Paul Slaggert Retires From Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business
After a remarkable 30-year career in university-based executive education, Paul Slaggert has announced his retirement from Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. We recently caught up with Paul as he reflected on his career in the industry, and his plans for the future.
Q. You were something of a pioneer in the industry. How has it changed throughout the years?
A. I spent the early part of my career at the University of Cincinnati. Back then, we only did open enrollment programs. In fact, there was a group of folks who travelled from school to school offering OE classes; our job was to provide the participants. Pretty soon, schools figured out that they could create their own open enrollment classes, better suited for the businesses in their area. So, we did that for a while. Then came the birth of custom programs and I realized that’s where the fun is!
The other big change is just the scale of the industry. There are so many players out there – both university-based and non-university-based. It can be hard to keep up with the rate of change. Also, time seems to be so much more precious these days. Years ago, we developed a four-week program for one of our clients. Today, that same program is delivered in one week. Part of that has to do with technology which has been an amazing tool. It has allowed executive education departments to be entrepreneurial – to be the innovators on campus. It has also led to more sophisticated clients and program participants, so the entire experience is better for everyone.
Q. What’s been your favorite part of the job?
A. The relationships. I enjoyed building close relationships with clients, faculty and peers. I loved partnering with faculty to help solve problems for clients. And I really enjoyed working with my peers to solve even bigger problems – and to build something new. While at Cincinnati I worked with Miami University to co-found a business consortium. That led to professional relationships that have endured for 25 years.
Q. That must have been a career highlight. What are some others?
A. Without a doubt, my involvement in the design and building of the Executive Education Center at Notre Dame. It was enormously satisfying to envision the best possible design for the purpose, and then to execute against that vision. Hosting the UNICON team development conference in 2014 was particularly exciting because we were able to share the center with people who understand what good looks like! Their positive response was something I’ll never forget.
Another highlight is a leadership program we have developed in the West of Ireland. It’s located at Kylemore Abbey – an absolutely stunning building in a gorgeous part of the world. We were able to start something unique from scratch. Building relationships with colleagues in Ireland has been a delightful experience.
Q. You’ll miss that program when you retire!
A. Actually, Notre Dame has asked me to continue to build that leadership program post-retirement. That will be a real pleasure. I also hope to spend a little time in the classroom teaching and facilitating – that’s not work for me! I’m trying to figure out what else I want to do. It’s a great gift to be able to decide how I spend my time. I feel a strong need to give back. I am in the process of deciding exactly what that will look like. For sure it will include spending the fall in South Bend so I can continue to attend Notre Dame football games!
Q. You were involved in UNICON throughout its formative years. What changes have you seen?
A. I had the pleasure of serving on UNICON’s membership committee. UNICON participation is a great way to get to know people and to learn from them. It provides an unparalleled professional network. The conferences in particular give you the opportunity to step back and think about how you do what you do. In that sense, UNICON gives its members the exact same opportunity we give our clients. It’s wonderful in that regard.
Q. What advice would you give to people in the industry?
A. Build your network! The industry is changing very quickly. The best way to keep up with those changes, and to learn new and better ways of doing things, is to have a robust network of colleagues. Second, never stop challenging yourself and your staff. Keep asking, what’s new? What’s coming next? Your clients expect you to stay on top of changes, not only in terms of content, but also delivery methods. Third, don’t get trapped in “edutainment.” You need to add real value all the time. Your clients aren’t there to be entertained. They are there to learn. What you provide them is just the beginning. The real work starts when they are back in the office. Keep asking yourself, how can I support them? How can I make them better? If you do that, success will follow.
“Paul has been a fantastic asset for the Membership Committee. His experience and insights have guided us and provided continuity in an industry that has seen the speed of change nothing but increase. And, most importantly, it has been a great joy working with him!” Lise Hammergren
“Paul has been a notable contributor to the executive education industry, to Notre Dame and to UNICON. He served on our Membership Committee and hosted the highly successful 2014 Team Development Conference. Anyone who had the pleasure of working with Paul knows him for his blend of expertise and humor.” Bill Scheurer