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Strong. Intelligent. Strategic. Collaborative. Hard working. Inclusive.
These are just a few of the words people use to describe the leadership style of Beth Walker, dean of Colorado State University’s College of Business.
They can add “powerful” to that list now, as Walker accepted an award from the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce honoring her as one of the Top 25 Most Powerful Women in the state on Jan. 30. The award recognizes powerful leaders across Colorado as those who are passionately promoting of the success of women in business, engaging in the community, serving as forward-thinking visionaries and displaying perseverance.
During her time at CSU, Walker has doubled the number of female executives represented on the College’s Global Leadership Council and worked across the university to help conceptualize a new program with Arapahoe Community College that will provide new opportunities to students from underrepresented backgrounds. The College of Business also has seen record levels of undergraduate enrollments and student diversity, while maintaining some of the highest graduation and retention rates on campus.
Under Walker’s leadership, the College of Business’s signature Online MBA program experienced a six-point rankings increase while at the same time the number of ranked institutions increased by nearly 50 percent. In 2019, U.S. News and World Report ranked the program as the best Online MBA in Colorado and in 2018 Financial Times ranked it as No. 10 nationwide.
Walker also helped launch the Global Business Academy, a new summer experience for high schoolers that connects students with global executives and CSU’s world-renowned faculty. Throughout the 13-day academy, young scholars are introduced to the concept of “Business for a Better World,” and how innovations and enterprise can be harnessed to make a positive impact.
Melissa Helfrich, executive assistant to the dean, has spent thousands of hours working alongside Walker since they both joined the college in 2015, and helped nominate her for the Chamber award.
“She is very humble with her accomplishments,” said Helfrich. “I wanted her to recognize how much she inspires other people, and it’s not just our students, it’s everyone around her. She’s inspiring faculty and staff, especially the women, to be business leaders.”
In her role as dean, Walker has been providing a clear and accessible example to the female students in the College that they too can become leaders in their communities.
“As women, every day, we go to work in our organizations and our communities, trying to make an impact, hoping to make a difference, lifting others up, without even the slightest idea that we might be recognized for our work and efforts,” said Walker. “For my community to invest the time and effort in lifting me up, and celebrating my work and accomplishments, is personally very humbling and among the most special honors I could ever hope to receive.”
Her solutions mindset has led Walker to foster strong connections throughout the community, making a point to draw from diverse perspectives as she works to move the College of Business forward.
Walker served as an educator at Arizona State University for nearly three decades, where she was recognized for her contributions in the classroom and scholarly business research. She ultimately became chair of the Department of Marketing before accepting the offer to become dean of CSU’s College of Business.
Having published research on the status and promotion of women in the workplace and serving as the first female dean of the College of Business in its more than 50-year history, Walker is acutely aware she holds a position that skews heavily male. For every female dean of an AACSB-accredited college of business, there are three men holding the same position.
“Sometimes, just seeing someone who looks like you in a position of leadership plants the seed that this is possible for you too,” she said.