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Dean of Leavey School of Business Brings the Magic of Disney

18 Jun
Ed Grier

The Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University is one of the top business schools in Silicon Valley. And it just got a boost from an unlikely source: the Walt Disney Company. In April 2021, the school announced that Ed Grier, a former Disney executive, would be taking over as dean.

Grier's appointment is a coup for the Leavey School. As the former president of the two-billion-dollar, 20,000-employee Disneyland Resort in Anaheim California from 2006 to 2010, Grier has nearly 30 years of Disney experience to help him complete his mission as dean: Build SCU Leavey School of Business into one of the top business schools in Silicon Valley by leveraging Silicon Valley corporate partnerships and SCU’s graduate programs and building on its tradition of excellence in the teaching-scholar model.”1

Under Grier's leadership, the Leavey School of Business has already made significant strides toward its goal. In addition to increasing many national business school rankings, the school has seen an increase in applications and donations. The school is also attracting more top-notch faculty and students. Additionally, alumni are reporting positive career results in the form of hiring outcomes and earnings power boosts.

Read on to learn how Grier’s leadership style, using the three pillars of “Walt Disney Magic,” have helped SCU Leavey become a leading institution for entrepreneurs and innovators that is fast-rising among rankings and results.

Dean Ed Grier’s Three Pillars of Disney Magic

When it comes to successful leadership, there are few companies that can match the Walt Disney Company. For nearly a century, they have been setting the standard for excellence in customer service and innovation, to the tune of over 22 billion dollars in annual gross profits.2 In 2022, the Disney company was once again recognized among the “World’s Most Admired Companies” on Fortune’s annual list.3

So it should come as no surprise that Dean Grier draws heavily on Disney's methods in shaping his own leadership style at SCU. In particular, Grier emphasizes three key pillars of Disney magic that have helped make the company a world-renowned leader in the entertainment industry and that he thinks companies and institutions, including academic, can follow to achieve success:

  1. Set clear expectations.
  2. Build high-performance teams.
  3. Foster a creative and inclusive culture.

Dean Ed Grier has seen firsthand how these three pillars can shape a company for the better. During his tenure as president of the Walt Disney Company's theme parks and resorts division, he helped increase park visitation from 14.7 million to nearly 16 million as it continued to deliver on its promise to provide more visitors with premier experiences at "the happiest place on Earth."4

Dean Grier’s wealth of knowledge and perspectives from academia and industry are helping him lead SCU forward. Let’s take a closer look at the three principles of his leadership magic.

Set clear expectations.

First, Grier says it's important to set clear expectations for your team so everyone knows what the goals are and can work together to achieve them. For leaders, Grier says you must “establish what's important to your institution and equip your team to meet high expectations.”5

At the academic level, leaders play an important role in shaping the future of their students. In collaboration with professors and scholars, these academic leaders help to conduct research and impart knowledge in the classroom that will be beneficial for students in the long term.

Together, administrators and faculty share the responsibility of ensuring students are well-prepared to join organizations or start their own businesses.

The Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University is one example of effective, team-focused collaboration in action. SCU students have the important opportunity to work on real-world projects and gain valuable insights into the business world while they are enrolled in the protective framework of the classroom. This type of early collaboration between academic leaders, faculty, leading companies, and current students is essential for preparing students for career success in the real world and helping them find new trajectories to follow towards their goals.

One way to set clear expectations for students is by providing them with well-run classrooms which support a leading curriculum with advanced courses that have proven benefits. SCU’s progressive curriculum features four available online concentrations in Leading Innovative Organizations, Marketing, Finance, and Data Science and Business Analytics. Two additional concentrations feature elective coursework catered to Silicon Valley companies who are eager to attain graduates with knowledge of data analytics.

Leavey has also launched the Silicon Valley Professional Dashboard, an exclusive feature for Online MBA students that helps them keep track of their expectations and progress. This online dashboard helps students track their progress through four domains: Principled Leadership, Communication and Team Building, Analysis and Interpretation, and Innovation and Entrepreneurial Mindset.6

The ultimate goal of the SCU Leavey Online program curriculum is to help students become a Silicon Valley Professional (SVP). An SVP is a person with the skills and tenacity to make change happen in their career and for their company, along with the compassion and ethics to make a positive impact in their community.

When students work towards course goals in SCU Leavey classrooms, they are preparing themselves to meet the expectations necessary for long-term success in the real world.

Build high-performance teams.

Second, Dean Grier says building high-performance teams is essential for overall business success. By assembling a group of talented and dedicated individuals, leaders are able to accomplish more than they ever thought possible if they were working alone.

Treating everyone as valuable is a key requirement if you are to achieve an inclusive team environment. Treating every team member with respect leads to a culture of trust where individuals feel free to contribute their ideas. The larger group, in turn, benefits from each individual’s unique talents and the whole group is strengthened in its performance.

When it comes to academics, faculty are an important part of the high-performance team. Their merits, achievements, publications, and experience help shape the team dynamic. SCU Leavey’s faculty are Silicon Valley-connected and have worked at Fortune 500 companies including:

  • Apple
  • IBM
  • HP
  • Amazon
  • 3M
  • Toshiba
  • Chevron
  • LG

Corporate partnerships are also an important part of the team blend at SCU Leavey; the business school partners with corporate neighbors in Silicon Valley to design course offerings. According to Dean Grier, “As a corporate executive, I learned that collaborations will strengthen the organization and the community. One individual cannot see every angle or know every possibility.”5

He adds, “For decades, business schools have partnered with industry by having corporations provide students with hands-on experience through internships or immersive experiences—something else I saw firsthand in my years at Disney.”5

Leavey alumni are also valued team members of the academic community and their ties to corporations serve to strengthen the business school for students and alumni. Leavey School of Business alumni include the former:

  • Rebecca Jacoby, chief information officer, Cisco
  • Peter Oppenheimer, former senior vice president and chief financial officer (CFO), Apple
  • George Reyes, former senior vice president and CFO, Google
  • Steve Sordello, former chief financial officer, LinkedIn
  • Robert J. Finocchio Jr., former CEO, president and chairman, IBM Informix

Foster a creative and inclusive culture.

Finally, fostering a creative and inclusive culture is essential for organizations, including business schools, that want to succeed in the long term. By encouraging creativity and diversity of thought, you can create an environment where everyone feels welcome and respected.

Dean Grier says one of his top three resolutions for 2022 is to increase access to the Leavey School's programs for under-represented students. Another key priority is maintaining a diverse faculty who “ensure our students are exposed to a variety of perspectives and are well prepared to enter a diverse and inclusive workforce.”7

Pointing to his own success, Dean Grier shares how important an inclusive environment has been to his achievements.

“During much of my childhood, it was inconceivable that someone like me, a first-generation college student, would become a senior executive of a Fortune 500 multinational entertainment giant. Yet, I did. I joined the Walt Disney Company in 1981 as a senior auditor at Walt Disney World in Florida,” he says.5

He adds, “Over the next 29 years, I held positions with the company in Florida, France, and Japan, before eventually becoming president of Disneyland Resort in California. My career success demonstrates the power of education to set in motion future possibilities that are unimaginable in the present.”5

Proof of Magic: The Results of Grier’s Principles at Work at Leavey School of Business

The newest stats and rankings surrounding SCU Leavey under Grier’s leadership are impressive:

  • Ranked No. 1 for Career Outcomes and Academic Experience8
  • Ranked No. 2 for MBA for getting grads jobs in big tech firms8
  • Ranked No. 2 nationwide for seating MBA graduates within FAANG companies (including Meta, Amazon, Netflix, Apple, and Alphabet)9
  • 96% of Leavey grads say their first job is in the industry10
  • SCU Leavey graduates earn 46% more than the average MBA graduate10
  • Google is the leading tech recruiter for the Leavey MBA program11
  • Santa Clara University is a fixture in Silicon Valley

By following three key magic business principles of one of the world’s most successful companies, Grier is building a highly successful business school that is consistently ranked among the best in the nation. Thanks to his innovative leadership, the Leavey School of Business is poised to continue its tradition of excellence for many years to come.

The Magic of the SCU Leavey School of Business

Founded in 1851, Santa Clara University resides at the center of Silicon Valley—the world’s most innovative and entrepreneurial region. SCU’s top-ranked Leavey School of Business has four online advanced degree programs that prioritize effective leadership and ethical business practices and offer ground-breaking courses taught by industry-expert faculty:

All four online graduate degree programs offer a full list of career support services, access to our powerful, professional network (with ties to nearby Silicon Valley), and a leading-edge curriculum, and in order to help each of our students reach their full potential.

Advance Your Career With the Silicon Valley Online MBA

Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business is proud to offer four Online business master’s programs that put Silicon Valley’s best skills, network, and knowledge at your fingertips.

Prepare to thrive in innovative organizations everywhere with our Online MBA, MSBA, MSFA, or MSM. Visit us to learn more about our faculty of accomplished business leaders, and explore some of the exciting networking opportunities available to online students at SCU.