Goizueta’s North Star
"I’ve always wanted to have students leave my class looking at the world differently than when they came in."
Over the last three decades, Kazanjian has served Goizueta Business School in a multitude of capacities. He’s helped to advance the quality of faculty and the student experience. He’s worked to increase the character of the curriculum. He’s shared his knowledge, research and insight to countless students and staff members, thus helping them develop new perspectives and realize unseen potential. Kazanjian has served as a professor, led the school’s portfolio of degree programs, acted as interim dean and, now, guides many of the institution’s strategic initiatives.
While many people would look to retire after years of accomplishment, Kazanjian hasn’t stopped.
His excitement about the future of the school and the future of its students has never waned. In fact, it still radiates a palpable energy.
“It’s been a continuous improvement since I arrived, and it’s been a lot of fun being part of this process,” he said.
Kazanjian won’t claim to be an entrepreneur, but that spirt has led him to where he is today. It was one of the things that originally drew him to Emory. Building the business school’s list of offerings and reputation was a pressing and uncharted endeavor when he arrived more than 30 years ago—just the kind of challenge a professor of strategy and organization design wanted and needed.
Over the years, Kazanjian has often switched from teacher, to researcher, to author, to administrator and back again. But his constant—his spark— is teaching. He is the co-author or editor of two books and, since 1999, received 17 teaching awards from full-time, part-time and executive MBA students.
“I think that’s our central mission and I’ve always wanted to have students leave my class looking at the world differently than when they came in,” he said. “That’s a very central priority for me.”
"Demonstrating empathy for someone that may be new to a topic can change everything."
Kazanjian does not fit in the traditional mold of a university stalwart. For one, he’s looking to evolve his own career. Whether he’s an entrepreneur, researcher, organization designer, teacher, influencer, administrator or innovator, he considers himself a learner.
“When teaching, it’s important to be sensitive to where students are, because everyone comes to the classroom with different perspectives and levels of understanding. Some people have more experience than others. Some people have different skillsets. So, to me, it’s about hearing where they are, what their questions are and delivering material that makes them think differently. I have to be attuned enough to understand that someone needs a little extra help, or conversation, or feedback. Demonstrating empathy for someone that may be new to a topic can change everything.
Kazanjian’s approach to teaching parallels his approach to organization design. He identifies points of change and works toward solutions. “Passion” only begins to define his work. He also has what he calls a natural intellectual curiosity. He’s a forever problem-solver, picking apart new problems organizations are facing and studying how they respond to them.
He says he wanted to teach from an early age but chose the profession while he, himself, was an MBA student.
More so, he credits family for letting him find his own way in the world.
“I’m not sure my mother has ever understood what I do for a job, but it doesn’t matter,” he said. “My whole family was extraordinarily helpful to me everywhere along the way. Much of this was letting me decide what made sense and not creating expectations that were their own preferences.”
A distinct humility comes over Kazanjian when he thinks about the number of students he’s taught and companies he’s affected through consulting or his research.
But even this matches his persona.
“I’m almost uncomfortable with the notion that I have some wisdom I’m handing down,” he said. “I think it’s much more about motivating students to learn, creating a classroom experience that engages them with the material,” he said.
He may not be a scuba diver or collector of rare artifacts. But Kazanjian’s long-lasting and meaningful devotion to Goizueta has certainly played a role in all the interesting research, programs, students and alumni.
To Kazanjian, the destination is irrelevant. It’s the joy of the journey that counts.