The new dean at The University of Texas at Arlington College of Business didn’t come from a traditional academic background, but school leaders are obviously excited about what Harry Dombroski will bring to his position.
“Harry is a visionary leader who will raise the visibility of the college, enhance its stature through transformative advances and propel the College of Business into a position of international competitiveness while ensuring that it becomes the ‘go to’ place for business acumen globally,” said UTA President Vistasp Karbhari.
Dombroski is a longtime Hunt Consolidated and Hunt Oil Co. executive who graduated from UT Arlington in 1979 and has remained involved with the school over the years.
Ray Hunt, executive chairman of Hunt Consolidated Inc., describes Dombroski as “an ‘out-of-the-box’ thinker and results-oriented leader,” and said, “Harry’s contributions over his 30-plus year career with Hunt were essential to the growth and development of the Hunt family of companies.”
The Fort Worth Business Press’ Robert Francis spoke with Dombroski a few days before he began his new position on April 30.
Q: Did you seek this position, or did they seek you out?
Dombroski: I think it was a little bit of both. I’ve been fairly active with the university for a little bit over a decade now, and when we were starting to look for a dean, I was actually a member of the search committee. We had one meeting, and I had laid out what I thought a dean needed to be.
Then I got a call a few weeks later from … the recruiter, who said, “Would you consider being a candidate?” And so I spoke with [UTA President Vistasp Karbhari] and they wanted to go through an extensive search, which is right, because the main objective was to make sure we got the right dean for the College of Business. So, after we talked, I threw my hat in the ring, and then went through the process. And I was blessed enough to come out at the end with getting the opportunity.
Q: You’ve obviously seen how the school has changed over the years.
Dombroski: Oh, yeah. It’s completely different, and I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in several initiatives at the school.
We always say if we can get our alumni back to campus, they’d be astounded at the growth and the change in the campus, because it’s completely different than when I went there. A lot of improvements. It’s always been a nice campus, but it’s even better now.
I pretty much grew up in Arlington. My parents relocated to Arlington in 1965, and I lived in Arlington until about three years ago, when we moved up to Westlake, basically following our grandkids.
Q: What do you see as some of the strengths and some of the weaknesses of the College of Business?
Dombroski: The college is well positioned. The people, and I said this to the faculty when I was introduced, I’ll truly be standing on the shoulders of those who came before me. This college has grown and thrived ever since it’s been Arlington State College. So, the foundation is really firm. And I’ve always kind of been in love with the faculty there and their commitment to the students.
So, the college has always provided a top class, world class if you will, education at a reasonable price. I think we still rank No. 2 in the nation, the university does, for students leaving the university with the lowest amount of debt. I think we’re behind Yale. But we’re committed to that, so we provide a quality education at a reasonable pricing point, and we still will continue to do that.
I think we somewhat are overlooked. I think people still kind of consider us a commuter school, although we certainly aren’t that anymore.
The faculty, the curriculum that we have has always been top-notch, so I don’t have to do too much work on that end. My area of focus is going to be outreach to the business community, and outreach to the community at large. And doing anything else I can to help the larger university.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your business background.
Dombroski: I joined Hunt in 1983 and stayed there until October of 2017. What I loved about my career at Hunt, I got to do a lot of things. I mean I started out as an internal auditor, but they gave me the opportunity to be in a lot of different areas.
During different time periods I ran the IT department, I ran what in oil and gas we call the land administration department. I did treasury also, and then I was involved in capital allocation, I was involved in financial reporting, financing of certain projects. So, I got to do almost everything.
So, I’d spend most of my time in finance overseeing the holding company level, so I got to see how all the various businesses run. I got to see how Ray [Hunt] would allocate capital among the various projects and opportunities he had and got to learn a lot. But I got to deal with the businesses, get down and understand their cost structure, and understand what their goals are, what their strategy was, and then report back to the upper management.
One of my pitches when I was interviewing was, I told the faculty that. … people would ask me, “why do you want to do this job?” And I told them about my passion for the university, and that it was something I’ve always had an inkling to do to go back and give back more than I have in the past. And they said, “Well, you’re going to have to work with a bunch of Ph.Ds.” And I said, “Well, you know at Hunt, they used to throw me in the deep end of the pool to do a lot of different thing that I was not expert in,” and I told them, “So I’ve become very comfortable not being the smartest man in the room.”
Q: What’s your leadership style?
Dombroski: I have a collaborative leadership style, and I’m more than happy to defer to people who have more expertise in an area, but I think I have a style that gets people to work together. And I’ve found out over time, a lot of times you don’t have to be the subject matter expert on any particular area, but you just have to be able to listen to people, and then you show them leadership on how to get the results that they’re looking for. So, I think the skills I developed at Hunt, from doing all that various stuff will help me a lot as I take on this challenge.
Q: Anybody at Hunt, or at UTA when you went there, that you looked up on as a mentor for you?
Dombroski: Well, yeah. One of the people who really brought me into UTA was Daniel Himarios, our former dean, and he’s still with the college luckily, and he runs our China EMBA program. But Dan’s always been a mentor of mine when it came to looking at how the college should work. At Hunt, really, it’s Ray. Ray would be my mentor, and somebody you really look up to, and he showed you the right way of how to run an organization and how to treat people. You couldn’t have asked for a better mentor for those years.
Q: Any work philosophies that you have?
Dombroski: One is I consider myself a results-oriented leader and a collaborative leader. I believe very much in getting people involved and making sure that we set the direction that we’re going to go, then leave people alone to get their job done. Periodic check in, but for the most part you let people, you give them clearly articulated goals, and then you trust them to execute on those jobs. That’s first and foremost.
Secondly, I believe that for any organization to be truly successful, … it had to be based on trust and transparency, where people have the freedom to say what they think, and there’s a trust among, if you will, the leadership that we’re all going in the right direction.
And the only way all that works is if you have transparency, if you’re willing to share everything you’re thinking with the people you’re working with and they reciprocate to you.
So those are the two big things. … I really enjoy working with people, I enjoy getting their ideas, and together coming up with a game plan. So that’s my philosophy, and that’s what I’ll bring to the university.