HE MEANS BUSINESS

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by Josh Wingrove 

A wooden model airplane and some modest furniture are all the decoration in Ken Jones’s office.

The new business dean has finally made it to the top floor’s corner office but he’s not getting too comfortable. That’s because by next fall, he and the rest of Ryerson’s four business schools — making up the largest undergraduate business program in the country — will be relocated to their new building in the Financial District.

Jones, who holds a PhD from York University, took over as dean in July just as the faculty enters one of the biggest transition periods in its history.

“What attracted me to this position, obviously, is the timing. To be able to bring together faculty from four schools into one location on Bay Street as the faculty of business is a wonderful opportunity,” says the 60-year-old.

In his career with Ryerson, Jones has been a teacher, a program chair, a director and an internship officer. He was a leader in developing Ryerson’s master’s program in spatial analysis, and Ryerson’s retail management and applied geography programs.

Now the married father of two can add “dean” to his resume.

“If I’ve been able to accomplish anything, it is to retain links between the academics and the applied side through my partnerships with industry, big government or the granting councils,” Jones says. “I never aspired to this position. I never had a game plan, it was simply an opportunity.”

Errol Aspevig, Ryerson’s provost and vice president academic, says Jones’s academic background, Ryerson history, consulting experience and industry contacts made him an obvious choice, especially as the faculty makes a move towards graduate studies.

“Ryerson has had (business) deans from the private sector and deans from the public sector,” Aspevig says, adding Jones has the perfect blend of both academic achievement and practical experience. In fact, Jones has spent a large part of his time at Ryerson working to bridge the gap between the business sector and universities.

Jones is the chair of the Eaton Chair in Retailing, a group devoted to uniting universities and the business world. And in becoming dean, Jones leaves the Centre for the Study of Commercial Activity (CSCA), a research organization based within Ryerson that researches Canada’s retail sector.

Jim Simmons, one of Jones’s former CSCA colleagues, says Jones’s talent for enmeshing the practical with the academic will make him a great dean.

“Ken is a terrific educator,” Simmons says. “Ryerson, especially, is filled with students who have contacts with small businesses…he’s really dealing with people that are going to make it all happen.”

As Jones sits calmly in his bare office, legs crossed and hands clasped loosely, its easy to see why he’s so praised. Academic and down to earth, Jones is not only well-suited to Ryerson, but he seems genuinely proud and excited to be here.

“If you really know where you want to go in a career, Ryerson is the place to go. And if you really want to concentrate on business from day one, Ryerson is the place to go,” Jones says. “My career has been here. I love the place, I really do. I’ve seen the transformation over a period of time…and I just wanted to be a part of that continued growth.”

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