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Dr. Joseph Mazzola, new dean of the Monte Ahuja College of Business, envisions ‘an engine of innovation’ at CSU

Dr. Joseph Mazzola brings a wealth of experience to his new role as dean of Cleveland State University’s Monte Ahuja College of Business, where he also serves as the Monte Ahuja Endowed Chair. Prior to his arrival at CSU in July, this distinguished operations-management expert held a variety of academic and leadership positions at the Belk College of Business at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University and the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, among other institutions. Dr. Mazzola recently sat down with ENGAGED to share his thoughts on the importance of innovation, CSU’s competitive edge and moving Cleveland forward in today’s global economy.

What drew you to CSU?

So many things! Cleveland State has a unique identity within Cleveland and within Northeast Ohio. I’ve observed other urban universities that try to have a relationship with their communities. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Here at CSU, it really works.

I’ve been very impressed by the strong sense of purpose at Cleveland State. The University has evolved in such a way that it could not exist separately from Cleveland – and that, to me, shows a true connection. Our sense of purpose centers on how CSU can help advance the workforce in Cleveland and help the region move forward, and the region looks to CSU to do that.

I’ve also sensed passion and pride at Cleveland State. We’re passionate about our mission, and we take pride in it. It’s important to us, and it’s important to Cleveland.

When you get all of those aligned – the purpose, the passion and the pride – it’s huge.

How can CSU enhance its ties to Northeast Ohio’s business community?

I’m a big believer in innovation. While it’s important to maintain and to strengthen traditional partnerships, the world around us is changing so rapidly, in terms of the kinds of jobs that are being created and the kinds of companies that are being created. We need to look forward to new partnerships with new organizational entities and purposes.

I’d like to see Cleveland State play a role in that evolutionary and sometimes revolutionary process.

The tagline of the Monte Ahuja College of Business is: “More than a degree. A competitive edge.” Could you please elaborate?

I love that tagline. I want it to drive our mission.

Let me relate this to myself, if I might. I’m a first-generation college graduate. When I was starting out as an undergraduate, I viewed a college degree as a collection of courses that I had to pass. Along the way, I fell in love with learning. I developed a respect for the continual acquisition of knowledge, and I saw the doors it could open.

So a college degree became more than a degree for me.

We give our students more than a degree, too. We work to add value and to provide our students with a competitive edge in the marketplace, so they’ll have the knowledge base, the skills and the wherewithal to function in a very complex, very rapidly changing world.

Speaking of the world at large, where do you see CSU’s hometown of Cleveland fitting into the global economy of the 21st century?

It’s important to continue to innovate, and I want Cleveland State to be a force of change within this area. With change comes risk, and one has to understand how to accept that risk, how to manage that risk and how to build a calculus around that risk so we can move forward. I see CSU – and its partnerships with some of the companies in the area that are major innovators – helping the region to innovate and to move forward. That will be a very big part of the mission of the Monte Ahuja College of Business.

As I said, I’m all about innovation. I want CSU to be an engine of innovation for Cleveland.

What are your initial impressions of Cleveland in general?

I love the diversity and the ethnicity here. Cleveland has so much to offer, and it has a very promising future.

I believe that future is made even brighter by Cleveland’s relationship with Cleveland State University.