Energetic dean puts COB plans in motion
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
You would expect someone who has flown six different types of Air Force planes, including a supersonic jet, to be a man of action, and Dr. Randy Gibb certainly fits that stereotype.
“An 80 percent solution to start the process is better than not moving forward at all,” he said.
You would expect him to be principled, a man of integrity and respect for authority. Right again.
“I’m a rule follower,” he said.
But if you also think that someone who has spent most of his adult life showing Air Force instructors how to teach future pilots must be a buttoned-down, inflexible, my-way-or-the-highway taskmaster, you don’t know the new dean of the College of Business at Grand Canyon University.
While Gibb describes himself as a bit of a dreamer, he has proved he can get things done, given his broad and successful leadership background. And most significantly for the 2,001 COB students, up from 1,369 last year, this born teacher from Stevens Point, Wis., is determined to maximize the experience for students, nearly a thousand of them new to GCU.
“In addition to Lopes Up,” he said, “it will also be Lopes First for the College of Business.”
The goal is to put GCU students first and foremost in the minds of faculty and staff. Gibb, 50, already created several COB events and programs to help newcomers feel welcome and returning students feel welcomed back:
- Fall Tipoff: The first annual event is scheduled for 11:15 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 5, in the Arena, and Gibb hopes to get well more than half of the college’s students to attend. GCU President/CEO Brian Mueller, Provost Hank Radda and Dan Majerle, men’s basketball head coach, all plan to be there. News about the college’s programs will be provided, club involvement and internship opportunities will be emphasized, and students will have the chance to socialize. And, in the best tradition of GCU, “everyone gets a purple COB T-shirt,” Gibb said.
- Dean’s COB Speaker Series: The first one, scheduled for 9:50 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 8, in Ethington Theatre, will feature the Camelback Society, a Christian-based entrepreneurial business group. Watch GCU Today for more details.
- Interns for Entrepreneurs program: Pairing students with startups could be a win-win in that the entrepreneurs add some muscle to their lineup and students get exposed to the entrepreneurial spirit. “A friend of mine who’s much smarter than me said, ‘You don’t teach entrepreneurship, you facilitate it,’” Gibb said. It also fits Mueller’s vision of making a positive social and economic impact in the Valley in helping local entrepreneurs generate momentum to succeed with the help of GCU students.
- Internships and industry experiences: As GCU fulfills another part of Mueller’s vision — continuing to help transform west Phoenix — Gibb wants to help local businesses by using the skills and talents of GCU students and faculty through internships as well as less formal but just as effective student-placement efforts. In these instances, rather than the formal internship, work hours are tracked and verified and can be included on a resumé. “It’s like a pilot’s logbook for real-world experiences,” Gibb said.
- Business Purple Thursday: Everyone in COB will be encouraged, to put it lightly, to wear GCU’s favorite color every Thursday.
Gibb’s background includes a classic Midwestern upbringing, the son of an elementary-school teacher (Shirley) and University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point executive (Len), before he got the bug “to do something different.”
His time at the Air Force Academy, from cadet to colonel and senior military professor 25 years later, was distinguished by a steady progression of leadership roles, including winning an intercollegiate national boxing championship and later becoming a commander of two flying units. Gibb also helped coach the boxing team to a national collegiate title.
But he’s hardly the type to expect students to stand at attention, toe the line and salute to every directive coming from his office. To the contrary, Gibb said, teaching instructor pilots taught him a lot about what works for a teacher and what doesn’t.
“If the student doesn’t get what I’m teaching, I’ve got to re-analyze how I’m going about it,” he said. “To be an effective instructor you must understand the different learning styles.”
That philosophy is consistent with what family members and friends have seen from him over the years. Sister-in-law Abby Brown, an assistant professor in the College of Education who is due to give birth in late September, said, “He is one of those guys who will do anything for anybody. I was just thinking today, ‘What would I do if I went into labor when I was at work? Then I thought, ‘Well, duh. I’d call Randy.’”
Through his various operational-leadership roles, Gibb developed a philosophy of “leadership, ethics and entrepreneurship through initiative, integrity and innovation.” What attracted him to GCU was its ability to change quickly and efficiently.
“For a university, we’re extremely nimble,” he said.
The sudden COB growth is a good example. “We’re basically doubling in size — who does that?” Gibb said. “The team of professionals here at GCU is impressive in how they have successfully operationalized the business of education.”
But he has nimbly begun to transform the way COB looks. To symbolize the heritage he intends to celebrate, he had the entrance to the COB building redone. In the future, it will feature plaques commemorating the teacher and student of the year as well as other scenes and mementoes from life at GCU.
For now, Gibb is intent on creating “the most accessible college to students,” a destination that attracts the best students and then helps them in whatever way possible, and his list of 10 priorities on his dry-erase board reflects that: relationships, partnerships, business development, recruitment, marketing, academic rigor, retention, graduation, employment and alumni.
When he’s not working, Gibb likes to be with his family and work out. Brown calls Gibb a “total family guy,” and he has been in that mode for a long time. He and his wife, Jill, have been married for 26 years and have four children, Courtney, 25, Jeff, 21, Anna, 13, and Eva, 7.
Think about it: This is a couple who, when it’s all said and done, will have spent nearly 40 years raising kids. That has to be worth some serious points in the Parents of the Century competition.
Over on the other side of the dry-erase board, at the bottom of one of Gibb’s to-do lists, was this recent entry, courtesy of Anna.
“Get a puppy.”
Never mind that they already have a dog and a recently acquired kitten. It will be fascinating to find out what the 80 percent solution will be for that one.
Contact Rick Vacek at 602-639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.