Interviews and open forums for the public continue at Western New Mexico University for dean candidates for the newly created colleges—Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, Health and Human Services, and Community College.
Thursday afternoon, Jan. 24, an open forum was held for Forrest Aven, candidate for dean of the College of Business. He is associate professor of management and interim dean of the College of Business at the University of Houston-Downtown.
He cited several other jobs that he had on his way to earning an MBA and then a Ph.D. They included a stint as a substitute teacher in middle school, a steam locomotive engineer at Six Flags Over Texas in Dallas, a football referee in middle school and high school level sports, a radio disk jockey, a bottle counter at a Dr. Pepper plant, in human resources at Miller Brewing Co., a volunteer in the Peace Corps in Colombia, and his past 22 years at the University of Houston.
"The bottle counting job was my worst job, but it taught me the way to treat people as part of management and how not to manage," Aven said. "The referee job taught me to make a decision and stick to it."
In his discussion of his vision for the College of Business at WNMU, taken from the university website, Aven posed some questions. But first, he said he really liked "Transforming the Future Together," the slogan chosen for the university and would like to also incorporate it into the College of Business.
"But I ask, why does the vision focus on the undergraduate?" he asked. "We just received the MBA program at U of H last year. You should also strive to be the premier graduate program as well as undergraduate.
"You need to more precisely identify the 'stakeholders,'" he said.
He said the strengths of WNMU, as he sees them, are the involved faculty, the small classes and personalized attention, the application-based instruction, the Business Report in the Silver City Daily Press and the Grant County Beat, the Small Business Development Center, and the Hatfield Fund. He said he likes the application-based instruction and believes it is important to get students out of the classroom. He sees the SBDC as a huge strength, which offers lots of opportunities for small business. Aven said the university should grow the Hatfield Fund and work toward a finance lab with real-time data available at all times.
Going forward, his vision for the College of Business is to become the largest college on campus; continue and build upon close ties with the community and SBDC in developing continuing education programs; build upon local, regional and international partnerships; identify and eliminate what is not working by prioritizing; encouraging innovative ideas in teaching and programs, especially creating niche programs; and position the college for an Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business visit within five years. The process for the latter, he said, would make the programs better, even if the accreditation was not awarded.
Aven said it would be important to differentiate the College of Business programs from those at New Mexico State University's COB. "Perhaps develop an arts administration program, because there is a lot of art here, and the artists need to know how to run a business."
Magdaleno Manzanares, chairman of the Chicano/Chicana Hemispheric Studies and political science professor, asked why Aven was not a full professor.
"I am up for full professor," Aven said. "It's been hard to do research and the administrative work at the same time."
Priscilla Lucero, Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments director and search committee member, asked Aven what he would to do become involved in the community.
"I think of the College of Business as the place to play in the community," Aven said. "There are ways to help the community, such as providing personal finance classes, especially for the young people, so they don't get into credit card trouble. We could also be involved in helping businesses with marketing, bookkeeping and finance. We did a project with Habitat for Humanity with a student, giving him experience with an actual employer."
Lucero followed up by pointing out that the rural area has many people who are economically disadvantaged and asked what his approach would be to expand educational opportunities.
"I would like to go into the communities and ask them what they want to see and how we can help them," Aven said. "We can use our expertise to help them move forward."
A student asked how Aven plans to make a student more successful.
"It's a two-way street," Aven said. "The student also has responsibility. But we can help with job fairs, work with career services, do service learning and publicize what the students are doing. We want to make sure students have applied knowledge. Competitions are also good."
An audience member asked what role the College of Business could play in encouraging entrepreneurs.
"A huge role," Aven said. The College of Business could provide non-credit classes to help entrepreneurs better understand the aspects of business."
An audience member said New Mexico is a poor state, and asked what kind of funding sources Aven would pursue.
"I would likely start small, probably with alumni," Aven said. "We would solidify our vision and mission statement and ask for a small amount from each alumnus. If we can show 70 to 80 percent support, then I would go to the community, such as Freeport. I would say: 'We have an MBA program. What do you need and can we do the program onsite for you.' The same with the hospital."
A questioner asked how Aven would make the College of Business the largest on campus, and how he would deal with his colleagues.
"We're all in the same boat together," Aven said. "I would work on joint programs, such as health administration or arts administration. The College of Business should be the engine of growth. If Sul Ross can have a large College of Business in Alpine, Texas, why not here?
"Have a portfolio of high-impact experiences," Aven said. "The College of Business should have an entrance standard higher than 2.0. People like to be with other high achievers."
An audience member asked if Aven sees any potential possibilities of the College of Business creating linkages with other schools.
"I will work with the high schools," Aven said. "My Peace Corps experience taught me that the way to break poverty is to become an entrepreneur. Introduce the students to a business entrepreneur, and suck the student in."
A questioner asked where non-profits fit into the College of Business.
"Business knowledge is needed even more in a non-profit," Aven said. "If you make a mistake you can't recover. Business knowledge is important in all aspects of our lives. You have to manage books, finance and marketing, no matter what you do.
"Marketing opens avenues to rural students," Aven said to a follow up question. "It's the online part of marketing. "
An audience member asked how Aven would persuade a student to go into the College of Business.
"'Do you want to make money?' The College of Business is where it is," Aven said. "Has there been a local economic impact study on the number of dollars per student? If we're going to the community to raise funds as an investment in the students, we have to say because this is how much students generate for the community. Also we can go to the community and say if it wants to grow, it can offer scholarships to come here.
"I'm also surprised there are not more banners around town, saying this is where WNMU is," Aven continued. "The president told me the town ordinance says a banner can only be up for two weeks. Come on. This university is a gift to Silver City. I don't see the commitment from the city to the university.
"I came once to the Visitor Center, and I asked where the university was," Aven recounted. "She said she didn't know. Of course, that is a sample of one."
A student said the town is not supportive of university athletics.
"Maybe the university hasn't reached out much," Aven said. "I don't see the love. Sometimes an outsider can see things differently."
A questioner asked about generating funds for the College of Business.
Aven said because this is a Hispanic-serving university, it has federal options. "We got a Title 5 grant at the University of Houston, which is also Hispanic-serving; why not here?"
Manzanares said he has seen some resistance to calling Western Hispanic-serving.
"Hispanic money is not any different," Aven replied. "Usually colleges of business don't get many grants. But why not give it a shot. Go for $2.5 million for an MBA program. If we don't get it, circle around and try again."
Lucero asked, if Aven know of a funding opportunity, how would he approach the community and the university.
"You write grants well," he said to Lucero. "I would go to the president to get funds for you and a faculty member to write the grant and administer it."
An audience member pointed out that the mining company, which was then Phelps-Dodge, and is now Freeport McMoran, once financed a building, but not now.
"You have to give them what they want," Aven said. "A college dean should be right behind the president for fundraising. The challenge here is not money. You have to knock on doors. This isn't Houston, I know, but you actually have an advantage, because you're the only game in town. Businesses are practical. They are willing to help if there is something in it for them.
He said credit analysis is a problem for banks in Houston, and it may also be a problem for local banks. "Developing a certificate course in continuing education to help them could be worked out with the banks."
"We need to try to leverage the expertise and knowledge of the faculty and pay them a stipend to teach continuing education courses," Aven said. "Offer the class for $200, with 60 percent going to the professor and 40 percent to the College of Business.
"You have a strong academic program," Aven concluded. "Your president is very dynamic, and he has a good vision for the university. How about an executive speaker series?"