Dr. Rowena Ortiz-Walters
Dean, School of Business and Economics
State University of New York, Plattsburgh
Dr. Rowena Ortiz-Walters joined SUNY Plattsburgh in July 2015, becoming only the 9th Hispanic-American Dean of a School of Business. Formerly, she was the department chair and professor of management at Quinnipiac University where she spent 11 years moving up the academic ranks including holding the roles of co-founder and co-director of the Center for Women and Business.
Rowena is also an active scholar and, public speaker in higher education. Through her scholarship and speaking engagements, she contributes to the national conversation on the status of women’s careers. Sample outlets where her research appears includes Journal of Organizational Behavior, Journal of Women’s Entrepreneurship and Education, Business Journal of Hispanic Research and Journal of College Teaching and Learning. Speaking engagements include: Catalyst®, Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, Institute on Teaching and Mentoring, and Chambers of Commerce. She has also served on the advisory board for the Office of Diversity and Community Partnership at the Harvard Medical School.
Rowena was recognized as one of the 50 Most Influential Latinos in Connecticut by Latinos United for Professional Advancement (LUPA) Organization and New Haven Business Time’s 40 under 40. She has also received best teaching awards from the University of Connecticut. Rowena earned an MBA from the University of New Haven and her doctorate from the University of Connecticut.
Why did you choose to become a professor?
I never thought about business or teaching in the beginning but I have always had an interest in learning. After working a few years as a chemist, my undergraduate background is in chemistry, I noticed that a lot of young chemists were going out and getting an MBA. Studying for my MBA gave me exposure to the field of organizational behavior. It looks at how people interact, and how that impacts group dynamics, employee morale, and the performance of an organization. It wasn’t that I didn’t like chemistry, it was more that I fell in love with business.
Beyond that, my personal mission is to economically empower women. Being able to have the money behind you allows you so many opportunities to do the things you want to do without having to rely on anyone else. Educational empowerment is important as well. So becoming a professor, of business in particular, helps me empower my students and be an active advocate on women’s behalf.
What resources (programs, tools, etc.) were available to you throughout your journey into teaching?
I have had access to mentors, both male and female, which have helped me stay the course to completing my doctorate as well as becoming an excellent teacher. Moreover, the PhD Project has been an invaluable resource for me personally for emotional support, networking and as a platform for promoting diversity in the academy.
What do you love about teaching?
I have moved on from teaching now that I am a dean, however I am fully student-centered and still relish those moments when I can connect with students through mentoring. Particularly at my institution where almost 50% of the population are 1st generation students, I love just being there for them as others have been for me. Our students have so much potential and all they need from us, as teachers and administrators, is to be role models.
When you were a student, was there a great teacher who inspired you?
I’ve been very fortunate to have supportive teachers and mentors throughout my career but a key person in my life has been George Moran, my high school guidance counselor. I was accepted on full scholarship to an IV League. Knowing I would not go, he offered to pay for all 4 years of my book expenses. He invested in me and believed in me like no one else. For his influence in my life, I am forever grateful.