Corey Dortch is a firm believer in opportunities. His ability to spot and pursue them has resulted in his earning three academic degrees, including a doctorate, and becoming director of student life and engagement for the Full-Time MBA program. Recently, Dortch shared with Emory Business the finer points of his career trajectory, the importance of his “village,” and his philosophy of style.
EB: You recently had a promotion to director of student life and engagement for the full-time program. Congratulations!
Dortch: Thank you. I appreciate it.
EB: How would you describe your role at Goizueta?
Dortch: The first thing you should know is my job has no scope. It is fantastic because it allows me to play very well on my strengths, and it challenges me on my weaknesses. Part of my job is to enhance the experience, create opportunities to work with faculty, and support the academic mission to engage our students throughout their experience. This engagement can begin when a student is a prospect but usually starts once they are admitted.
EB: You’ve said relationship building is an important aspect of your job. With so many students and personalities, how do you handle tough conversations?
Dortch: I am by nature very frank and to the point. I don’t view difficult conversations as a bad thing, and I’ve had a few with students. I am very supportive, and students know I have a very open-door policy—come in any time, and when you close the door, it goes no further. A big part of this job is meeting people where they are. We have 180 students that arrived in August for the two-year program, so that is 180 personalities, 180 different sets of needs. We will graduate 214 MBAs this year—214 job opportunities, 214 different relationships, 214 lives changed as a result of coming here. I am honored to be a part of that process.
EB: Clearly education is an important factor in your life. What drove you to get three degrees?
Dortch: Opportunity. I graduated from A. R. Johnson Health Sciences and Engineering High School with the HOPE Scholarship and other supporting academic scholarships to attend the University of Georgia. Knowing the history of integration at UGA, with Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes paving the way, made my achievement more poignant. Attending UGA was something my own parents were not groomed to do, and I was thankful for the opportunity.
When I finished undergrad, I applied for a job and grad school, then prayed. I asked God to show me the way if I didn’t get the job. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job. By this time UGA was like home. I had been a student leader; wrote for The Red and Black, the student newspaper; and was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. I didn’t mind staying because I had a great opportunity to work with Greek Life during grad school.
EB: You are active with social media and on Twitter. Didn’t your students introduce you to Facebook in grad school?
Dortch: My students signed me up, and I have to tell you, I was pretty skeptical. For one, access was limited to those who had a “.edu” address. This smacked of elitism. Then students began posting outrageous things on it, and my concern turned to the damage they could be doing to their careers. The more I studied the medium, the more I got hooked.
EB: Wasn’t your dissertation on social media?
Dortch: Well, social media as it is today didn’t exist then. There was only MySpace, remember that? I did study Facebook and, specifically, the nexus between business and higher education. I was working at Goizueta by this time, and I wanted my doctoral research to support my work here, business school students, and the field of higher education.
EB: So you worked and went to school just like our evening and executive MBA students. What kept you going?
Dortch: I have thought a lot about this, trying to understand how it was humanly possible for me to complete these degrees. I was working here and driving back and forth to Athens multiple times a week, weekends, late nights. I would get up at four a.m. and study three or four hours before work, then drive to school and sit in class three or four hours, then drive back. It took four and a half years, and the only way I see it is the grace of God!
EB: That’s amazing, you are always so high energy.
Dortch: High energy because I have to be. Just as I learned as an orientation leader in undergrad, each set of students was coming to campus for the first time, so make it new. It’s the same with MBA students—they have never experienced this before, and I am in charge of shaping their experience. I bring the same enthusiasm to each new group of students.
EB: You received your PhD in 2011 and last October you married fellow UGA alum Amelia Hines. Talk about your support network.
Dortch: My parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends—the village, to borrow an African proverb. They all have been unbelievable through this whole schooling process, from freshman year of college through PhD. Always calling to check in, cards in the mail that said “I’m thinking about you. I know you can do it!”
When we announced our engagement, again the village was supportive. People threw parties in our honor, sent notes, little gift bags. Friends sent tickets to a movie to de-stress, and our family celebrated us on engagement weekend by coming to Athens, which is where we got engaged, to share in our excitement. Our wedding was more like a reunion. It was a beautiful day, and we were blessed.
EB: Finally, you’re always dressed sharp with a bowtie and cool socks. What’s your philosophy of style?
Dortch: Be confident in what you are wearing. Whatever it is, be confident. This goes back to knowing yourself and being comfortable with who you are. Oh, and having a fantastic tailor is key!