Business School Dean Sueann Ambron has been a volunteer in the Peace Corps, a professor at Stanford University and a software developer for Apple Computer.
But she doesn’t want to talk about herself.“I’m not the star here.”
“The students, the faculty and the new Business School building are the stars,” Ambron said, in spite of the awards that line the shelves of her office. “I’m an enabler.”
In little more than a decade at the helm, Ambron has enabled the University of Colorado Denver Business School to:
- Earn accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business—which means it’s in the top 5 percent of business schools globally;
- Become one of only 30 schools in the nation to be designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a Center for International Business Education and Research;
- Partner with industry to create innovative programs—like Global Energy Management and Risk Management and Insurance—in response to real company needs.
- Transform from a disjointed entity scattered across 15 different locations into the largest accredited graduate school of business in the Rocky Mountain West.
- Build itself a high-tech home smack in the center of Denver’s business district, with a first-of-its-kind Center for Commodities.
“Where’s the business school?”
That was Ambron’s first question when she became dean in 2000. When she learned that the school was scattered among 15 locations across the city of Denver, a vision started to form.
“Sense of place is critical. We needed a central building,” Ambron said. “Within the first few weeks, I started meeting with downtown business leaders.”
On a white board in her office, Ambron and her visionary colleagues made a sketch of a cartoonish high-rise building with “The New B-School” scrawled underneath. Around the building were clouds encompassing words like: entrepreneurship … technology … partnerships … innovation … diversity …
The white board sketch became the artwork for promotional Business School campaign postcards, on the back of which the visionaries wrote:
“We have a dream about Denver. We want to build a place where we impact the economic vitality of the region … a place where people come together from companies old and new, from state and city governments, from hospitals and civic organizations and anyone else who wants to learn, solve business problems and discover opportunities.”
“Nothing hatches out of nothing.”
Today, Ambron’s vision has become a reality, at 15th and Lawrence Streets. There, in the University of Colorado Denver’s urban “education corridor,” what was once the headquarters of a French energy company is now a premier hub of business education.
In addition to bright classrooms, sleek conference rooms and a comfortable café, the building integrates strategic design elements to encourage interaction and learning: natural lighting, transparent glass walls, unique collaboration spaces, decks with mountain views and a xeriscaped “green roof.”
“Previous CU leaders and business school deans have built powerful DNA into the school,” Ambron said, citing CU household names like Hank Brown, Yash Gupta and Don Stevens. “These leaders and others gave the business school a global reach, a powerful connection to the community and a new location.”
Still, it was Ambron who was there on Jan. 9 to greet the very first students to attend class in the new Business School building.
“I was just so happy for them.”
In many places in the U.S., Ambron is recognized for her evaluation of Head Start public education programs as a Stanford University public policy professor. In Peace Corps circles, she and her husband are remembered for being among the first married couples to serve in the Peace Corps together. In Silicon Valley, she is known as the “Mother of Multimedia.”
Here in Denver, Colo., she is the leader of the largest MBA program in the state of Colorado.
“[In our new Business School building,] you don’t just sit in a classroom; you’re part of a business community from the beginning,” Ambron said. “It’s going to be an amazing experience.”
Published: March 26, 2012