On November 1, Kristen Lucas began her new role as the Assistant Dean of Program Innovation and Strategic Initiatives for the College of Business. Although she’s a new face on the College’s leadership team, she’s no stranger to the College as she has been a faculty member in the Management Department since 2012.
A graduate of Purdue University’s Brian Lamb School of Communication, Lucas is a self-described academic entrepreneur with scholarly interests in workplace dignity, gender issues, and organizational discourse.
Lucas had the chance to share a bit about what she admires about the College of Business and her hopes for the school in the changing landscape of business education.
UofL: What attracted you to the newly created position?
Lucas: What made me interested in this position was that I’ve always liked building things. I was hired in 2012 to build a business communications curriculum at the undergraduate level and what really excited me was having a blank slate and an opportunity to create something from the ground up. That was also the appeal with this position – the opportunity to build something new and now on a larger scale for the whole College. It seemed like an interesting challenge and one where I could use my strengths.
UofL: What do you see as some of the College’s strengths and opportunities for growth?
Lucas: There is a lot of excitement here to do something great. This fall, at a meeting with our Board of Advisors, we had a visioning session. And what they expressed was a desire to create something that they can be proud of. People here are not bound to the idea that there is a single right way. Instead, they simply want to achieve something amazing. That type of attitude is an opportunity because it is a license to be innovative. And Louisville—a city that I call home—shares that same attitude: Let’s create something that we all can be proud of.
UofL: Upon accepting this new role, you mentioned that you would reach out to innovation officers at other colleges of business. What have you learned from conversations and visits with these folks?
Lucas: What I’m learning is that these are all relatively new positions and that each person is learning as they go. One big takeaway that I picked up was from Dan Gruber, the Associate Dean of Innovation & New Ventures at the University of Cincinnati. His advice is to celebrate the small wins and communicate what you are doing broadly.
UofL: It is my understanding that an Innovation Task Force has been assembled. What are the primary responsibilities of the task force?
Lucas: The Innovation Task Force (ITF) is composed of innovation-minded faculty and staff who will generate and evaluate ideas, and ultimately decide what ideas are worth pursuing.
Another key component of the task force is that these members serve as “spokes” that connect members of our college and community to the hub of our innovation efforts. So, instead of having innovation occur in one office, with one person, we now have a broad, well-connected network that enables a flow of innovation in and out of that center. With the ITF, we are able to capture and bring in the widest range of innovative ideas to the table and we are able to share broadly the initiatives we are undertaking.
UofL: If someone has an idea for a new program or initiative, how can they submit it for consideration?
Lucas: One, if someone has an idea, they can always email me directly (Kristen.Lucas@louisville.edu). Two, they can share it with a member of the task force to bring forward. In the future, the Innovation Task Force may have an online form or other specific tools for submission. But those have yet to be developed.
UofL: What have been some of the unexpected hurdles or benefits that you see in the initial stage of the working with the task force?
Lucas: I haven’t run into many hurdles – besides having too many meetings. Meetings are important for gathering information and establishing groundwork, of course. But they do cut into the time needed to work on some of the innovation legwork.
Concerning the benefits, I’m seeing even more now than I did before how much talent, knowledge, and creativity lies within the College of Business. One of the things that I’m really enjoying is finding out what people’s interests and passions are, the things that they’re knowledgeable about, and their unique perspectives. Working in this position has really broadened my knowledge of the great resources we have within the College.
UofL: What programs or strategic initiatives are underway?
Lucas: One of our key innovation efforts is developing graduate-level certificate programs. The vision is that these programs would tap into the special expertise within the University of Louisville and the local business community and then be offered online to reach a more global audience. We are exploring certificates in the area of Franchise Management, Distilled Spirits Management, and Equine Business. Professionals who want to enhance their skills would take a short series of specialized courses and be awarded a certificate as a stand-alone credential. Or if someone wanted to continue on and pursue a UofL MBA, these courses would automatically count toward completion of their degree.
UofL: Is there anything you would like to add?
Lucas: I believe that great ideas come from everywhere and that we are not limited to ideas from within our building. There could be someone reading this article, whether an alumnus or a business partner, who has the next breakthrough idea. And we’d love for you to share that with us.
- Hometown: Ishpeming, Michigan in the Upper Peninsula
- Undergrad: BS in Public Relations, Northern Michigan University
- Graduate studies: MA and Ph.D. in Organizational Communication, Purdue University
- Neighborhood: St. Matthews
- Hobbies: Tennis, UofL Football season ticket holder, dining at Louisville’s independent restaurants
- Favorite Restaurant: Heart and Soy for a quick bite, Jack Fry’s for a night out
- Favorite Travel Destination: Thailand