Dr. Julia Christensen Hughes (BComm, MBA, PhD) has been on faculty at the University of Guelph since 1987, most recently (2009-2019) having served as dean of the newly named Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics. In this role, Julia facilitated the largest single gift ($21M) in the University’s history. Generously provided by Kim and Stu Lang, this historic gift is providing financial support for faculty chairs, student scholarships, innovative programming and building enhancements.
A second notable gift ($7M), from the late John Wood, similarly saw the naming of the John F. Wood Centre in Business and Student Enterprise. With funding for two named chairs and programming, this gift is uniquely providing students from across the university with the opportunity to explore and develop their business and entrepreneurial skills, earning academic credit providing consulting services to local organizations, and developing and launching new businesses of their own.
Other fundraising accomplishments under Julia’s leadership include support for a $12M renovation of campus landmark - Macdonald Hall - providing business students, staff and faculty with a welcoming place to call home. Consistent with the School’s vision “to be and develop leaders for a sustainable world” the building features innovative design elements representing sustainability, collaboration and community. Macdonald Hall houses several flexible classrooms and features coffee from Planet Bean, a local cooperative that is committed to fair trade.
Known as a staunch advocate for transformational learning, Julia also championed a number of pedagogical and curricular innovations. Innovations implemented by Lang faculty include: a revamped Introduction to Business course that “on-boards” students through “the great ethical dilemma”; a required course in corporate social responsibility that engages students with the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDG’s); and a field course in which students explore the potential for entrepreneurship to help economically and socially disadvantaged Canadian communities. Several new majors and minors have also recently been launched, including in accounting, entrepreneurship, sustainability, international business, human resources, data analytics and sport and event management. These offerings provide Lang Bachelor of Commerce and other University of Guelph students with unprecedented choice in developing business acumen, and skills in leadership and entrepreneurship.
Julia’s deanship also saw substantial growth at the graduate level in both masters and PhD programs. A particularly proud accomplishment was Lang’s MBA in Sustainable Commerce being ranked in the top ten globally by Corporate Knights (2018). Further reflecting the School’s commitment to “business as a force for good”, in 2015 Julia was invited to address the United Nations General Assembly, on behalf of the 700+ business school signatories to the UN’s Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) initiative.
Julia’s scholarly interests include talent management, employee and student engagement, organizational and academic integrity, aligning organizational systems with purpose, and creating positive organizational change. As well as having taught and mentored undergraduate and graduate students, Julia provides provocative keynote addresses and facilitates executive development workshops on these topics, particularly within the context of higher education as well as within the hospitality and tourism industry, and food and agribusiness organizations.
Julia’s published work (citations 1244, h-index 13, i10-index 15) includes the co-edited books Handbook of Human Resource Management in the Tourism and Hospitality Industries (2018, with Ron Burke), Edward Elgar and Taking Stock: Research on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (2010, with Joy Mighty) McGill-Queen’s University Press. She has also published in a variety of journals, including on ethics and integrity in the Canadian Journal of Higher Education.
Julia has received a number of awards and recognitions, including a Graduate Teaching Excellence Award, the Gold Educator award from the Ontario Hostelry Institute (OHI); the Sheffield Award for Excellence in Research from the Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education; the University of Guelph’s John Bell Award, for distinguished educational leadership; and the Woman of Distinction Award from the Guelph YMCA, for outstanding contributions to education and training.
Currently on administrative leave, Julia is using the time to embrace mindfulness, reflect on what she learned during her time as dean, and develop several book and consulting projects. She was also recently appointed to several boards, including the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative (GRLI.org) and Our Food Future, a Guelph-Wellington Smart Cities circular economy initiative.