Meet Professor Jenny George, the new Dean of Melbourne Business School
With experience as a CEO and an academic, Jenny George believes education can help businesses address the biggest challenges of our time.
Professor Jenny George began her new role this week as Dean of Melbourne Business School and Co-Dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Melbourne.
The appointment is a return to the School for Prof George, who first joined the faculty as a lecturer after completing her PhD in Operations and Information Technology at Stanford University.
"You don't come back to a place that you've worked before unless you really enjoyed it and unless you really see the value of it," she says.
"The School's really grown since then and it's exciting to see that growth, and to have been a bit of a part of it over many years, and now of course to be able to come back and be part of the future as well."
This time around, Prof George has a new perspective on the challenges facing business, having spent almost eight years as the CEO of Converge International, one of Australia's largest providers of mental health services to workplaces, whose customers include Qantas, the AFL, AGL, Boral and the Department of Defence.
"There are big challenges and themes emerging in the world, whether it's sustainability, climate change and the environment, AI," she says.
"You can name these big themes that companies are grappling with, and we know that they don't feel confident to go it alone. They do need to have an understanding of a lot of different facets of these problems."
Prof George says the School is in a unique position to help organisations address those challenges, thanks to its close connections with business as well as with experts across the University of Melbourne, and through the work of centres like the Centre for Sustainability and Business, Centre for Business Analytics, Dilin Duwa Centre for Indigenous Business Leadership and the Institute for the Future of Business.
"It's such a privilege at the School that we can both have experts in-house, and also bring that expertise in from all of the global partnerships and relationships we have, and be a conduit to provide that to the Australian business community," she says.
"I'm really excited about the chance to do that."
As well as helping organisations, Prof George says one of the highlights of her career has been seeing the positive impact that business education has on the lives of students and alumni.
She believes the difference between education and training is that education permanently raises the bar on what an individual is able to achieve.
"Business education is about changing your capability. Fundamentally changing what you have the capacity to do – what your brain can get its head across," she says.
"It's been such a special thing for me over many years to see the transformation of individuals as they themselves gain in confidence, gain in skills; to see their career blossom."
Prof George says her vision for the future includes giving more people the chance to study at Melbourne Business School and learn from some of the top academics in the world.
"We know we've got great faculty, we know we're getting really interesting, good students, both locally and from around the world," she says.
"My vision for the School is figuring out how to take these fantastic ingredients and offer them in a way that makes a real difference to individuals who never thought they could access business education."
In particular, Prof George hopes to create more opportunities for people who might think a Melbourne Business School education is out of reach.
"They're exactly the people we want to have come and to a degree here at the Melbourne Business School, because I've seen how much life-changing outcomes are available when people do that."
Leading with trust
As a leader, Prof George values trust and integrity above everything.
"I think that being able to be trusted is one of the really important things," she says.
"It allows you to have the kinds of team relationships to take the organisation to places that it may not even know that it needs to go.
"To build trust, you need to be ruthlessly honest, incredibly transparent and very clear in your communication. That's what I aspire to be and what I think my leadership brings with it."
As the CEO of Converge, Prof George led the company through a period of tremendous growth and success, overseeing significant boosts in revenue, market share and staff engagement while helping Australian companies provide mental health support to their employees through COVID-19.
"That company is now grown and is about four or five times the size that it was when we started," she says.
Prof George says the most fulfilling part of the experience was being able to make a positive difference in people's lives at the same time as growing a successful business.
"It's a nice mix of a company that's for profit, but with a very strong purpose as well," she says.
"That's much more than just making money. It's actually about changing lives. And that, I think, is a theme that runs through my whole career."
As Dean of Melbourne Business School, Prof George hopes to bring together the School's world-class academics, extensive network of business leaders and student and alumni community to help businesses tackle the major challenges facing the world today.
"We have the capability here to bring some of the very best people together," she says.
"We've got amazing partners from business, we've got great academics both here at the School and drawing from schools around the world, and we know business here. We know what this landscape looks like. We are part of the Australian and the Asia-Pacific fabric.
"We think we can make a difference, and that's really exciting."