The Walker School of Business and Technology is aiming for a new level of prominence at Webster University under the newly-appointed dean Simone Cummings’ leadership.
“When you think about Webster, you think about the arts, the music, and sometimes they neglect our business programs. I want to ensure that our business programs are top on minds,” Cummings said. “I know that we have solid academic programs. We just need to tell our stories.”
Cummings was appointed as the dean of the Walker School Feb. 24. She will begin the position in June 2017. Cummings will be Webster University’s first female African-American dean.
Webster University president Elizabeth Stroble said in a press release that Cummings “has a proven capacity to lead.”
“In her time at Webster she has made significant contributions, not only to the Walker School, but to the university community,” Stroble said. “We are confident that she will build on the Walker School’s position here in St. Louis and across Webster’s locations to assure that our students gain the knowledge and skills needed to thrive now and in their career lifetimes.”
When pursuing her bachelor’s degree in business administration at Washington University, Cummings said she wanted to be a CEO of an organization someday. She later chose health administration for her master’s degree and doctorate, because with fewer levels in hospital management compared to corporations, she could move up faster. Cummings said being dean of the Walker School is very similar to being a CEO.
“You have all the responsibilities for budget, revenues, manage expenses, employees, and develop and grow the organization,” Cummings said.
Cummings said she believes the Walker School “has the potential to be significantly stronger than it already is.”
Her plan to make the Walker School stronger includes growing the reputation of the undergraduate programs and differentiating the Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs from competitors.
Cummings said MBA programs are facing decrease in enrollment nationwide. With several proposals in mind, Cummings said the Walker School will start to implement some changes next year to enhance enrollment.
Apart from her personality and management style, Cummings said she believes her being an internal candidate gave her an advantage over other “top-notch” candidates.
“I know the faculty, know the system of operations, know the quote-unquote ‘the Webster Way,’ had a vision about changes that needs to be made to move forward,” Cummings said. “I already have the knowledge, the understanding and the trust.”
Junior marketing and finance major Megan Price has worked in the Walker School as a programs and communication assistant since her freshman year.
“[Cummings] has always served as a role model of mine, given her level of education and specialty and her ability to overcome societal structures that, say, a woman, especially a woman of color, isn’t of perfect calibre for positions such as a dean in a business school,” Price said. “I am incredibly excited to have called a role model of mine that I have always seen such professionalism and high quality work from as the new dean, as the dean of my school.”
Though she has never taken a class with Cummings, Price said she has been receiving assignments from higher-ups and enjoyed working with Cummings. Price recalled a recent experience while working for the Walker EDGE Department Internship Fair. Price said she remembers Cummings showed up for support.
“When you get recognized for your work, especially by somebody who is as high up as the associate dean, that’s exciting,” Price said. “I know she is somebody that takes it to heart that not just from a position of a dean or associate dean, but somebody who takes the time to get to know students and people that make up the Webster community.”
Cummings came to Webster as an adjunct professor in 2011 and taught management, finance and statistics classes full-time as an associate professor since January 2013. In 2014, she became the Master of Health Administration Program Lead. She further got promoted to Associate Dean of Academic Quality Assurance in 2015.
Before Webster, Cummings had experience in many fields. She has worked in a hospital environment, she has done full-time research and she has taught and consulted. It took her about six years from being a newcomer at Webster to becoming the dean of the Walker School. Cummings said her so-called “easy path” was due to her philosophy of always being prepared and being “the best possible candidate for any job” and making sure “you have alternatives to fall back upon.”
Even now, Cummings continues challenging herself. She is learning jazz piano improvisation. Cummings said though she is a logical person, improvisation has “less well-defined rules” and requires creativity, which is very different from her own way of thinking.
Johany Glen, who is pursuing her master’s degree in management and leadership at the Walker School, said Cummings is somebody who “lifts people up.”
“Simone has never been about her title or rank,” Glen said. “Her passion goes beyond a title or a paycheck.”
Although the administrative duties are plenty of a time commitment, Cummings said she doesn’t want to give up teaching entirely. She still wants to teach at least some one-credit seminars periodically to maintain her direct connections with students.
“I do whatever that will make my students successful,” Cummings said.