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Poole College Dean Annette L. Ranft: Open Communication, Strategic Leadership

Annette L. Ranft, Poole College's fourth dean, at doorway to the college's Career Center.
Annette L. Ranft, Poole College's fourth dean, at doorway to the college's Career Center.

Annette L. Ranft joined the NC State University Poole College of Management on July 1, 2016 as its fourth dean and Stephen P. Zelnak chair. Her first step was to do what good leaders do: She listened.

Through a series of conversations – held over several months with the college’s faculty and staff, as well as numerous alumni and external stakeholders – she was able to tap into the life of the college to gain a deep understanding of what makes Poole College distinctive and what strategies were needed to build for the future.

Working with the college’s leadership team, she then focused on developing a strategic framework for the college to ensure a continued upward trajectory, reflecting the think and do ethos of NC State University and differentiating the college around its strengths in incorporating analytical problem-solving and an entrepreneurial mindset across programs and initiatives. Ranft’s work resulted in identifying a refined mission, vision and values for Poole College.

After two years of extraordinary leadership of a college with more than 3,500 students, nearly 100 full-time faculty, more than 15 academic program concentrations and seven centers devoted to research and corporate engagement, Ranft is stepping down at the end of July to become dean of the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business at Auburn University. Frank Buckless, currently Poole College associate dean for faculty and academic affairs and KPMG Professor of Accounting, was appointed as interim dean, effective August 1, 2018.

“We’ve had an amazing couple of years at Poole College. We’ve become recognized as a place that pairs rigorous data-driven thinking with creative problem-solving … that celebrates innovative approaches to business management education. I have enjoyed being part of Poole College and working as a team to generate and sustain this momentum,” Ranft said.

Strategic Investments

Ranft demonstrated during her time at Poole College her hallmark leadership style defined by clear and open communication across the college, enabling the free exchange of new ideas and concerns. She drew on her prior experience in industry, in the classroom and in prior administrative leadership roles to implement changes that that moved the college forward.

“As an academic leader in a college of management, I work to bridge and blend practice and academia in a fulfilling and rich way for our students, staff, and faculty, with an eye toward industry and developing the best possible outcome for our alums and employers,” she said.

At Poole College, this has included investments in faculty and college leadership – she added a new associate dean for faculty and academic affairs and a director of leadership development – and making physical improvements to the college’s home in Nelson Hall. Renovations included a classroom fitted with the latest technology for delivering live and asynchronous online courses, a new space redesigned to create a consolidated Poole College Career Center, and the lease of a building at 105 Brooks Avenue to create a state-of-the-art space for the Jenkins MBA program staff.

Ranft also established new college traditions such as the inaugural Jenkins Graduate Hooding Ceremony and reception; and to better showcase student accomplishments, she moved the college’s annual Leadership and Innovation Showcase – attended by alumni and industry contacts – from Nelson Hall to the recently renovated Reynolds Coliseum.

A Strong Foundation, Poised for the Future

During Ranft’s time at Poole College, she led the college in celebrating its 25th anniversary as NC State’s college of management – and seized the opportunity to re-introduce the college to the university, academic and business communities.

“The 25th anniversary celebration provided the college with an opportunity to revisit our strong roots and plan for our future,” Ranft said. “We continue to build on our foundation within a leading STEM university that excels at analytics and entrepreneurship. From our beginning, we’ve teamed up with real-world industry and other academic disciplines to inform our research, to engage our students and to focus on relevant business challenges and trends.”

Ranft established a number of programs and initiatives to support the college’s mission: to actively engage with industry and academia to create an innovative and collaborative intellectual environment that fosters learning, scholarship and service … developing and supporting leaders with an entrepreneurial mindset and analytical problem solving capabilities to positively impact our data-rich, dynamic, global economy.

She created the Technology Enhanced Education Advisory Council (TEEAC) to determine the best strategy for moving forward with technology enhanced education to improve the learning experience for students and the college’s relationships with the technology industry.

Ranft also led the way for the growth of graduate certificate and degree programs in line with Poole College’s areas of expertise, including an online Tax Analytics and Technology Certificate, as well as a Master in Management general degree program to pave the way for a future portfolio of specialized tracks.

Campus Collaborations

Under her leadership, Poole College strengthened its partnerships across NC State University, including the interdisciplinary Entrepreneurship Clinic, as well as degree programs delivered with other colleges: the Master in Financial Math (with the NC State Department of Mathematics) and Doctorate in Interdisciplinary Operations Research (with the College of Engineering and College of Sciences).

Ranft has been amplifying the Poole College’s distinctive characteristics within the college and in her communications with alumni and friends of the college, and has provided strong support for the university-wide Think and Do The Extraordinary campaign, which began a few months after she arrived on campus.

“I am proud to have been part of the university’s comprehensive campaign to focus on building a stronger resource base in the future for the college and the university,” Ranft said.

Prior to joining Poole, Ranft provided strategic leadership as associate and senior associate dean at the University of Tennessee’s Haslam College of Business, and as department chair for management at Florida State University’s College of Business. Ranft also held faculty positions at Wake Forest University’s Calloway School of Business and Accountancy and West Virginia University’s College of Business and Economics. Prior to her academic career, she worked in industry as a systems consultant at AT&T and as an account manager at EDS.