Meet the New Dean: Frank Hodge brings a coaching mentality to the Foster School

Frank Hodge

On July 1, Frank Hodge officially will become the Orin and Janet Smith Endowed Dean of the UW Foster School of Business.

But you can call him “Coach” if you like. His students all do.

“I’ve taught at every level at Foster: undergrads, MBAs, executives,” Hodge says. “They all use the same title.”

It’s a moniker that puts people at ease and serves as a familiar shorthand for his distinctive approach to teaching. It also gets at the essence of Foster’s 14th dean.

“My goal is to motivate and enable people to be better tomorrow than they are today,” he says. “To help them achieve a level of performance they could not achieve on their own.”

Now the scale of that mission is expanding dramatically.

Learning to listen

I’ve always considered listening to be a competitive advantage.

You could say that Hodge’s path to the deanship traces back to elementary school. He grew up in Priest Lake, Idaho, a small settlement near the Canadian border. His father was a forest ranger. And wilderness was his playground.

“When you grow up in wilderness, you become adept at listening, at perceiving what’s going on around you,” Hodge says. “I think that’s been incredibly helpful for me. I’ve always considered listening to be a competitive advantage.”

He also learned the value of mentorship in his tiny school, which mixed ages by necessity. “I learned that it’s okay to ask for help when you don’t know the answer,” he recalls. “I also learned that when you have knowledge, you have to help others learn and achieve their goals.”

Hoop realities

Hodge also participated in every sport he could, and eventually played college basketball, where he picked up another facet of his leadership portfolio.

In his junior year at Carroll College in Montana, he joined a team made up of talented but diverse individuals—ranging from urban kids from Los Angeles to Idaho farm boys. The coach entrusted Hodge with a special assignment as unsung as it was essential: be the glue. “That’s the first time I remember really thinking hard about what it takes to make a group of people better as a team than they are as individuals,” Hodge recalls. “I realized that I was better behind the scenes in bringing people together than I was at being the star player.”

The team had a tremendous year.

Found in translation

It’s where the whole ‘coach’ thing comes from. If I can help you achieve a level of performance you couldn’t achieve on your own, then I will feel like I’ve been successful.

Hodge studied business and international relations at Carroll and, eventually, landed a job with a Japanese wood products company. A life-long advocate of pushing against comfort zones, he found living and working in Japan to be a rich period of growth. It also afforded him plenty of time alone, to contemplate. And his future began to coalesce.

“That’s when I decided that what I really like to do is help people be better, help them achieve their goals,” he says. “It’s where the whole ‘coach’ thing comes from. If I can help you achieve a level of performance you couldn’t achieve on your own, then I will feel like I’ve been successful.”

But Hodge couldn’t see many opportunities to elevate others along his career path in the wood products industry, so he decided to change directions.

After earning his MBA and PhD at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, Hodge joined the Foster School faculty in 2000. “Coach” quickly proved an exemplary educator by any measure. The Michael G. Foster Endowed Professor of Accounting has received just about every teaching award—at every level—that Foster has to give, including the PACCAR Award for Excellence in Teaching, the school’s highest teaching honor, which is selected entirely by students.

Expanding influence

Hodge also was called early to serve beyond the classroom. Just a year after being promoted to full professor, he was appointed chair of the Department of Accounting. And in recent years, he has served double duty as the UW’s faculty athletics representative, facilitating relations between Husky Athletics and faculty and administrators, and representing the UW to the Pac-12 and NCAA.

With each new opportunity to lead, Hodge found his sphere of influence expanding. He was able to help more achieve more—and was energized by doing so.

So, when it was time for Dean Jim Jiambalvo to turn over the keys to Foster, Hodge was up for his biggest challenge yet.

“It goes back to fundamentally being that coach,” he says. “It’s what motivates me.The bigger the leadership position, the more people you can potentially help. I see this as the ultimate way to serve those within and connected to Foster. I work for them.”

People business

It’s what motivates me.The bigger the leadership position, the more people you can potentially help. I see this as the ultimate way to serve those within and connected to Foster. I work for them.

Hodge says that his transition to dean has begun with a “listening tour” of Foster’s many stakeholders, as he works to crystallize a collaborative plan forward for the school’s next years. “It will not be my vision,” he promises. “It will be our vision.”

However it takes shape, that vision certainly will lean into innovation. Hodge’s own research explores the effects of new technologies on old ways of operating. He volunteered to teach in Foster’s new online Hybrid MBA Program. And he believes a relentless eye for opportunity will be critical in leading the school forward. “We’re looking at an educational field that’s pretty well established and doesn’t change very quickly,” he says. “We have to be more agile and more innovative.”

But whether it’s innovation or just operational excellence, the quality of a business school ultimately comes down to its people. “Anything I do as dean will be people-centric,” Hodge says. “It will focus on recruiting and retaining the best and brightest faculty, staff and students, and on what we can do for the community in which we live. And I mean that locally, nationally and globally.”

Leveling up

He’s determined to unleash the potential of this sprawling team of individuals, and realize the ultimate marker established by his predecessor: to become the #1 public business school in the nation.

“People are naturally drawn to rankings,” Hodge says. “I am passionate about what’s behind being the number one business school. Being number one in terms of a transformative learning experience, in terms of engagement with our students and faculty, in terms of the impact we have on our community and the world—that’s what gets me excited.

“I appreciate where we’ve come from and how far we’ve advanced under Jim Jiambalvo’s leadership toward becoming the best public business school in the nation. And I won’t rest until we get there.”