Job placement is the top priority for the new dean of the University of Kansas School of Business in Lawrence.
Neeli Bendapudi returned to KU Aug. 1 after a stint on the business faculty at Ohio State University. She and members of her business team were in Wichita this week meeting with alumni and business leaders.
"Job one is jobs, plain and simple," said Bendapudi, who received her doctorate from KU in 1994. "Job two is jobs. Job three is jobs.
"And I'm not being facetious. This is genuinely important for us, not only because of the economy. As Kansans we all need to focus on this."
Putting KU business school grads in good jobs is a metric of her success as a dean, Bendapudi said.
"I'm not reducing higher education to just getting a job, but let's be real," she said. "If your kids go through college and don't get a good job, that's not a good thing for anyone."
But graduates in good jobs grow into job creators, Bendapudi said, which feeds the school's ultimate goal — the economic success of Kansas.
The battle for economic growth is a regional one, she said, with Wichita at Kansas' business epicenter.
"Wichita is so key to the future success of KU, and the state," she said.
"If I say what is the city that's truly the business center of Kansas, Wichita is," Bendapudi said, "especially if you look at the industries here that are so crucial to our state. We cannot win without Wichita."
Bendapudi said she inherited a well-balanced business school at KU.
"We have four areas of excellence, and I feel there's an opportunity to build on all four," she said.
"We have a strong accounting and information systems program. We have a strong and growing economics, finance and decision sciences system.
"Other areas growing rapidly that need more visibility are marketing, entrepreneurship and law, and the last area is general business administration."
Bendapudi's specialty is marketing. She served as a marketing professor at Ohio State University.
While in Columbus, she was the founding director of the Fisher College of Business Initiative for Managing Services, which was created to address the importance of service industries in the global economy.
Bendapudi also brings real world business experience to the dean's office, having served as executive vice president and chief customer officer for Huntington National Bank in Ohio.
She has consulted for some of the world's largest companies, including Cessna Aircraft, Deloitte & Touche, Proctor & Gamble and Yellow Roadways.
Her research on QuikTrip, "Creating the Living Brand," was published by the Harvard Business Review in 2005.