Isenberg Doctoral Program at 50: Anne Balazs ’91PhD Leads the College of Business and Innovation at the University of Toledo
March 22, 2019
“During my years as a PhD student, Isenberg was supportive and rigorous. You worked hard and played hard,” recalls Anne Balazs ’91 PhD. “It was a special place with people who cared.” A prominent marketing educator and researcher focusing on consumer behavior and sales force management, Anne has been dean since August of the University of Toledo’s College of Business and Innovation. Marketing and branding, she emphasizes, are critical to her challenges as dean. “Every stakeholder has a role to play in promoting the business school. Cultivating and coordinating those human (and other) resources to build the school’s brand is the challenge—it’s like being a symphony conductor,” she observes.
In her 28 years as an educator and academic leader, Isenberg’s PhD program has proved pivotal, she insists. Three of her four faculty mentors—Charlie Schewe in marketing and Tony Butterfield and Linda Smircich in management—remain active on Isenberg’s faculty. Her dissertation chair, marketing professor Eric Berkowitz (pictured at right), became long-time associate dean of Isenberg’s master’s degree programs and founder of its online MBA.
“I never took a class with Charlie, but as his research assistant, my research career got off to a great start by writing papers with him on consumer behavior of the elderly,” she recalls. “As his RA, I also had access to his desktop computer—back then a scarce commodity for a PhD student. It was gold! Charlie was and remains a great mentor. Eric—a terrific role model as a professor and an expert in healthcare marketing—was instrumental in fostering my research in sales marketing.” To that end, Anne’s dissertation, with Berkowitz as chair, explored the performance of sales professionals.
The Isenberg PhD graduate also took classes with still active Isenberg professors Bob Nakosteen and Anna Nagurney. She fondly remembers classmates Sanjay Nawalkha and Mzamo Mangaliso (both prominent Isenberg professors today). And she makes special mention of classmates Jean Romeo (until recently director of market research at Dartmouth College, pictured at right), Todd Mooradian (dean of the University of Louisville’s College of Business), and Susan Fournier, dean of Boston University’s Questrom School of Business.
“Most of the faculty at Isenberg were building their research careers while we were there,” she continues. “We were fortunate to participate as graduate assistants, benefit from their classes, and gain an appreciation for their work by staying engaged with them. They invited us to their homes, connected us with their peers, helped us prepare for conferences, and developed us as academics. It is a testimony to their kindness that after 30 years, I can call Marc Weinberger or Charlie Schewe (or any of my former professors) and not miss a beat.”
Life After Isenberg
After Isenberg, Anne built an innovative career in teaching, research, and leadership in business education. In 1996, following six years as an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Oklahoma, she embarked on twelve years at the Mississippi College for Women, excelling as a professor of marketing and ultimately as the business school’s interim dean. After that, at the Eastern Michigan University’s College of Business, she was a professor, head of the school’s marketing department, and the school’s interim dean. When Anne left EMU last August for her present role at the University of Toledo, she became the first woman to lead its College of Business and Innovation.
Anne’s leadership at Toledo emphasizes both academic research and business pragmatism. (In many cases, the two can be one and the same, she says.) Her own research, which has graced top marketing and general business journals, has explored internet and retail strategy, sales force management, healthcare marketing, and consumer behavior among senior citizens. At the same time, her worldview incorporates her own industry experience: “I joined Isenberg from Fidelity, where I was a representative and legal product manager. It was a great experience,” she recalls. Anne’s undergraduate major in economics at Smith College and eagerness to embrace new technologies have also informed her career.
As a student at Isenberg, Anne commuted from her family’s home in Shelburne Falls. “I periodically visit my father, who still lives there in a large Victorian house,” she remarks. “And I stay in touch with my mentors at Isenberg. Over the years, the Valley and Isenberg’s culture have changed very little. It’s good to see the school move up in the rankings. With that said, you have to conclude that Isenberg’s positive, demanding culture will continue to play a key role.”