Kyra Bishop, ’77, truly is in the business of building. She gives us a glimpse into how she arrived where she is today, CFO and co-owner of Berry Enterprises based in Chilhowie, Virginia.
A New Way of Doing Business
Managing risk. It’s a topic you’ll hear the new founding dean of the Emory & Henry School of Business talk about often. Dr. Emmett P. Tracy (or “Dean Emmett” as he’s often called) is passionate about a few things – creativity, diversity, entrepreneurship – but risk is one he comes back to often.
“A lot of careers are defined by measuring risk at different inflection points. What our programs do is help people build the confidence to analyze situations, observe their environment and measure risk. Whether you’re starting a company, taking that first job or deciding about going to graduate school, there are decisions to be made and risks to consider. Emory & Henry students and alumni encounter those challenges every day.”
Dr. Tracy knows about challenges. He’s spent much of the last decade addressing risks across four continents. Prior to joining Emory & Henry in the fall of 2020, Tracy was growing one of Africa’s most promising and prestigious universities – the African Leadership University (named to Fast Company’s list of most innovative organizations in 2020 and dubbed the “Harvard of Africa” by Time magazine).
“Every locality has its own challenges, its own risks. It has its own opportunities. A big initiative is actually stepping back and identifying those opportunities. You can get distracted, but you need to focus on opportunities that resonate – the opportunities for Emory & Henry need to resonate with our region and our community. We always need to be thinking of who we were, who we are and who we will be.”
Emory & Henry has a unique ability to teach this concept. As Tracy notes, the school has been focused on helping students understand a sense of place for generations. “Purpose. Profession. Place,” as he likes to call it. “We’re incredibly fortunate to be located in Appalachia, amidst the beauty of Mount Rogers and the Virginia Highlands and to have the rich history of a liberal arts education combined with an emphasis on civic leadership. What we are working on now is ensuring that our undergraduate and continuing education learners are engaging with a balance of technology, creativity and an appreciation for our ecosystem – applying the internet of things to sustainability and creative growth mindsets.”
Evidence of those efforts are on full display in both the revamped undergraduate curriculum as well as the new executive education courses. Tracy has, in his first few months, spearheaded a reinvigorated undergraduate curriculum that includes courses like Data and Decisions, Leadership and Complex Problem Solving. He’s also opened a search for a new professor in Management Science and Technology.
On the executive level, the School of Business is now launching programs in Value Creation: Business Growth, Outdoor Executive Leadership, and New and Rising Manager Development (see this article).
Innovation also surfaces in the extensive renovation of Carriger Hall – a project that lights up Tracy’s eyes. “Carriger is an incredible space. At the heart of the Emory & Henry campus there will soon be a progressive, forward-looking and innovative epicenter for the School. The renovation of the building will include more than 1,000 square feet of collaboration spaces, executive boardrooms, meeting and presentation spaces, and in-person and virtual learning classrooms.
“The College’s history will be on display throughout. We’re bringing back so many of the original 1904 details while simultaneously envisioning the innovative learning environment of tomorrow.”
With that vision and perspective – maintaining cultural heritage and understanding a place – Tracy brings us back to risk and confidence. “That’s what our graduates need. Whether they are just starting their career or coming back to us later in their career for professional development, we work tirelessly to help build their confidence and keep them on top of what’s coming next, what uncertainties or risks they may face. And the beautiful part is they do it together with other people who share the same passion for making a difference and making things better.” = www.ehc.edu/academics/school-business
Who is Dean Emmett? We asked…
Where did you grow up?
On I-81! Or at least it felt like that. My parents lived and still live in New York City. But my grandmother and grandfather – who lived on the floor below us in the apartment building – always brought my brother and me back to Western North Carolina to be near our family in the Smoky Mountains. That means 324 miles of Virginia multiple times a year. I know almost every exit, especially exit 26.
What are your interests outside of work?
My parents raised my brother and me to be very active in sports and the outdoors (they probably wanted us out of the house!). Hiking, fishing, hunting. I’ve had a fly-fishing rod in my hand as long as I can remember.
How do you feel about living in Southwest Virginia?
Love it. The opportunities here to engage with the outdoors and spend time with creative, passionate and great people make this a truly special part of the world.
What do you like to read?
Lately more collections of short stories – Borges, Bowles – or poetry – Cavafy and Bishop.
What type of music do you listen to?
Everything. Growing up we listened to everything – blues, opera, world music. One of the highlights of my career was being able to write the Oxford Encyclopedia entries for Son House and Jimi Hendrix.
Who were your mentors when you decided to focus on a business career?
I’ve been fortunate in my life to have mentors inside and outside of academia – and I owe that to my parents. They instilled in me a sense of respect for mentorship and it’s been a key part of helping me analyze situations and understand what I’m seeing and, more importantly, what I’m not seeing. One of the harder parts of life is grasping with the loss of those mentors. But you wake up one day and realize you are now as much a mentor as a mentee.
Do you still hear from people you have mentored?
[Laughs]. Every day. Every single day.
Do you prefer lecturing in a classroom or working hands-on with students?
It’s never what I prefer, but what gives students more value. I’ve typically found that the blend of group and individual learning is most effective. In business, we’re fortunate to have the opportunity to deliver learning that way.
Do you have pets?
A boykin spaniel. Every day she stares at me like, “why aren’t we out hunting grouse?” I’m sure she believes my life’s work is a big disappointment!