rowan is building a $63.2 million business school in the center of the Glassboro, Gloucester County, campus. The hope with the new building is to make enough space to double the business school’s enrollment.

Like Rowan’s entrepreneurial president Ali A. Houshmand, Lehrman is a builder. In 2003, she became founding president of Union Graduate College in Schenectady, N.Y. It’s an independent spin-off of Union College.

“I was director of the MBA program at Union College … the president called me in and explained the plan [for the spin-off],” Lehrman said. “He said ‘You have been chosen president.’”

Lehrman didn’t have to take the new job. She knew it’d be hard, but she knew it’d be worth it. She was right.

“Every function, from the registrar, to the career services center, and more, this startup needed to have,” she said. “So we had to really overnight bring people on board, most of whom had never before done the job I hired them for.”

“We were really a group of entrepreneurs who were starting this new venture with very little capital,” she added. “We had to get accredited and really had to be built from the ground up.”

Later Lehrman became founding dean of Providence College School of Business in Rhode Island. That’s where she joined four department programs under one umbrella.

At Philadelphia University, Lehrman helped ramp up the intertwined business, design and engineering program. She launched four new, innovation-focused graduate programs, worked to increase faculty research output by 50 percent, and more.

Lehrman said she’s looking forward to working closely with the faculty and staff at Rowan, to create a vision on how to move forward.

“Clearly, we’re going to build on all of the great entrepreneurial-focused programming that exists here,” she said, adding that she thinks the programming that Rowan has is unmatched.

“Many, many schools would be green with jealousy to have a tech park, seed funding, an incubator,” Lehrman said, naming a few examples. “We’ve really got it all.”

Lehrman’s plan is to take what exists at Rowan and push it to the next level.

She wants to mesh business with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) to “continue to grow those programs and grow options for our students, and use those programs to contribute more to the economic vibrancy of South Jersey.”

One of Lehrman’s early plans at Rowan is to follow through with her “two months, 200 stories” initiative.

In her first two months as dean, Lehrman plans to meet with at least 200 faculty and staff members, students, alumni and members of the business community. That will help shape her strategic plan for the business school, Lehrman said.

“It’s something I did at Providence, and something I did at Philadelphia University,” Lehrman said. “It’s just really important for me to understand the context in which I’m working.”

She said that she wouldn’t be telling them what her vision is. Instead she will be interviewing them on their visions — what ideas they have to bring to the table.

Lehrman succeeds Bob Beatty, who left Rowan about a year ago to go to Florida Gulf Coast University.

Lehrman holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Oregon State University. She has a master’s in public health nutrition and a doctorate degree in health services research and policy analysis from the University of California, Berkeley. Before starting her career in higher education, she worked in healthcare administration.

This past summer, the Philadelphia Business Journal featured Rowan's ambitious plans to establish itself as a South Jersey magnet for students and businesses.

That's the type of drive that energizes Lehrman.

“When you’re growing at such a fast pace, there are wonderful challenges and wonderful opportunities," she said. "I want to be a part of that. I’m excited to be among a group of very inspired people who lead the university."

Philip Russel, associate dean of Philadelphia University's Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce, will serve as interim dean for the business school while the college conducts a national search for Lehrman's replacement.

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Date Published: Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 15:30
Source URL: Philadelphia Business Journal