For M. Moshe Porat, dean of Temple University's Fox School of Business, an education can be compared to a share of stock; and so his job is to help increase the profits that students reap from their substantial investment of time and money.
In the nine years that he's headed the 5,500-student institution, which offers everything from bachelor's degrees to doctorates, the 58-year-old Elkins Park resident and Beth Sholom Congregation member says that he has worked to transform Fox into a place that prepares students to excel in a globalized, technology-driven market.
"Temple is a gateway to opportunity and prosperity for those who are determined to be successful and don't have the means to pursue expensive higher education," says Porat in his spacious office in the heart of the university's North Philadelphia campus. "We are considered a very good value for high-quality education at a relatively low cost."
Porat also serves as dean of Temple's School of Tourism and Hospitality, which he says is closely linked to the business school because tourism is a crucial economic force around the world.
A Competitive Nature
Speaking at a rapid-fire pace in the hopes of not keeping his next appointment waiting, Porat describes the recent restructuring of the Master of Business Administration program, a degree he says has become a sort of entryway into the business world from India to China, as well as from Philadelphia to Tel Aviv. Students in the program are now required to lend their skills to overseas start-up firms, many of which are based in Israel, and set up through a partnership between the Fox school and Ben-Gurion University.
"They consult and design market studies and design business plans – and are getting paid for it," explains Porat. "They have to deliver a certain product by a certain date."
Porat has been teaching about risk management and insurance at Temple since the early 1980s, but he can remember a time when he didn't know where Philadelphia was on a map.
He spent the first eight years of his life in Poland, where he was born in 1947. His parents had spent the war years in the Soviet Union.
The next chunk of life transpired in the city of Tel Aviv, where he earned a bachelor's degree in economics and an MBA of his own from Tel Aviv University.
By his late 20s, he was a rising star at one of Israel's leading insurance companies, lived in a nice apartment, drove a new car, and was married to a physician who had just given birth to their first child. But he had an urge for a challenge, and decided to pursue a doctorate abroad.
"Maybe because my wife has an M.D., I needed to prove something to her," he admits.
What was supposed to be a two-year stint at Temple has turned into more than 25 years, and this father of three now holds dual American and Israeli citizenship.
But having achieved a measure of success in the business world, what is it about academia that he finds so rewarding?
"I think that as an academic – both as a professor and as a dean – you really are in a position to change lives," he says. "Professors get their major satisfaction by seeing their students becoming successful."