Maryland Taps Technology Guru

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Maryland Taps Technology Guru

By Tania Anderson
Staff Writer

George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., started a trend last June when it hired a new president with a rich technology background.

On June 20, the University of Maryland in College Park, Md., appointed a technology expert, Howard Frank, to head its business school.

The 56-year-old Frank, director of the information technology office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is a seasoned information industry executive with more than 20 years of senior line management experience. At DARPA, he managed a $350 million annual budget aimed at advancing the frontiers of information technology.

"Information technology is the first great wave of the 21st century and biotechnology is the second. We're a business school that is going to understand technology and we can't be a one-dimensional technology school."

-Howard Frank
University of Maryland's new business school dean

In an interview with Washington Technology last week, Frank said his top priorities are to shrink the gap between the university and the local high-tech community and build a technology-oriented business school.

"Business in general and schools in particular have to follow the fact that technology is revolutionizing the world," said Frank, whose first official day at the university is Sept. 15.

Frank said he plans to form alliances with businesses in Maryland and Virginia, as well as corporations around the country. He also plans to forge alliances with government entities.

"Once I get out there I'm going to be all over the place trying to build these alliances," said Frank, who will replace William Mayer, the school's dean since 1992.

Frank did not name specific companies or government entities but did say he plans to aggressively pursue partnerships with biotechnology companies in Maryland. "Information technology is the first great wave of the 21st century and biotechnology is the second," Frank said. "We're a business school that is going to understand technology and we can't be a one-dimensional technology school."

In other areas, Frank wants to expand the school's executive education program through cooperative partnerships with local high-tech companies and he foresees working with industry to strengthen the information technology focus of the program.

"There's a major need for information technology, business-oriented education in the region itself," said Frank. "I'd like to cooperate with companies in order to deliver relevant education to their senior and middle management executives."

Partnerships between business, government and education are important aspects of local economic development, said Patrick Valentine, managing partner of Colleges & Corporations LLC. The private company in Alexandria, Va., provides consulting services to businesses and universities on forming relationships.

"He's the newest person to start the crossing of higher education, government and business," said Valentine. "The institutions could open up even more after this announcement."

"Howard is a very good person who has an understanding of the academic world and the technology industry."
-Alan Merten

Last June, George Mason University hired as its new president Alan Merten, who previously served as the dean of Cornell University's graduate school of management and a professor of information systems both at Cornell and the University of Florida.

In the last three to five years, Merten said, high-tech executives have been making career switches into education.

"Howard is a very good person who has an understanding of the academic world and the technology industry," said Merten, who met Frank a year ago. "It's not like he doesn't understand the academic world."

Indeed, Frank is a senior fellow at the Wharton School's SEI Center for Advanced Studies in Management. An earlier stint included serving as an associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

Local industry executives have been increasingly reaching out to universities in an effort to stem the work force shortage.

"The more business people you can get into a university environment, the more emphasis there is on the importance of academics and business," said David Lucien, president and chief executive of Interpro Corp., a management consulting firm in Reston, Va. "It's so important to understand each other's business."

Frank's private sector experience includes an 11-year career as president and chief executive of Contel Information Systems, a subsidiary of Contel Corp., a $3 billion telecommunications company that was sold to GTE Corp. of Stamford, Conn. He earlier founded Network Analysis Corp., a telecommunications design and consulting firm that was sold to Contel in 1980.

Although Frank hasn't committed to any long-term goals, he said that Maryland's business school will move up in the nationwide rankings in the next three to five years. According to U.S. News & World Reports most recent survey, the University of Maryland is 20th out of 46 business schools in the ranking.

"A year from now, we won't look much different but three or four years from now we'll be recognized as a top school," said Frank. "You can hold me to that one."

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