John Chalykoff does not believe in wearing out one’s welcome, especially in regard to academic leadership. After seven years as dean of Sacred Heart University’s Jack Welch College of Business, he will be stepping down at the end of the month. This decision, he explained, was something he had planned when he first arrived at the Fairfield-based campus in August 2012.
“Even when I came in, I said that I would not stay in this position for more than five to eight years,” said Chalykoff. “I believe that people shouldn’t stay in a dean’s position for more than five to eight years. If I was younger, I might have gone to another dean’s job. But it was time to step aside. I find that people don’t know when it’s time to leave.”
Chalykoff, a native of Wawa, Ontario, holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Boston College, an MBA from the University of Western Ontario and a Ph.D. in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was dean of the faculty of business at the University of New Brunswick from 1992 to 1999 and then an associate dean at Boston University before coming to Sacred Heart University. In the course of his seven years at the Welch College, the school has undergone a significant transformation.
“When I came into the business school, there were probably 1,100 students,” he recalled. “Now we have 2,200. And the caliber of the students has gone up. There has been a lot of building going on here, and people look at us and say, ‘How are you doing that?’ ”
The Welch College has also moved several times over the past seven years to accommodate these changes.
“When I first came, we were in Roncalli Hall on the first two floors — it was basically a dorm,” Chalykoff continued. “Then we moved into the Martire Business and Communications Center four years ago. Now we’re moving to the West Campus, the former GE headquarters, and that is being completely outfitted, and there we will have 90 offices.”
The West Campus will also house several labs, including an artificial intelligence lab and a finance lab, along with a business incubator and an 11,000-square-foot, coworking space created in conjunction with Verizon and Alley, a coworking development and management company. Chalykoff envisioned this latter endeavor as the next step in blending academia and the private sector.
“The coworking space will host 150 to 200 people,” he said. “It is for entrepreneurs or companies that want to put together an innovation team. And that’s what we want: entrepreneurs that can develop businesses and get a way to support their work while having the business community in with our students. Ever since I came here, a dream of mine was to have a closer relationship with the business community. But it can’t be done in silos. Knowledge is everywhere.”
Under Chalykoff’s leadership, the college introduced five new graduate programs — a sixth, in analytics, begins in the fall semester — plus new undergraduate majors in hospitality and fashion marketing and a first-year required course in entrepreneurship that includes a “Shark Tank”-style pitch presentation each semester. Chalykoff stressed the importance of hands-on entrepreneurship studies that provide an emotional real-time edge — complete with its highs and lows — to what would otherwise be an academic concept.
“If someone understands ‘break even,’ they understand business,” he said. “And a lot of people don’t.”
Chalykoff founded the Summer Institute for Global Business Management to bring students from overseas to the Sacred Heart campus and forged partnerships with schools in China and Luxembourg to send his students abroad.
“Last year, about 200 students went abroad,” he said. “Over the last four years, we are probably sending half of our students abroad.”
Martha J. Crawford, a member of the faculty at the Harvard Business School, will take over from Chalykoff on Aug. 5. He noted that he is not leaving behind unfinished work for Crawford, but an environment where work is evolving in progress.
And for his post-dean experience, Chalykoff plans to move back to the Boston area and get in some traveling “while I’m still walking.” He mused that he might find his way back into the classroom as an adjunct professor.
“No one ever leaves academia,” he laughed.