Meet Peter Brews
By Chris Horn, 803-777-3687
Peter Brews, the new dean of the Darla Moore School of Business, brings more than 25 years of international business education experience to the University of South Carolina and a keen interest in ensuring the relevancy of business education in the 21st century.
The 57-year-old South Africa native most recently was on the faculty at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. He started his career in banking and finance and later earned two doctorates in business administration from the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Pittsburgh.
He has written extensively about strategic management for Internet-generation companies and has developed a deep understanding of the struggle for productivity worldwide.
Brews is an avid exerciser who counts soccer and cricket among his former athletic past times; he also is a self-taught guitarist.
On the job since mid-January, Brews plans to invest the coming semester in assessing the Moore School’s strengths and opportunities for advancement before announcing new initiatives.
You’ve been on the faculty at two premier business schools — Kenan-Flagler at UNC Chapel Hill and Fuqua at Duke University. What was the allure of coming to the Moore School?
First and foremost, it’s a state school. I like the idea of having a central mandate to educate the people of a state. That’s a good and honest mission to have. Second, I was obviously aware of the school’s strong reputation and had met several faculty members at conferences over the years. Joining the business school of another prominent state university so close by was very attractive to me. Third, in my conversations over the search process I met many committed and talented people. Getting the chance to work alongside such an excellent and welcoming group of people was the cherry on top of the cake.
Where do you see business education going, both in general and at the Moore School?
I’m going to be talking to people at the Moore School for a while before I become explicit on where we need to go and what changes, if we need to make changes, should be made. To me, the key thing is we have to start to focus more intently on preparing students for the world that is coming, not for the world that has been. I think there’s a huge challenge in that because the world that is coming changes very, very quickly. The role of humans in work is changing; technology is automating a lot of what humans do at work. We’ve got to get our human capital to the point where they can really do value-added things that machines can’t do. This speaks to problem-solving, creativity and innovation, and there’s a whole range of capabilities you need to execute at that level. So if you were to ask me at a general level where the Moore School will be going, it would be along those lines.
You’ve arrived at an auspicious time, just months before the Moore School’s new building opens.
A new home provides a great reason to celebrate and, at the same time, offers a unique opportunity to re-energize and re-center all of us at the school. I expect the school will get a proverbial shot in the arm from the move, and I am hoping we can use the opening as an inflection point for the announcement of some new initiatives. Finally, the new building will also certainly make it easier to recruit new faculty and students. Few new deans are fortunate enough to have the chance to preside over such an important and exciting event early in their terms.
Tell us about your management and leadership style.
I’ll be walking around a lot and I want people to feel I’m serving this community just as they are. Everyone has an equal right to speak to me, to interact with me. I want my role as dean to be one in which I’m enabling others to do their best work. Hopefully, people will see the dean’s office as a welcoming, open door. From a values perspective, the two phrases I plan to repeat often are world-class research and world-class teaching. I want any student who comes to the Moore School to be able to say this is where world-class research is done and where world-class teaching happens. I don’t think there’s a task more important than preparing our young people for their future careers. It’s a sacred trust and I take it very seriously.
What are some of the opportunities for future development and growth at the Moore School?
There are opportunities to enhance both research and teaching at the school. We will be introducing some new programs at some point, but in order to do that I must build the constituencies and the communities to implement them and get the backing of the faculty. I’m not going to be a leader who goes out and yells, ‘Charge forward!’ and turns around and finds there’s no one behind him. There are many exciting things we can do here but before I go public with these I must test them internally. It is a little too early for me to say any more.
I don’t want to do something well that others are already doing. My model of innovation is to do things that others have not done, offer something that has not been thought of before. So a key requirement at the very beginning is that any initiative that’s going to be new must really be new. Boldly going where others have gone before is not that hard. But boldly going where none have gone and making it work — that’s the essence of entrepreneurship. Yes, it’s risky, and yes, you make mistakes. But if you’re not making a few mistakes, you’re probably not being very innovative.
Tell a bit more about yourself away from the dean’s office.
Family is very important to me, and I am fortunate to have a very loving and supportive family. When all is said and done, while our professional activities are important, our relationship with those close to us is really the most vital aspect of life. I was also an avid sportsman growing up. I learned how to teach on the cricket field when I was 14 teaching 6- and 7-year-olds how to play cricket. I played rugby at high school and as a consequence I enjoy football, and I am sure this prepares me well for USC and Columbia. I’ve played guitar from the age of 8 but don’t read music — all my music is by ear. Apart from that, I’m an avid exerciser. My wife and I exercise every day. I’ve been astounded at the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center. Physical activity keeps you mentally intact. One of the messages I’m going to share with our students is that if you’re going to have a sound mind, you’d best have a sound body.
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