December • 2011 

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Dominion Senior Vice President Mary C. Doswell Discusses “Winning through Innovation” with COMM 1800 Students



Addressing an enthusiastic crowd of first-year students in a filled-to-capacity Old Cabell Hall Sept. 22, 2011, Dominion Senior Vice President Mary C. Doswell delivered a resoundingly clear message: Innovation is critical not only to the growth and success of individual businesses, but to the continuance of American leadership and prosperity. “A healthy, growing economy rests on a solid foundation of investments in research, education, information, communications, and energy infrastructures,” she told the audience. “If our nation fails to keep pace with the rest of the world in these critical investments, then our prospects for sustainable, long-term growth and world leadership will fade.”

Importance of Innovation
Doswell, who appeared as a guest speaker in the popular COMM 1800 (“Making Business Work”) class, was particularly concerned with the importance of investments in American energy technologies and infrastructure. “As vital to our nation’s growth and prosperity as electricity was in the 20th century,” she said, “we believe it will play an even greater transformative role in the 21st century.” Doswell pointed out that—in addition to enabling consumers to enjoy a host of day-to-day conveniences and increasingly nifty electronic gadgets—electricity is the vital component in supporting today’s vast and sophisticated global, real-time networks for communication, finance, international trade, and technology development.

Dominion as Innovator
Discussing Dominion’s efforts in the realm of innovative power production, Doswell, who oversees the company’s Alternative Energy Solutions group, enumerated its significant new initiatives in wind, hydroelectric, wood biomass, and solar power production. Acknowledging that such “green” energy initiatives still constitute only a tiny fraction of Dominion’s total electricity production, Doswell explained that the economics of renewable energy remain problematic. “The challenge is to improve their operating efficiencies and bring their costs down to make them more competitive with fossil fuels,” she said. “At Dominion, the key question for us is, ‘Are we meeting our customers’ expectations by providing their energy safely, whenever and wherever they need it, and at a price they can afford to pay for it?’”

Looking Ahead
Doswell was keen to impress upon students the role that they might play as business leaders and innovators, whether or not they go on to study finance, marketing, or management. “Business loves diversity,” she said, noting that her colleagues’ backgrounds range from engineering, accounting, and law to English literature, hotel management, and history. “Business needs diversity to be sustainable, well-rounded, and innovative.”

Still, Doswell said, the pioneering spirit of the individual isn’t enough. “There is no doubt that America’s remarkable record of innovation and economic growth is grounded in entrepreneurial spirit, individual ingenuity and initiative, and free markets,” she told the audience. “But from the very beginning, the American government has made significant investments in promising technologies that have helped define our history. The interstate highway system, cancer research, and the Internet are three prime examples.”

Dominion, a valued Corporate Partner of the McIntire School of Commerce, is also a key supporter of COMM 1800. Through its Higher Educational Partnership program, Dominion provides critical financial support as well as key educational components through classroom presentations by the corporation’s practitioners; networking events; and support and materials for a case study that examines how strategy, systems, marketing, finance, accounting, and organizational behavior all must work together in order to make a business successful.

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