Bertie Greer Joins Manning School with Deep Experience in Academia and Industry
By Ed Brennen
Throughout Bertie Greer’s life, people have seen possibilities for her that she couldn’t.
The high school counselor who encouraged her to pursue engineering. The boss at Timken Roller Bearing who told her, “You don’t belong here” as a clerk and nudged her toward college. The supervisor at Chrysler/Jeep-Eagle who spotted managerial potential and pointed her to an MBA. And the University of Toledo professor who predicted that she was destined for a career in academia.
“Your own self-assessment isn't always accurate,” Greer says. “But pay attention to what other people are saying, because they can validate you.”
As the new Rist Family Endowed Dean of the Manning School of Business, Greer looks forward to helping students, faculty and staff achieve more than they thought possible.
“I am excited to be here, working with talented people to lead the Manning School into the future,” says Greer, who was appointed as dean in June and officially started on Nov. 1.
An expert in global supply chain management, Greer was associate dean of the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University in Detroit, where she oversaw strategic planning and general operations since 2018. Prior to that, she spent 15 years as a faculty member, and ultimately the chair, of the Northern Kentucky University Department of Management.
Greer pivoted to academia from the automotive industry, where she held engineering and supervisor roles at Ford Motor Company and Chrysler/Jeep-Eagle for nearly a decade.
A first-generation college student from Canton, Ohio, Greer earned a Ph.D. in business administration from Kent State University and both a Bachelor of Science and MBA in mechanical engineering from the University of Toledo.
It’s a résumé that’s as impressive as it is improbable.
“I didn't have parents,” Greer says. “I was raised by my aunt who had 10 kids and didn't have a high school education, so I really didn't have any understanding about a scholar’s life. But it was my teachers, community programs and counselors who saw something in me and got me steered in the right direction.”
Greer sat down to discuss her new role and her plans for the Manning School of Business.
Q. What attracted you to the position?
A. UMass Lowell wasn’t on my radar. Someone recommended me for the position, and when they reached out, I did some research and fell in love with the school and the mission and what was going on here. Once I came here and met the people, it became clear it might be a good fit. There’s a sense of community, and I really was impressed with the leadership. The leaders here really have a connection with the school that makes them committed and willing to serve. And the Manning School advisory board – most of them are alumni who had success and want to provide an opportunity for other students like them. And I understood that. I served on the advisory board at the University of Toledo, and I thought, ‘Yeah, I like these people.’”
Q. How does your experience in engineering and the automotive industry serve you in this role?
A. Being an engineer, in general, I have little fear of failure. I'll open up anything – my computer, my laptop, my watch. I don't have that type of fear. The other thing is, particularly because I was a supervisor in industry, I felt like my conflict-management skills were enhanced. I've led many initiatives, and I understand team dynamics. And when our students leave here with their degree in hand, they want to go where I’ve been. So, I can help with that adjustment and make sure they're career-ready.
Q. You come from Wayne State, which has Research 1 (R1) status, the highest level awarded by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. One of Chancellor Julie Chen’s goals is for UML to become an R1 institution. How does the Manning School contribute to this goal?
A. That means making sure we have a structure where we hire faculty who are doing scholarly work, and where we can get that research sponsored. That's important. There are opportunities where companies or foundations have research questions that we could be a part of that will be funded. The other thing about R1 is the creation of doctoral students who get out there and do great things after completing their degree.
Q. The Manning School is currently preparing for its five-year review of its accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Is this a good time to be starting as dean, and what are some of your other immediate priorities?
A. That's a skill set of mine – I understand accreditation – so to be able to come in and get to work right away on something that you're good at, that’s a good thing. The Manning School is doing a lot of things. Now is the time to align around “What do we want to be known for?” We need a vision, and we need to get in line with the larger university strategic plan. There's probably more community engagement we need to do, getting students, faculty and staff engaged, so that more people know about this great school.
Q. What are some of your challenges?
A. I don't really think in terms of challenges. But I think the biggest issues facing higher ed are the effects of enrollment from COVID and from the decrease in demographics due to birth rates. The lack of state funding at a public university is another issue, so we have to make sure that we have the resources we need to do what we want to do. And if we don't, how are we going to make it happen? Budgets are tightening, and you have to have a mindset and a culture change around wise spending and better stewardship of money.
Q. What do you want faculty to know about you?
A. Faculty are the foundation of what we do in higher ed, and they're going to get the support they need. I'm a servant leader; I’m here to help them do what they need to do in the research area and to make sure that our students get what they need.
Q. What do you want students to know?
A. That I’m just like them. I love seeing students get a degree, but they're going to be learning forever, and I just hope that they enjoy learning. Being in college is the opportunity to learn about life and to start becoming more independent. This is what I love about college. There's a lot of talk about the return on investment, and I think we’re shortchanging ourselves. College is a place, too, where you mature, and it's a safe place to mature. This is a place where students can develop discipline, they can learn skills and subject matter expertise, and then get out there and serve the greater good.