[caption id="attachment_233081" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Oliver Yao, dean of Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, said that he believes the college has room for additional growth, especially in fintech. | PHOTO COURTESY OF UD/EVAN KRAPE[/caption]
NEWARK – Oliver Yao, the new dean of the University of Delaware Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, is still settling into his role, but already sees opportunities to build upon one of the college’s most respected programs.A former deputy provost and associate dean at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, Yao succeeds former Dean Bruce Weber,who left to take over the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College in New York City. Yao was selected following a nationwide search and assumed the dean role beginning Aug. 1.The new dean takes over a college that has grown to become one of UD’s most attended programs over the last two decades, with nearly 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled. Lerner College offers 17 undergraduate majors and 16 minors, nine master’s programs, and four doctoral programs.In an interview with Delaware Business Times last month, Yao said the college is already reviewing plans to grow its offerings for both undergraduate and graduate students. He declined to specify what types of degree programs they may be targeting.“The programs will pave the way for our students to be competitive in the job market and will prepare them very well to be working in the leading banking industry companies here in Delaware and the region,” he said. “And we're going to continue to strengthen our existing financial services analytics (FSAN) doctoral program that will be the core research component in the FinTech ecosystem for many years to come.”Yao said that the decision to leave Lehigh after 20 years was difficult, but that the reputation and opportunity at UD attracted him to the campus just two hours down Interstate 95.Yao is particularly excited by the vision laid out by the university and UD President Dennis Assanis for the STAR Campus, which is now home to the FinTech Innovation Hub, where Lerner College works in tandem with the College of Engineering.“I think UD sees the need to be innovative in research and the need to be innovative in education. And in my heart, I'm an innovative person as well,” he said.The commitment to studying fintech, or financial services technology that includes the digital processes that power modern banking, securities trading, cryptocurrency and more, was a major reason for Yao’s interest in UD.Yao’s work has focused on the interdisciplinary fields of information systems and operations management, but he has spent time studying fintech issues like mobile money, payment technologies and facial recognition technologies for banking, in recent years. At Lehigh, he helped develop and implement an interdepartmental FinTech minor degree in 2017.“That was a time when not very many people were even really talking about fintech. We were pioneers then,” he recalled, noting that he later managed a Master of Financial Engineering degree that tackled the subject as well. “When I saw that Delaware had fintech as a key component for its strategic direction, I knew I could help with that.”Yao added that he has been impressed by the quality of research being produced by Lerner College faculty and graduate students, and he wanted to help it grow.“I think we've been on an upward trajectory for more than a decade. Since I'm a top researcher in my field, I felt that if I was able to join Lerner that I could help provide additional research leadership,” he said.For nearly a decade as department head and interim deputy provost for graduate education at Lehigh, Yao was tasked with growing enrollment at the university’s College of Business. Over his tenure, he helped the college’s enrollment grow by 30%.At the larger UD, Yao said that the university has a good foundation to build upon, especially in seeking out more international students who have declined after the COVID pandemic. The college recently signed an agreement in India that would help place upward of 30 students annually in UD’s accounting program, and Yao is scheduled to meet with another educational partner in China this month.“We're still not back to the pre-pandemic level of international students, for sure. But we do see an increasing trend for international applications, and we’re welcoming many international students to campus this semester,” he said.
Flash Sale! Subscribe to Delaware Business Times and save 50%.