A Balancing Act

Tom Arnold has spent most of his life balancing disparate commitments. The last three years of his life have been no exception, balancing his UF academic goals with his demanding global professional responsibilities.

As a student in Warrington’s Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) program at UF and the Deputy Global Head & Head of Americas Real Estate at Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), based in Abu Dhabi, the demands of both required considerable travel. After his recent completion of the doctoral requirements of the DBA program, Arnold calculated that he traveled over 250,000 miles to fulfill the program’s required weekends in Gainesville.

“If I wasn’t the best student of my cohort, at least I received the award for the farthest distance traveled,” Arnold joked.

Arnold (BSBA ’80, JD ’83, DBA ‘17) is part of the 15-member DBA Class of 2017 – the first graduating class in program history. As the son of two UF graduates, Arnold has childhood memories of sweating through 1 p.m. Florida football kickoffs with the smell of cigar smoke surrounding him. He grew up loving the university and its athletic programs, even befriending former athletic director Jeremy Foley when the two were both students together.

Arnold’s role at ADIA can be all-consuming. He is responsible for a 20+ country portfolio with hundreds of portfolio positions. While a UF DBA student, Arnold also served as Chairman of the Pension Real Estate Association (PREA), Chairman of the Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate (AFIRE), a Trustee and Governor of the Urban Land Institute (ULI), and a board member of the Real Estate Roundtable.

Despite the professional and industry demands, Arnold kept education a priority. In addition to his UF degrees, Arnold has acquired an LL.M. in Taxation from NYU, an MBA from Dartmouth, and is a graduate of the Advanced Management Program from the Harvard Business School. Attending the DBA program at UF required a lot of advance planning and Arnold referred to the UF faculty and staff as “without peer” as they set him up for success with thorough planning.

When Arnold enrolled in the DBA program, applied research was already an interest. His three years in the program transformed this interest in research into a passion. With research interests including leadership, organizational change, business policy and strategy, finance, and entrepreneurship, the faculty taught the basic building blocks of research methods and experiment design and encouraged an interdisciplinary approach to research, an approach lacking in most doctoral programs.

Arnold completed the program in the middle of May and already has two articles conditionally accepted by peer-reviewed journals. When he completes his tenure overseas, Arnold hopes to give back to the academic institution through a research, teaching, and academic leadership position.

“I didn’t appreciate how well regarded and preeminent our faculty is until I started the program and began attending research conferences,” Arnold said. “I didn’t realize UF is an R1 research institution and one of 35 public university members of the prestigious AAU. My co-chairs (Professor) Andy Narranjo and (Ken and Linda McGurn Professor) David Ling are nationally prominent in their respective fields. I also like to tease Dr. Phil Podsakoff, who teaches Organizational Research Methods in the program, about monopolizing citations on Google Scholar with over 58,000 cites, in addition to authoring or contributing to 78 refereed articles, two books, and 11 book chapters.

“UF has rolled out a world class product, matching experienced industry and academic professionals with some of the most talented faculty in the country. It will not be long before the world takes notice.”