Chris Shao, the first candidate in the second round of interviews for a dean of the new College of Business at Western New Mexico University, spoke to faculty members, students and community members Wednesday evening.
Shao holds a bachelor of arts degree in English from Chinese Culture University, Taiwan; an MBA from Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, KS, and a Ph.D. in Business Administration-Marketing with a minor in psychology from the University of Texas at Arlington, Texas.
His administrative experience includes as chairman of the management information system and marketing and chair of management and marketing, as well as graduate coordinator at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas.
Shao discussed his fit for the position of WNMU dean. "It's a small university in a small city. I am most comfortable in this situation, where there is student focus and faculty works closely with the students."
He showed a graph of the universities he has worked at, and most were approximately the same size as Western, in small towns.
"I really like working with students, right next to them," Shao said. "Small universities are more student-focused, more personal, and allow one to multi-task and play multiple roles in the university."
He also talked about his work with volunteer projects, including working with a community college as a feeder school to the university at Midwestern State. "I work with the community, closely with the students, faculty and staff. I'm used to doing everything, even as department chairman, doing several things and taking on different roles."
Another reason he cited as being interested in Western is because of the upcoming accreditation process. Western New Mexico University, he believes, should go from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
"I have done this process at Midwestern," Shao said. "There were ups and downs. You're looking at fun and most likely some pain, but I can help."
He asked rhetorically why he is interested in working at WNMU. "It's timing. I just got promoted. Can I stay there? Yes, I can. But I can't sit still for 30 minutes, so what can I do for the next 10 to 15 years? I think Western is going through change. We can decide down the road if they were good or bad changes, but hopefully they will be positive changes."
Shao was also asked to give his vision for Western. "What I have in mind is to make the College of Business the premier business and economic resource for the region. Focus on the region most because it is appropriate for the size of Western. We need to continue to have quality students and faculty, and yes, we have to provide to the stakeholders, but also the community must show support and have close relationships with the university."
He opened the session to questions.
The first questioner asked about the universities that had 3,300 and one that had 7,500 students. Shao explained that the larger one had only about 5,500 when he was there.
The same person asked why the accreditation should be changed to the AACSB. "About 15 years ago, the AACSB changed its focus from research institutions to a mission for small universities," Shao explained. "Yes, it's a dream, but it's doable."
An audience member asked what kind of collaboration Shao would have with the other colleges in the university.
"The MBA was designed for those without undergraduate degrees, as a cash cow," Shao said. "If you want to grow the MBA, you have to work with the other colleges to recruit their members into the program. Students for an MBA should have different kinds of backgrounds."
He said marketing should be offered to non-business majors. For instance, he said, work with students in kinesiology and mass communications. "I have more of an aggressive type of approach to marketing."
Shao was asked what kinds of students he seeks to grow the College of Business.
"On the telephone interview," Shao said, "I was asked how I would recruit students, so I have thought about it. I would build relationships with community colleges in the region. I would have to get out and talk to them. It's easy for the university to take freshmen and sophomore credits. I think the College of Business can recruit from other colleges of business. A minor in business is also a good approach."
A student from Deming asked what resources would make her studies easier. "I have to come here every day, because courses I need are not offered in Deming or online."
"Online classes is the trend," Shao said. "Am I a big fan? No, but do I think it's happening? Yes. It's a matter of whether students are ready. They have to be motivated and self-disciplined. If they do not turn in an assignment on time, they get a zero. Online is the direction, but I question whether students are ready."
He said at his school in Texas, cuts are being experienced. "They take away this and ask us to do more in larger classes. Right here, you are likely experiencing the same thing. Personally, I think it will get worse. Higher education is the first thing our governor in Texas cuts. I think the provost office and academic affairs will try to accommodate students. Every faculty member I have talked to here shows me they do care about their students."
A faculty member asked if Shao could think of strategies that would address student preparedness for online or distance students.
"I don't think it's a college function," Shao said. "But we are dealing with a different generation of students. We will give students flexibility, and we have to remind them to do this or that. Students will forget. That won't change. Old textbooks were primarily text in black and white, with no pictures. New textbooks, if you take out the pictures, there is not much text."
He was asked about building relationships with the community and how he would define a good relationship.
"I would do door-to-door cold calling," Shao said. "If we can get to a place where we don't need to put a deal in writing, that's a good relationship. My communication approach would be to go to a person's office and sit down, unless it's a long distance, and then it would be a phone call. An email is the last approach I would take. That is putting everything in writing and becomes official. I would prefer to sit and talk and resolve an issue. With talking, both parties take the risk."
A prior questioner said he had read an article in the New York Times, where the author said he believed there should be only four or five universities offering MBAs. "One problem I've noticed with open enrollment, is that many shouldn't be at the university. They are not prepared, and should perhaps be a plumber, which we need. Are we shortchanging students? Should we require a certain GPA for an MBA."
Shao said it might be good for quality assurance to fit the AACSB accreditation. He said a low GPA requirement, such as 2.25, is not worth requiring. Schools, such as Southern Methodist University and Texas Christian University, require a 3.5 GPA to go into the MBA program. "It's about documents going through the process for accreditation."
The same man pointed out that whereas state funding used to be per student, now it is based on retention of students.
"We should offer general business to the whole university for the social studies requirement," Shao said. "Yes, retention is more and more important for accountability. In Texas, there are general learning goals for every curriculum. It's exactly what is needed to do an assessment."
An audience member said, across the country, there is a glut of English and history majors, and they wonder what they can do with those majors. "How about the glut of MBAs?"
Shao said he would use English as the example. "I read an article about this subject pointing out what kind of jobs and careers were available to an English major. There were six examples, and four were marketing related. In our college, faculty members complain that students can't write. Writing well is needed for marketing. Two skills are needed for almost any job—oral communication and written communication. As long as students are willing to be creative with their majors, they can look at different venues."
"Can marketing compete against mass communications?" Shao asked and answered. "No, nor can they compete with English majors. Think about what you can do as a marketing major."
A Western student from China asked about Shao's vision to recruit international students. "Many in China want to come to the U.S. to study, but they don't know how."
Shao said he would be interested in recruiting from China and India. "From what I've been told, students from China should go through agencies. Talk to other universities that are doing it and using agencies to find which are the best. In terms of recruiting from India, I don't have answers. I will not use financial incentives, unless I have to, especially not in-state tuition, but possibly scholarships. We can be generous, but we have to keep the universities going financially."
An audience member said, after graduating from Western, he went to Arizona State University, and "paid nothing. Otherwise, I would never have gotten a masters and Ph.D."
Shao said most universities are losing money on graduate students. Even a non-profit has to make money to keep things going. "Foreign students are often high-quality students. Often the first question they ask is: 'What can I get?' And that's before you know if the student is qualified. With the MBA program, they try to get courses waived before they are accepted, sometimes before they apply. We are looking at a different group of students."
A staff member asked why China and India, when the university is 80 miles from Mexico.
Shao said he had a good relationship with the University of Chihuahua, but many faculty members feel it is not safe. "The faculty used to enjoy going, because of the high-quality students. And we still talk about it, but faculty members say they are not going. When I flew into El Paso, I got excited, because we used to go to Mexico through the El Paso Airport. We can recruit from Mexico, but ultimately, we need to send our students there, too."
An earlier questioner asked Shao about his volunteer marketing projects.
"I was approached by a community college," Shao said. "They opened a new wellness center and wanted to market it. I recruited students for help in marketing the wellness center. My job was more setting up the time and places for presentations by the students. I work with the students on the writing, but they're on their own for the presentations. In exchange, I asked the community college to take the students out to dinner."
A professor said he had taught business communication in four paragraphs.