A conversation with Business Dean Sullenberger

Dean Gale Sullenberger has led the Collins College of Business since 1999.

“I didn’t set out to be a college professor; I just loved going to school,” Dean Gale Sullenberger jokes. He wasn’t wrong. With masters and doctoral degrees in industrial engineering from the University of Oklahoma, he put in his hours inside the classroom.
Early in college, Sullenberger spent time working in computing facilities in Norman, coding and programming for various projects. Eventually, the University of Arkansas invited him to help establish the school’s management information systems degree program.
From there, he worked in several capacities at the school, including associate dean, dean and vice presidents of both finance and academic affairs.
He was dean of the College of Business and Economics at Washington State University when he heard about the opening at TU.
Sullenberger hails from Norman and his wife is a native Tulsan. Family ties played a role in bringing them back to the Sooner state.
During his time at TU, Sullenberger has seen the Collins College undergo tremendous change.
“We completely remodeled Helmerich Hall, added world class technology in our labs and put in an elevator,” he asserted.
Under Sullenberger’s guidance, the college added the school of energy, complete with three degree programs. These include a bachelor’s degree in energy management and a master’s program in energy accounting.
While he’s served as dean, the business school also added eleven endowed chairs and professorships.
“All of our curriculum is developed and implemented by our faculty,” he stated. As for how long it takes a program to get from the drawing board to full implementation, “it routinely takes six months to a year for the process to complete from start to finish. The faculty are involved in decision making 100 percent of the way.”
Sullenberger also worked internationally. The dean helped create business school partnerships in England, Wales, the Czech Republic, Germany, China and Japan at various points in his career.
While working at Bradley University, he also helped in the effort to create a business school at Samara State University in Samara, Russia.
“I went about six or eight times in all. It was quite an interesting experience,” he recalled.“Samara was a closed city during the Soviet Union. Russians could not leave, and foreigners were not allowed inside. Thus, when we first arrived after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was quite a sight.”
Samara is famous for its role as an industrial center in the USSR. The city was one of the main hubs of the Soviet industrial complex, responsible for everything from manufacturing weapons to heavy industry projects.
“A lot of schools [in America] wanted to help colleges in Russia immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union. Most went to Moscow or St. Petersburg, but Bradley University professors set something up with Samara, right on the Volga River,” Sullenberger said.
“During my visits there, I got to stay in Nikita Khrushchev’s dacha, which was a fascinating experience,” Sullenberger added. “Each visit lasted ten days to two weeks.”
He also taught MBA classes on multiple air force bases in Europe. “It was a scary time, driving on the Autobahn. I had a 40-horsepower Volkswagen beetle, and all these cars are speeding by me at over 100 [miles per hour].” He smiled. “But I survived.”
Sullenber’s future goals for the Collins College are simple: hire outstanding faculty while finding and admitting excellent students who want to help the community during their time here.
Additionally, he aims to boost annual average enrollment in the business school from around 900 students to 1200, as well as widen the array of companies that come to campus for business career fairs and interviews.
A fun fact: he owns his own plane and flies regularly. Sullenberger earned his pilot’s license at age 27.
“I love my job,” he concluded. “I feel like I have something to offer our students and our faculty, and that keeps me coming to work every day. If I had a conventional 9 to 5, I would have retired long ago.”
Sullenberger is the Dean of Collins College of Business and a professor of computer information systems and operations management.

Post Author: Alex Garoffolo