Daniel Hamburger is president and chief executive officer of DeVry, Inc. He joined DeVry in 2002 as executive vice president responsible for DeVry’s online operations and Becker Professional Review. Prior to DeVry, he served as CEO of Indeliq. In addition, he has served as division president of WW Grainger’s Internet commerce group, started the Internet services group for RR Donnelley’s Metromail division, and served as a consultant with Bain & Company in London, Warsaw, and Boston.
SM: To get started, please provide an overview of your background. What was the genesis of your interest in online education?
DH: I grew up in Detroit. The common thread running through my background is that I am an industrial engineer. It is an affliction, in a way. I am always tinkering with things and trying to make them work better. I love making processes run more smoothly and efficiently.
I have a bachelor’s and master’s in industrial engineering from the University of Michigan. The neat thing about growing up in Detroit was that I could go to any college I wanted as long as it was the University of Michigan. I spent some time in consulting with Accenture and Bain. Most of what I did focused on helping customers provide better quality, better customer service, and better efficiency.
My road into education came after I had worked for Accenture and Bain. Accenture asked me to come back to them and run an educational technology startup. Accenture had developed technology with Northwestern University dealing with “learn by doing”methodology and pedagogy. They owned 80 patents on how to teach through a virtual environment.
It is almost like a flight simulator would teach a pilot. The same technology was used to teach any type of curriculum. It was computer-based simulations. I built that company up and met DeVry through that process. I was asked to join DeVry by my predecessors, Dennis Keller and Ron Taylor.
SM: Give me the framework of DeVery. When did it start and what was its premise?
DH: We were founded by Dr. Herman DeVry in 1931. He was the inventor of the portable movie projector. He allowed films to be taken anywhere, and his first application was for education. He made training films for the military. The beginnings of distance education and instruction goes back a lot longer than the Internet.
SM: How does his invention of the projector and development of training films cut across to DeVry?
DH: He founded a school to train students in technical fields. The school was founded in Chicago and was successful. It was one of the first schools to participate in the GI Bill. It was DeVry Institute of Technology at that point.
In 1973, two guys who worked at DeVry left and started the Keller School of Management. Their premise was working adults. They were one of the first to focus on a practitioner faculty serving working adults. They had the Keller MBA program as well as many other master’s programs. They were the first private sector schools to gain regional accreditation. In 1987, after they had gained accreditation, they bought DeVry Institute of Technology. They merged Keller and DeVry to become DeVry University.
SM: Was DeVry catering to military people at that time?
DH: They were very diversified by that point. They were focused on engineering and technology programs. They were very well-known for electronics. Putting them together established a university with broad curriculum spanning engineering and business.