A Q&A with outgoing dean of the COB Brenda Flannery

Q1: How was the transition from faculty member to the administration side?

Dean Flannery: I joined the College of Business in 1996. I fell in love with this place and the kind of students we have here. I never really aspired to be an administrator. I just loved teaching and I loved the students. I wanted to work on a team with other people to design learning that would affect a great number of students. As the administrator and as the Dean of the Business School, my job was to hire the best faculty, best staff and bring great programs and figure out how to fund them. It was thinking more about the bigger picture for the whole business school and not just about my classes.

Q2: What did it mean to you to be the first female dean of the COB?

Dean Flannery: At first I wasn’t really ready for the leadership role. I said, “No, thank you.” Then my husband and I talked about how often women don’t have as many leadership opportunities. There were times when things would be said to me that were a little old school, but you just kind of keep your nose down, do the important work and that’s what ends up mattering the most. It’s not where you come from. It’s about what’s the work we’re going to do together. And it’s always about students. My motivation for doing this work is 100% for students. I adore them. 

Q3: What has been your most memorable experience as dean of the COB?

Dean Flannery: Anything involved with seeing students succeed. Those moments where you see a student come in as a shy, unsure freshman their first year and then you see them graduate fills your heart so much that we just want to do our best for them.

Q4: How has the IBE Program impacted the COB? 

Dean Flannery: I’m so proud. The first class had 12 students in it. It’s truly a village that has made that happen. It’s so cool to see 12 faculty that have taught in the program and hundreds of students gone through that experience and over $125,000 has been given back to the community. I mean, if you think about that, it’s literally hundreds of people that have been part of that shared experience.

Q5: What are your plans for the future?

Dean Flannery: It was a hard decision for me to no longer be the Dean because I really loved it. But I have the soul of an entrepreneur. After 12 years I was ready to see what’s next. I’m the kind of person that when I’m doing something, I give it 125%. I’m really passionate about higher education. Sometimes I refer to myself as an “Edu-preneur” because I love creating new experiences around education. Before I became an administrator I did a lot of research on sustainability and experiential learning. I’m going to go back to those roots and have a little bit of time just to think and write and get my work out there again. I think I got something up my sleeve and something’s going to happen in the next couple of years because I’m not the retiring kind.

Header photo: College of Business Dean Brenda Flannery is retiring after 27 years at Minnesota State with 12 of those years as the dean. (Lilly Anderson/The Reporter)

Write to Julia Lin at

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