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Tufts Gordon Institute was pleased to welcome Mark Ranalli this September as the new associate dean and executive director of Tufts Gordon Institute. The founder of several innovative businesses, Ranalli joins Tufts with over 24 years of experience as a business executive and entrepreneur. We recently sat down to ask Mark a few questions including what made him interested in transitioning to higher education, how he sees TGI playing a role in developing leaders and points of advice he would share with aspiring entrepreneurs. 

Tufts Gordon Institute: After spending 25 years in industry as a business executive, what made you interested in making the transition to higher education?

Ranalli: As with most journeys, my path to academia started many years ago when I was student. I was fortunate to be able to attend Stanford University, where I earned a BS in Electrical Engineering, and later and Dartmouth, where I completed my MBA. Both experiences provided me with a tremendous appreciation for the value of higher education.

Education enriches peoples’ lives – their ability to be creative, to pursue intellectual interests and to seize opportunities.  I see higher education as a massive industry that is at a crossroads and in need of transformation. The cost continues to outpace inflation and real wage increases; student debt level exceeds $1 trillion; and student loan defaults are skyrocketing, yet the higher education industry continues on with status quo – isolated from and ignoring the coming tsunami. By joining the ranks of higher education, I hope my entrepreneurial skills and corporate experience can become an asset to the University, while I simultaneously have the opportunity to learn and gain insight into the workings of this vital sector.

Tufts Gordon Institute: In your view, how should we grow and evolve as an institute?

Ranalli: I deeply believe in our mission at Tufts Gordon Institute. In a society where technology is advancing as quickly as it is today and with the expectation that it will continue to accelerate, our economy will need more technically trained leaders and entrepreneurial professionals who can develop innovative solutions to major world issues.  We will continue to enrich our existing programs at TGI and seek to identify additional programs that help us to fulfill our mission.

Tufts Gordon Institute: Leadership is one of the cornerstones of the Gordon Institute’s graduate and undergraduate programs. How do you see leadership playing a role in the career paths of both undergraduate students as well as working professionals?

Ranalli: I believe our objective is to help our students have impact on society, and leadership is the key to having impact.

Leaders turn ideas into reality. Today we talk a lot about entrepreneurship. It’s sexy and makes for great press. In reality, it’s the same thing as leadership. Being capable of taking an idea and turning it into reality requires a set of skills and characteristics. The skills required of the leaders who built the Hoover Dam or the Golden Gate Bridge, are the same as those required of the entrepreneur who converts their crazy idea into a successful enterprise. You need to attract, motivate and organize people to achieve greatness. If we work together on establishing a culture of having an impact on our society – and provide our students with the skills necessary to have an impact – we will have achieved something very meaningful.

Tufts Gordon Institute: In what ways do you see TGI uniquely positioned to help grow future leaders that can impact developments in areas such as alternative energy, clean technologies, medical research, and cloud computing?

Ranalli: As the rate of innovation and scientific discovery advance, the amount of knowledge necessary for engineers to learn as part of their undergraduate degree programs increases, leaving little time for them to build critical leadership competencies. At the same time, explosive technological change is creating an environment whereby we need significantly more engineers to lead – and these dynamics are not going to reverse. Tufts Gordon Institute’s master’s program in engineering management addresses this gap by delivering an education that is specifically designed to transform engineers into leaders who can develop innovative solutions to major technological opportunities and challenges facing our society.

 Tufts Gordon Institute: As a founder of several companies, what’s one major lesson you would share with aspiring entrepreneurs?

 Ranalli: There is no one thing that I can share that will offer any profound impact, but if you will indulge me in a short list, I can pass along some insights.

Don’t take risks that you can’t live with. Everything we do in life has risks – including crossing the street.  If you want to start your own company, I encourage you to consider the additional risks you will be taking, and make sure you can live with them, otherwise, when your business requires your fullest attention, you may find yourself focused on the wrong issues.

Don’t drink your own “Kool-Aid.” You need to believe in your idea – but don’t let it blind you. Listen intently and ask questions.

Just do it! If you can live with the risks and you have done the homework to understand why your idea will make a difference – then act.

It’s all about execution. Your idea and a token will get you on the subway. Execution is achieved by building and empowering great teams.

Read the news announcement of Mark joining TGI.

Read coverage in Tufts Daily and BostonInno.

 

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