Cindi Fukami at a lectern.

Cindi Fukami delivers her University Lecture in February.

In this interview with Management Moments, Professor Cindi Fukami explains the preparation behind her University Lecture, one of the University of Denver’s most prestigious faculty awards.

What is the University Lecture Award, and how did you come to receive it?

Professor Cindi Fukami’s journey to receiving the University Lecture Award began with a nomination from her former department chair. This prestigious award, presented during a special luncheon in October, honors faculty and staff for their outstanding scholarly and creative contributions. The award celebrates a lifetime of achievement, and Professor Fukami was thrilled to be recognized for her work at the Daniels College of Business. She was nominated by the Department of Management and discovered a year in advance that she had been selected, giving her ample time to prepare for the February lecture. A written recap and video of the presentation can be found here.

What was the preparation process like for your lecture?

Preparing for the lecture was a unique and reflective experience for Fukami. Without specific guidelines or directions, she had the freedom to choose her topic. This autonomy was both exciting and daunting, as past lecturers had taken creative liberties—one even played the piano during their speech. With a full year to prepare, Professor Fukami felt the weight of the responsibility to deliver a lecture that truly captured the spirit of the award, which recognizes “superlative scholarly and creative work.” To help focus her thoughts, she reached out to a contact in the law school who had previously received the award. This conversation inspired her to celebrate the many accomplishments of the Daniels College of Business over the years, including significant program developments, team teaching and interactive learning. Being the first faculty member from Daniels to receive this honor made the occasion even more special, and she wanted her lecture to reflect the collaborative spirit and innovation that have defined her career.

Can you share the main themes and content of your lecture?

Professor Fukami titled her lecture “The Third Road,” drawing inspiration from an article she had published years earlier. She explained that in academia, obtaining a PhD often sets the expectation for a career centered on research. On the other hand, some professors prioritize teaching and student development over research. Professor Fukami envisioned a middle path that balanced both roles, which she felt was embodied by DU’s teacher-scholar model—a model that values excellence in both teaching and research. Her lecture took the audience through a chronological journey of the integrated MBA program at Daniels, which merged core courses like statistics, finance and accounting to reflect the interconnected nature of real-world business.

This innovative approach involved team teaching, where professors collaborated on course content and learned from each other’s expertise. The program received national and international acclaim for its unique and practical application, including elements such as international travel and real consulting projects for students. Eventually, the integrated MBA program evolved into “The Compass,” a redesigned MBA core that introduced a series of essential courses for all master’s students. These included the college’s first sustainability course and a course on “The Essence of Enterprise,” exploring the fundamental nature of business. For undergraduate students, the Future of Work class, titled “Leading in a Digital Age,” was developed to address contemporary challenges.

How did you emphasize the importance of teamwork in your lecture?

Professor Fukami emphasized that all the innovations and achievements she discussed were the results of collective efforts. Her lecture was a celebration of teamwork and the collaborative spirit that drives success at Daniels. The event was a joyous reunion, attended by notable figures such as former dean Bruce Hutton, retired colleagues, and former chancellor Dan Richie, offering a chance for many to reconnect.