On March 13, MBA students voted to award Assistant Dean of MBA Students Conor Grennan the 2018 Administrator of the Year Award at NYU Stern. Grennan, who received his MBA from Stern in 2010, has held his current role in the school since 2014. He shared some of the highlights and challenges of his role at Stern with The Oppy.
Leanna Bornkamp: Can you tell us a little bit about your background at Stern? What brought you to the school? Why have you stayed?
Conor Grennan:I’ve been back at Stern for exactly 4 years now, having started April 1, 2014. (Never start a new job on April Fools Day, BTW. Longer story.) After graduating in 2010, I worked independently for the next four years on writing and speaking projects, but found myself returning to Stern often, to speak to classes and help with orientation. One day I got a call from the powers that be letting me know that they were looking for a Dean of Students and asking if I might be interested in joining Stern full-time.
The reason why I came back to Stern, and the reason why I’ve stayed, is this I genuinely love this place. It’s easy to talk about dream jobs, but I really have found mine here at Stern. The students make the experience for me. I get to work with hundreds of unique individuals, all of them impressive, all of them challenging themselves, all of them interesting and nice people. I just don’t know where else I would find that, plus a team that I love working with. That makes up for the fact that I commute four (4!!) hours every day to get to work.
Bornkamp: What are some of the biggest challenges and successes that you see at Stern right now? In other words, where do you see success stories from students and the administration, and where do you see room for improvement?
Grennan:The biggest challenge for me is trying to meet the needs of a diverse student body. Everyone comes here with their own passions and their own agendas and their own goals. I really want to help them accomplish that. I want to be a school that they are proud to be associated with. But I know that we have to make choices. So when we do make those choices, we try to err on the side of inclusion, diversity, empathy and understanding over all else. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we don’t, but I want to be transparent in who we are and how we make decisions.
I’m excited for our general direction in terms of how we take chances and risks to broaden our reach and improve our reputation as a top-flight MBA program. I love the new programs in tech and fashion, I love the focus on veterans, I love that we are constantly looking to reinvent ourselves while keeping our core competencies. The student body has been enormously helpful in acting as ambassadors for who we want to be.
Bornkamp: What are some of the things that you most value about Stern? What are some of the highlights of your time here?
Grennan:The highlights for me have been watching the interaction among the community of students. We can set a culture and a tone as much as we want, but ultimately the thing I value most is watching how students take care of their classmates. There’s nothing I get more pride and satisfaction from.
Bornkamp: Winning Administrator of the Year is a big deal—congratulations! Toot your own horn: why do you think you won it?
Grennan:So many empty phrases to choose from…I got lucky? It’s a team effort? Or maybe something more self-deprecating, like I was the most recognizable name on the list and so I won by default? But I also hope that students see me as their ally and advocate, and somebody who genuinely cares about their well-being. If they see that, then I feel like I’m doing my job.
Bornkamp: With your new-found title and platform to go along with it, what would you like to say to the MBA students at Stern? What do you think is the most important thing they should know about your work and/or their time at Stern?
Grennan:The most important thing would be this, and I tell students this every time I see them: we take your feedback extremely seriously. When you email me or anyone on our team, we meet and we talk about it and we look for ways to use that to improve the student experience. You have a much louder voice than you can imagine, and you can shape the direction of this school. You should use it—we’re listening.