Sylvia Maxfield, whose career has taken her from the Ivory tower, as she calls it, of Yale University to Wall Street and then back into higher education, became dean of the college of business at Providence College last summer.
She’s been making her mark here as an outspoken advocate on the need for social, educational, and business innovation in order to foster the economic growth Rhode Island is still struggling to capture.
At the same time, she’s leading a business school that has seen undergraduate enrollment grow threefold just for accounting majors in the last decade and spearheading a campaign to raise funds for a new business-school building.
PBN: How did you make your career moves from higher education to Wall Street and back again?
MAXFIELD: I was at Yale for 10 years and my area of [concentration] was financial institutions in low- and middle-income countries. The Council of Foreign Relations has an international affairs fellows program open to young professionals, for faculty to go into government or folks in government to spend a year in academia. Every once in a while they allow a sector switch to occur. I convinced them I should spend a year working on Wall Street because my ability to write about and recommend international economic policy would be much better if I actually had experience trading in the market. I really enjoyed it [at Lehman Brothers] and I ended up staying full time on Wall Street. I vowed I would never come back to higher education because I’m a high-energy person and academia just seemed so slow to innovation and change. But [my husband and I] have three children and he has a high-powered career and it started to get really difficult so I made the decision to eventually step away.
PBN: Providence College saw a 25 percent increase in enrollment in its MBA program from fall 2011 to fall 2012. The college of business has received international accreditation. To what do you attribute the enrollment uptick?
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