Stefanie Lenway
Liam James Doyle / University of St. Thomas

Lenway Reflects on Opus Deanship, Looks Ahead to Business in a Digital World

As St. Thomas' fall 2022 semester begins, several new faces can be found in leadership positions across the university. These leadership changes, though, also carry forward important legacies. One such legacy is the work of Dr. Stefanie Lenway, who on July 1 officially stepped down after eight years as dean of the Opus College of Business. 

She’s not going far or planning to be idle.

Lenway has joined Opus’ Business in a Digital World (BDW) initiative as a faculty fellow for external outreach and business development. For anyone who knows the longtime business educator and international trade policy scholar, this change isn’t surprising.

“I like to build things,” she said while reflecting on her time leading St. Thomas’ largest (and arguably most recognizable) college, and Minnesota’s second-largest business school. 

She certainly does. Whether it was new degree programs, scholarship opportunities, partnerships or student competitions, Lenway – who recently received the Amorepacific Outstanding Educator Award from IM Division Academy of Management – left her mark on Opus and St. Thomas as a whole. For instance, Lenway, in partnership with the GHR Foundation, designed and launched the GHR Fellows full-tuition scholarship program focused on leadership development. Working with trustee Amy Goldman and former President Julie Sullivan, Lenway saw success with the nationally recognized GHR Fellows program, which is now in its fourth year (for a total of 40 scholarship recipients).

But for everything she has helped to build and shape, Lenway also quickly deflect credit to her teammates for their roles in bringing these programs to fruition.

Stefanie Lenway, former dean of the Opus College of Business, when she spoke during the e-Fest Pitch Slam competition, hosted by the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship in Schulze Hall on April 28, 2022, in Minneapolis.
  • When recalling the launch of business analytics in 2016, she calls out professor John Olson (an expert in operations and supply chain management) for creating a curriculum that has been “tremendously important to our ability to recruit students” and turned it into one of Opus’ fastest-growing programs.
  • When speaking of the GHR Legacy Grant awarded from GHR Foundation in 2015, she praises Director Lisa Burke for helping launch the Office of Instructional Transformation, which ultimately became St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR). STELAR expanded to serve all of St. Thomas and increased the university’s ability to teach online. For Opus, this led to offering hybrid courses in the Part-time MBA and launching its online MBA program. 
  • A greater focus on diversity, equity and inclusion in the college? She credits numerous colleagues past and present, with a special call out for associate professor Liz Welsh and former Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs Nakeisha Lewis. The two built faculty cohorts to support each other following George Floyd’s murder and helped faculty engage with students about difficult topics such as systemic racism.

“Tremendous colleagues,” she said. “Opus has so many talented faculty, staff and members of the business community, who have served the college in amazing ways.”

And now with Dunham at the Opus helm as its newest dean, Lenway turns her attention to another recent initiative to help business students who want to distinguish their skills and capabilities in an evolving job market. Launched in 2020, Business in a Digital World (BDW) is designed to challenge students and working professionals to learn about emerging technologies and concepts (think artificial intelligence, virtual reality, analytics) that are creating new business models. 

Lenway joins faculty members Lisa Abendroth, Jay Ebben, Gino Giovannelli, Grant Riewe and Kevin Quiring as a team of BDW faculty and executive fellows, as well as a host of corporate fellows participating in the program. In her new role, she will be responsible for outreach to corporate partners from high-profile technology firms across the Twin Cities, as well as creating opportunities for students to engage with these companies.

“We’re treating this like our own start-up and I’m very excited and energized by this opportunity,” Lenway said.

For Lenway, shifting to BDW continues work from early in her deanship to show students how to strategically use technology to make businesses run better. But this requires more than just training students how to use data analytics, AI or Web 3.0; no matter what the platform or tool, a focus on ethics and principled leadership remains the common thread.

Just as it was throughout her deanship.

“The impact of business on society is our true focus,” she said. “We work hard to ensure that whatever a company does is beneficial, not just to stockholders, but to employees, communities, and to the environment.” 

For a business college – and university – experiencing great change, that’s one thing that will remain constant.