What’s going on in the school?
The world of business has changed dramatically during the past decade. Businesses now tell us that they want students capable of coming into their organizations and making a difference. As a result, our curriculum has changed. Today, it’s not good enough to possess knowledge. You must be able to use knowledge for a socially important purpose, and so we’re refocusing our curriculum to include the development of skills along with the development of subject matter knowledge. For example, Kate Ronald, the Roger Howe Professor of English, works with faculty to develop writing skills within our students across the courses that they take.
What new initiatives are under way or in prospect?
Recently, the school of business announced an alliance with AT&T, a new $1 million chair from Michael Armstrong. This new initiative will permit us to integrate technology and technology skills in the curriculum so that students can meet the new demands of a networked society.
One of the fastest growing areas in business education today is the field of entrepreneurship. Mike Morris, the Cintas Chairholder in Entrepreneurship, is in the process of building a tremendous program that is going to propel us forward to national recognition.
What are the significant local issues in the school today? Down the road in five years?
One of the most significant issues facing the school of business today is enrollment pressure. During the past four years, we’ve seen an increase of over 1000 business majors on the Oxford campus. This has occurred during a period where there has been a decline in national enrollment in business. We believe that this is a rich testimonial to the quality of the Richard T. Farmer School of Business.
The second major concern is the incredible speed of change that is taking place in the business field. Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric, once said "if the speed of change outside an organization is faster than the speed of change within an organization, eventually that organization will wither and die." One of our real challenges is meeting the speed of change that’s occurring in business.
What is the biggest challenge facing the school today? The biggest opportunities?
The school of business is positioned in a unique market niche. Today, many of the top business programs have emphasized their MBA programs. As a result, MBAs carry a tremendous premium in the marketplace. The average starting salary for the University of Chicago last year for their MBA graduates was $85,000. The average starting salary on Wall Street this year was $115,000. Many corporations are recognizing that they simply cannot pay that amount of money to a brand new employee. On the other hand, they are dissatisfied when they go to Big State University and recruit students who have sat through classes with 350 students and never taken anything other than multiple-choice exams. Miami is uniquely positioned in between those two types of programs. Our goal is to graduate undergraduate students who are capable of competing with MBAs from most of the top programs but priced more like undergraduate students.
What successes has the school recently enjoyed?
Recent successes for the school of business include an outstanding placement rate for our students. We do surveys of our students each year and find out that more than 99 percent of those seeking jobs have accepted career positions within a few months of graduation. We’ve also seen a significant increase in our average starting salary, but that’s primarily due to the fact that Wally Szczerbiak just signed a contract.
The school continues to receive outstanding support from alumni and its corporate supporters. During the past two months, we received more than $2.5 million in program support to help us build new initiatives.
In what ways has the school connected with the broader community?
We believe the business school has to be active and involved in the community. Some people have said that athletics is the window through which society looks at a university. I think it’s true that business school may be the window through which a university looks at society. We have a business advisory council that meets twice a year, an accounting advisory council, a technology advisory council and a dean’s advisory council. Each of these is intended to provide a relevant review of our programs and initiatives.
We also use a tremendous number of outside speakers. There is probably not a day that goes by that we do not have an outside speaker participating in one of our classes. We also do a number of corporate projects where students work on real problems for companies and present their results to executives. For example, our new Buck Rodgers program emphasizes mentors for students. We have found that this is a tremendous opportunity for recent alumni to maintain their involvement with students and for students to understand more about the world in which they will start work.
What is the school doing to enhance diversity?
In the area of diversity, perhaps our strongest resource is Bill Madison, who is our minority enrollment manager. Bill is able to establish tremendous rapport with students and serves a very important role as a mentor and leader. Two years ago, in conjunction with Procter & Gamble, we began the Business Week program. We found that a number of high-school students, especially from inner cities, do not fully understand the opportunities that exist within a business career. One of the students we interviewed had a marvelous phrase. He said he did not want to spend his life simply doing well, he wanted to spend his life doing good, and he did not think that business offered him the opportunity to do good for society. The purpose of Business Week is to bring students from underrepresented groups to campus for one week to understand how business contributes to a free society.
This past year, the business school hired an outside diversity consultant to review the environment and the climate within the school in an effort to address issues having do with diversity and divergent views. The diversity consultant presented a recommendation to a faculty committee this fall, and with data that comes from that, we hope to develop a number of new, creative initiatives in the area of diversity.