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Teaching to Make an Impact

Xavier’s new business college dean, Marco Pagani, leans on ethical development as much as academics.

by Bill Thompson

Marco Pagani was named dean of the Williams College of Business at Xavier University in July, following an unlikely path to the position. He replaced Tom Hayes, who led the school since 2016 and returned to teaching after stepping down. Hayes has been involved with Xavier for almost 50 years, while Pagani is new to the Midwest after growing up in Italy and attending college in France, Montreal, and Atlanta before spending more than 15 years at San Jose State, where he was interim dean of the of the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.

Why was a smaller Jesuit college in Cincinnati attractive to a cosmopolitan citizen of the world? “I was interested in a big change,” says Pagani, who speaks English precisely with a delightful Italian accent. “San Jose State is a large state institution where the majority of students were transfers from community colleges, so they would stay only for a couple of years. At Xavier, the faculty can connect more. I get to know a lot of the students because they are often in Stephen and Dolores Smith Hall for the entire day of classes or study. It’s not a big commuter school where they just go to class and leave.”

Pagani’s passion for connection is palpable. He is reminded that former XU President Rev. Michael Graham famously lived on campus in a residence hall. “I don’t live on campus,” he says, laughing. “I have an apartment about 10 minutes from here. But my wife stayed in California for now, so most of my day is spent here. I think it’s important, especially in the beginning, that I learn about the institution and the people and engage with the Xavier community as well as alumni and the city’s professional community.”

The reputation of Williams College is secure, so Pagani doesn’t need to fix anything, but he hopes to enhance the foundational structure. “(We are looking) at our offering of graduate programs in response to the needs of the market,” he says. “That could include revamping the curriculum of some of our MBA programs, but also adding new programs that would be aimed at growing the enrollment, which is an important part of my job. We are always looking at enhancing the experiential learning opportunity, maybe sourcing more projects from our outside stakeholders to bring in real-life examples.”

In addition to the many local business leaders who are Xavier alumni, Pagani can also call on the 18,000 or so people who have earned MBAs from Williams College. “That’s a wonderful support system, a networking opportunity for our students,” he says.

The final piece of the puzzle for Pagani might be the most important. “Jesuit values are the core value of taking care of the entire person,” he says. “So not only their academic and intellectual development, but also their personal development and their ethical development, which is very important at the university. It is a 360-degree approach to developing students as successful individuals and hopefully also successful in their family and community. We want them to have a positive impact on society.”