College of Management and Technology
Frank Dickerson earned his BA from The Ohio State University in 1973 (where he says he was just a C-student), an MA from The International School of Theology in 1985, an MBA at Pepperdine University in 1990, and his PhD from Claremont Graduate University in 2009. At Claremont, Dickerson was a part-time chauffeur for and studied under Peter F. Drucker, whose advice shaped his doctoral research. Frank had worked in curriculum development and training at an international NGO for twenty years and was intrigued by Drucker's insight that of all the eight key result areas a leader must plan for and manage, two (marketing and innovation) were more important than all the rest. The intentionally unbalanced, undemocratic priority that Drucker placed on these two functions led Dickerson to analyze what he considered to be the foundational variable of factor in marketing: communication.
Frank concluded that three elements (rhetorical design, linguistic structure, and artistic infrastructure of communication) were the most important aspects of marketing discourse. He carried the focus he gained in his doctoral studies over to his consulting practice and then to his teaching career, which began at Hope International University in Fullerton California in the early 1990s. Then after Hope International, Frank taught courses ranging from Humanities to Literature to Project management at California Intercontinental and Bristol Universities—both in Southern California. Internationally, Frank has been a visiting professor both onsite in Asia and online at Innovative International College, located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Frank’s academic career was informed by work experiences in the field fund raising. During his freshman year at Ohio State University he says: "I was president of a student organization but had no idea that job would also require raising funds. But I actually enjoyed the process, in which role I was mentored by the organization's faculty advisor, the late Jim Engel. As one of the founders of the then-nascent field of consumer behavior, Jim's focus on buyer and donor motivations transformed my thinking and helped me formulate my later research.” Upon graduation, Frank carved out a career raising funds for nonprofits. Eventually, he helped direct development at an international NGO that, in 2018, raised more than $750 million in worldwide revenue—90 percent of which came from individuals.
In addition to teaching, since 1990 Frank has also been a partner with a boutique marketing and management firm that consults with commercial and nonprofit organizations in the areas of leadership, management, and marketing. He is also president of an advertising agency called High Touch Communication which develops promotional and fund-raising campaigns for some of America's largest organizations.
The essence of what Frank’s doctoral research found is expressed in the title of the first article he published on the study’s results: “The Way We Write Is All Wrong” (published in the Journal of the Direct Marketing Association). To help fix the problems he discovered in more than 1.5 million words of text he analyzed, Dr. Dickerson now regularly conducts narrative writing workshops. These day-long seminars help executives unlearn the obtuse patterns of communication they learned in their graduate school experiences. His workshops emulate the writing strategies developed at The University of Chicago. At Chicago, the late Joseph Williams created an influential academic writing program called The Little Red Schoolhouse. That program for expert writers was based on Joe's observations about how people tend to process and communicate information. Williams found that information presented in narrative form is easier for readers to assimilate without the loss of scholarly rigor. Frank quotes Williams who believed "prose that may seem wholly discursive and abstract usually has behind it the two central components of the story—characters and their actions." Even complex topics like "social mobility," Joe wrote, “can become a character in an abstract social science story.”
Dr. Dickerson has been called a "fellow language vigilante" by former writing professor at Yale and Columbia, William Zinsser. In addition, the academic world's dean of marketing, Northwestern University's Philip Kotler, says of Dr. Dickerson's writing research: "Frank, your language analysis and findings are critical to practitioners."
Reflecting on his role at Walden, Dickerson remarks: "My aim is to help doctoral candidates do important research on topics that can make a difference in people’s everyday lives and then help them communicate their findings effectively.” He points to a warning given by philosopher Elton Trueblood, whose academic service included positions of Stanford and Harvard. Trueblood believed "the shame" of scholarly writing was "that sometimes it has been made deliberately foggy, under the fatuous assumption that what cannot be understood is somehow more profound." Frank is committed to helping Walden students think clearly, research intentionally, and write persuasively in service of the greater good. These three competencies, he believes, can help turn research into knowledge and practice that that can change lives.