Meet Sonoma State University's new business school dean Jean-Francois Coget
Jean-Francois Coget, Ph.D., was hired last month as the new dean of the School of Business and Economics at Sonoma State University. He currently serves as associate dean for academic programs at the Orfalea College of Business at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo.
Coget, who begins his duties in July, is a native of France and former officers in the French navy. He talked with the Business Journal about how his background prepares him for new directions for Sonoma State's programs, which include the Wine Business Institute.
You have an interesting background, having moved 20 years ago from your native France to California. What brought you to the states, and specifically California?
I came to California to attend UCLA’s Anderson School of Management’s Ph.D. program. I had applied to a few universities in the U.S. and landed there because they accepted me with a full scholarship. I had never been to California before, but it was love at first sight. I never left, and feel forever indebted to the state of California for having offered me so many opportunities. Ever since, I have focused on giving back.
Why did you decide to focus your career in higher education?
I have always been enamored with books. I was a good student and had fun learning. I never thought to stop going to school as long as I could, which brought me to a Ph.D. program. I was specifically interested in psychology and business.
Having experienced less than motivating work environments through my various professional experiences, I wanted to contribute to making the workplace a more enjoyable place where people thrive. This led me to pick the field of Organizational Behavior as my specialty. I’ve researched topics such as the role of emotions and intuition in decision making, leadership, and creativity. I see all of these as related to bringing humanity back to the workplace, which is one of my life goals.
How would you describe the difference in approach to business between France and the U.S. (or just California)?
People in the U.S., and especially in California, are more entrepreneurial, less formal, and have more of a can-do attitude. I like that very much – it fits my personality. However, the French have some advantages too – they tend to be more systematic thinkers, have a wider general culture, and more sophisticated tastes and cultural references, which can be handy in some industries, such as the luxury, fashion, food, and wine sectors.
You officially begin your new role on July 1. What will be your first order of business?
I want to meet with all the relevant stakeholders and listen to them: faculty, staff, students, alumni, community members, and business partners. The goal is to identify passions, opportunities, common values, needs, and issues so as to discover a vision that can speak to the widest range of constituents. Given my interest in creativity, I am curious about whether focusing the school on business and creativity would resonate.
This angle might fit the school’s strength in Wine Business, interest in entrepreneurship, and open up new possibilities in industries such as beverage and food, experience management, and even management of the arts, which would leverage the Green Music Center on campus.