By Rachel Jacobi, News Editor
Before coming to Yeshiva University to take over as the dean of Sy Syms School of Business, Dr. Noam Wasserman was a professor at the University of Southern California. On top of being a professor, he acted as the founding director of the Founder Central, an initiative that guides founders and startup builders with early decisions. Prior to his time at USC, Dean Wasserman was an award-winning professor at Harvard Business School for 13 years, where he created and taught a popular elective course. Dean Wasserman has also authored two bestselling books — The Founder’s Dilemma: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup and Life is a Startup: What Founders Can Teach Us about Making Choices and Managing Change.
Dean Wasserman’s arrival at Yeshiva University has been met with optimism by Sy Syms students. Shaiel Soleimani, Vice President of Sy Syms Student Council says, “Dean Wasserman is a great addition to YU. He truly cares about the students and what is best for them. He has many visions and goals for Syms. He is empowering and engaging with faculty, staff, and students. I cannot wait to learn from him and continue working with him this upcoming year!” Recent Sy Syms graduate Jacob Edinger, Syms ‘19, concurs, “I’m really excited for Dean Wassermen to elevate the academic standards and integrity of Syms.”
Dean Wasserman certainly does have ambitions for elevating academic standards. He describes his enthusiastic vision for Syms and says,“Over the last three months, I have been working with the faculty, other Deans, and supporters of the school to identify priorities in each of three key stages of life: the undergraduate program, the graduate program, and post-graduation continuing education. This year, we will be making major inroads in each of these three stages.”
One of the changes that Dean Wasserman has put forth is the improvement of the Honors program. Honors students were consulted to create a “wishlist” for what they wanted built within the program. Their feedback was used as a resource, along with a multi-year donation, to increase the Honors program course offerings by 40% this semester between the Beren and Wilf campuses.
Dean Wasserman plans on instituting changes that have already started and he will continue to invest effort in the faculty. Dean Wasserman explains, “Most centrally, we are working on strengthening the teaching across the board, and on investing additional effort and resources in the Honors program in particular.” He has particularly found the faculty to be “delightfully receptive to experimenting with adding more experiential and practice-oriented elements to their courses.” With regards to the changes that will be implemented, Dean Wasserman credits the faculty as the “core to all these efforts.” As a result, faculty development will be prioritized both in research and in teaching.
Yeshiva University graduate schools can expect to see programs that are “more cohesive and practice oriented.” There will be a launching of a new MS in Real Estate program and a more general MS in Finance program. More broadly, for college graduates, continued education programs have already been implemented. Dean Wasserman’s full-day Founder Bootcamp included the attendance of 30 early-stage founders of the YU Innovation Lab, and they learned about navigating early decisions. Future bootcamps are on the horizon for Angel Investors, as well as for those looking to learn about solidifying and strengthening the leadership of nonprofit organizations.
Dr. Wasserman’s priorities as the new Dean include ensuring that a Sy Syms education will provide “Day 1 Job Readiness” in Syms students — this will enable the success of their job search, allowing them to become immediate and invaluable contributors upon being hired. Dean Wasserman says, “We are exploring when and how to encourage students to focus on two areas within Sy Syms (e.g. business analytics plus accounting for people who can leverage the power of both, or finance plus entrepreneurship for people who might want to do fintech intrapreneurship), and how to facilitate students graduating with both undergraduate and graduate degrees to strengthen their prospects on the job market. Initial great jobs will then set the table for impactful careers and lives.”
In the midst of these changes, Dean Wasserman emphasizes,“We will continue to tap the voice of the student — through continuing my chats with students; through having them provide their professors with mid-semester feedback about what’s going well in the course and should be reinforced, and what can be strengthened during the remaining half of the semester; and through other modes of communication that we’ll tap on an ongoing basis.”
Dean Wasserman is a recent addition to YU and many students have not yet had the chance to interact with him. However, those who have worked with him have only positive remarks. Miriam Schloss, the president of the Sy Syms Student Council says, “I’ve been working on a few initiatives with Dean Wasserman’s help and direction over the summer, and it’s been a pleasure to work with him. He’s been incredibly receptive to implementing new ideas and has offered whatever support I need to make them a reality.” She also encourages that “he actively seeks student feedback about the Syms experience. If anyone has thoughts that they would like to share, I know that he would love to have the opportunity to listen.”
In his short tenure, Dean Wasserman has made positive inroads, and has a wide reaching vision that many Syms students are excited about. We can all look forward to seeing what Dean Wasserman has in store for the future of Sy Syms.