Recently, a candidate for the College of Business dean, Micheal Thompson, interviewed at Western New Mexico University.
Originally from Roswell, Thompson has had a career, not only in many large corporations, but also as a speaker and professor at several universities. His undergraduate and master's degrees in management and marketing come from Eastern New Mexico University, and his Ph.D from the University of Missouri is in business leadership.
"What I call transformation is happening in colleges of business across the country," Thompson said. "There will never be enough resources for everything. Faculty members are overworked, and it will never be as good as the 'good ol' days.' What is wrong with business schools? They have lost touch with business. You have to separate management from leadership and need to understand the difference and talk more about leadership."
A problem is the island effect, where business is considered a separate discipline," Thompson said. "When in reality, business crosses disciplines. When I worked for Xerox, we did not hire business majors for the sales force. We hired English, history, art and liberal arts majors, because, for instance, it is better for an art major to sell to an art gallery than a business major."
"What we should be doing is not creating managers and accountants," he continued. "We should be developing problem solvers, critical thinkers, and innovative and creative individuals. The rest takes care of itself."
As for measurements, he said student evaluations are informational, but not predictive, although it is important to measure. What are important are exit exams, graduation rates, time from graduation to employment, starting salary and the salary in five years. "For instance, you may take a student from here who starts at a lower salary, but in five years, he or she is making the same as a student from New Mexico State University or the University of New Mexico."
"How do you transform an immovable object?" he asked. "The College of Business should cross disciplines, with not only four-year degree programs, but associates and certification programs. One-year externships should be offered, and then the student comes back to the college with more knowledge of business. That will require partnerships with the community.
"What would be my job as dean?" Thompson continued. "I would define expectations, articulate externally to the community, give you freedom and protect you to be a professor, and find resources to deliver creative programs. I need to be the cheerleader."
He opened the session to questions.
"If you were someone going to start a business and someone gave you $1 million to do it, how would you do it?" an audience member asked.
" I would give them the basics of finance, marketing and accounting," Thompson said. "I would send them out to get their noses bloody and then bring them back."
A questioner asked about the cross-discipline aspects of business.
"You need to learn the language of business—human resources, motivating and nurturing, hiring and firing and problem solving," Thompson said. "You want to start a small business, in six weeks, you can learn how to start the business with in-depth learning in finance, accounting and marketing. You have to learn how to spend your revenue wisely. You need a good plan to start. It made me feel good when students came and said they weren't ready to start a business. I protected them."
Another questioner asked what kind of data Thompson would want to see.
"I would want to see the ACT scores, how long they have been at the university, and the graduation rates," Thompson said. "You have to create a baseline to compare against. I would go in depth talking to potential employers. When I was at Delta State, we talked to other disciplines."
"What would you like to grow the College of Business to be?" an audience member asked.
"I would grow it to be innovative," Thompson said. "It is still just business education. It's time for someone to try something new. It's not easy to recruit students if you're doing the same thing as everyone else. We need to be able to say: 'Let me show you what we do differently.'"
An audience member asked what technology the faculty should use.
"PowerPoints are important," Thompson said. "There are new technologies available, such as using a laptop on iTV, where I can see all the students on my console. It's dependent on bandwidth. Imagine if you were immersed in 3-D. I can see that for medicine and nursing. We're the ones behind the 8-ball. I spent two years at Stanford University research. I saw a pull-down menu nine years before it came out. What if the Business Club had a meeting in the iTV room, so a student in Deming could participate? When I was shown around town by Priscilla Lucero (Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments executive director), she told me she is working on a grant to expand bandwidth in the four-county region. I suggested she talk to our computer folks."
He was asked what he would consider his greatest success in education and his greatest opportunity for improvement.
"I actually have a thank you card from a student who said: 'You made me do sales and talks in the front of the class. Now I have the best job in the world.'" Thompson said. "I probably have failed to be tougher when I should have been tougher. I would have done them a better service."