College of Business Dean Beth Walker honored by Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce as one of the state’s Top 25 Most Powerful Women
Strong. Intelligent. Strategic. Collaborative. Relatable. Authentic. Hard working. Inclusive.
These are just a few of the words that come to mind when people are asked to describe the leadership style of Beth Walker, Ph.D., Dean of Colorado State University’s College of Business.
Recently, “powerful” was added to that list in a big way, as Dean Walker accepted an award from the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce honoring her as one of the Top 25 Most Powerful Women in the state.
Melissa Helfrich, Executive Assistant to the Dean, has gotten to know Walker closely, having spent thousands of hours working alongside her since they both joined the college in 2015.
Helfrich’s experiences compelled her to help nominate the dean for the award, which recognizes powerful leaders across Colorado as those who are passionately promoting of the success of women in business, engaging in the community, serving as forward-thinking visionaries and displaying perseverance.
Seeing people come together to recognize her daily efforts has left Dean Walker feeling grateful.
“As women, every day, we go to work in our organizations and our communities, trying to make an impact, hoping to make a difference, lifting others up, without even the slightest idea that we might be recognized for our work and efforts,” said Walker. “For my community to invest the time and effort in lifting me up, and celebrating my work and accomplishments, is personally very humbling and among the most special honors I could ever hope to receive.”
“I try to be very authentic and true to who I am as a person and as a leader.”
– Dean Beth Walker
A culture change
“She is very humble with her accomplishments,” said Helfrich, ticking through some of the prestigious board positions, academic postings, research awards, new program launches, and high-profile keynotes that make up Walker’s 21-page CV. “I wanted her to recognize how much she inspires other people, and it’s not just our students, it’s everyone around her. She’s inspiring faculty and staff, especially the women, to be business leaders,” said Helfrich.
Jill Terry, Assistant Dean for College of Business Graduate Programs, is one of those women.
“Throughout my career, I seldom brought up anything about my family or personal life because I didn’t feel like I could bring my whole self to work without worrying about how it would be interpreted,” said Terry.
The data backs up her choice, with research highlighting negative biases against working mothers that lead to lower pay, while working fathers see salary increases.
“But there’s a culture change that hiring a female dean brings with it,” said Terry. “As someone who has experienced the those challenges, I see her being considerate of the time it takes to achieve balance, and offering people more flexibility while at the same time having very high expectations for herself and others.”
Dean Walker’s relatability is one the keys to her effectiveness as the leader of the College.
“Everyone wants to be her friend,” said Helfrich, laughing as she explained how walking with the dean through the College can be a slow process, “because people actually want to talk to her, they want to hear her thoughts and be listened to.”
A solutions mindset
“You can just tell when someone is just in a conversation to make their point, but she doesn’t do that,” said Helfrich. “She truly hears them and engages. She’s a solutions person, it’s always, ‘How can we find a way to solve that problem.’”
This solutions mindset has led Dean Walker to foster strong connections throughout the community, making a point to draw from diverse perspectives as she works to move the College of Business forward.
“Beth is investing the time. It’s not easy to do, and it’s her follow through that really matters,” said Helfrich. “She puts in that effort every time.”
“It’s one thing to have people at the table who can get something done, and it’s another to open the table up to enough people so you can make sure it gets done right.”
– Jill Terry, Assistant Dean for Graduate Programs
During her time at CSU, Dean Walker doubled the number of female executives represented on the College’s Global Leadership Council and worked across the University to help conceptualize a new program with Arapahoe Community College that will provide new opportunities to underrepresented students. The College of Business also saw record levels of undergraduate enrollments and student diversity, while maintaining some of the highest graduation and retention rates on campus.
Since Walker’s first day at the University, it’s been hard to miss the impact she’s having. Under her leadership, the College of Business’s signature Online MBA program experienced a 6 point rankings increase while at the same time the number of ranked institutions increased by nearly 50%. In 2019, U.S. News ranked the program as the best Online MBA in Colorado and in 2018 Financial Times ranked it as No. 10 nationwide.
Walker also helped spearhead the launch of the Global Business Academy, a new summer experience for high schoolers. The program connects students with global executives and CSU’s world-renowned faculty. Throughout the transformative 13-day academy, young scholars are introduced to the concept of “Business for a Better World,” and how innovations and enterprise can be harnessed to make a positive impact.
“While others might just see my accomplishments, I like to also share my challenges and failures, to let people know that I have struggled with all of the same issues that women struggle with everywhere.”
– Dean Beth Walker
Driving success for all students
Susan Schell, Director of the College of Business Career Management Center, leads the office that helps current students and graduates find fulfilling jobs after leaving the University, and has seen firsthand how Dean Walker’s efforts are contributing to that goal.
“What strikes me the most about Dean Walker is that she meets her commitments. She is not just a figurehead leader. Her involvement in all areas of the college is very strong, she works hard, makes connections, follows through on promises, solves problems, affects change and understands the issues.
Schell sees Dean Walker drawing on her natural leadership abilities and passion for inclusivity to move the College forward with “honesty, integrity, humility, compassion, respectfulness, and fairness.”
“She is very good at reading people,” said Schell, “She’s a great listener and knows how to mediate difficult conversations, align people, and she connects with others over a shared commitment, and care, for the College and our students.”
A moment to reflect and look forward
In an academic field historically dominated by men, where it can be difficult for women to rise up the ranks to leadership positions, Walker finished the arduous process of becoming a tenured Associate Professor just two months after the birth of her son. She served as an educator at Arizona State University for nearly three decades and was recognized time and again for her contributions in the classroom and scholarly business research. Walker earned promotion after promotion, and ultimately became Chair of the Department of Marketing before accepting the offer to join CSU’s College of Business and serve as dean.
Every day, students’ success is supported by Dean Walker’s steadfast commitment to advancing business knowledge, spurring innovations in distance education, lowering barriers to access, and empowering underserved populations.
Having published research on the status and promotion of women in the workplace and serving as the first female dean of CSU’s College of Business, Walker is acutely aware she holds a position that skews heavily male. For every female dean of an AACSB-accredited college of business, there are three men holding the same position.
In her role as dean, Walker has been providing a clear and accessible example to the female students in the College that they too can become leaders in their communities.
“Sometimes, just seeing someone who looks like you in a position of leadership plants the seed that this is possible for you too,” said Dean Walker.
Dean Walker, for all that you do for the College of Business, thank you! And congratulations on being recognized by the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce. You make us #ProudToBe BizRams!