Council of Texas Business Deans Annual Conference Discussions Emphasize Higher Ed Delivery and Funding Models, Future of Business Schools
Business school deans from across Texas convened at the C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston last month for collaborative discussions emphasizing new delivery and funding models during the Council of Texas Business Deans annual meeting and conference.
The story of Houston’s founders, real estate promoters John Kirby Allen and Augustus Chapman Allen, set the tone for the conference’s theme of leading and inspiring innovation in business and in the classroom.
“I think the story of Houston is really the story of the Allen brothers who convinced people to move next to a muddy river,” Bauer College Dean Latha Ramchand said in welcoming attendees. “And in many ways, that spirit of entrepreneurship, that can do spirit, permeates everything that happens in Houston and certainly what happens on this campus.”
UH President Renu Khator spoke at the second day of the conference, providing a statistic that nationally, only eight percent of low income students have the chance to graduate college, but in Texas, that number dips even lower.
“Since the American system of higher education is the most envied in the world, we’ve been fortunate to attract passionate innovators and dedicated scholars from all across the globe,” Khator said. “But we must never take that for granted. Holding on to this talent is crucial, so we need to actively nurture and inspire these exceptional teachers and researchers. And that is one of the most important things our deans can do.”
Guest speaker presentations highlighted how colleges are preparing for the next wave of business students as global leaders. Andrew J. Policano, director at The Paul Merage School of Business’ Center for Investment and Wealth Management, introduced his book “Public No More: A New Path to Excellence for America’s Public Universities” that showcases innovative funding models of business schools. Across the board, Policano pointed out that universities are misguided in defining their value as their list of aspirations with no clear measure of that value and hoping someone else will pay for it, emphasizing the decline in state support for public universities.
“Hope is not a strategy. Your program’s value is equivalent to a student’s willingness to pay for your program minus the cost,” Policano said. “Your ability to motivate students ultimately indicates your value. The highest potential source of revenue is tuition, so the student is now a more critical customer.”
Policano outlined survival strategies for research universities with reduced subsidies and increased competition from both non-profit and growing for-profit institutions. Pertinent factors included a dean’s ability to hold faculty accountable in terms of student engagement as a way to increase a program’s value, expanding or creating revenue generating programs in terms of distance education and executive education as well as minimizing new course creation in specialized master degree programs through maximizing leverage from under enrolled classes.
Will Houghteling, North American Lead for the Minerva Schools at Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) in California, presented “Building the University of the Future.” The Minerva Schools take an unprecedented approach to undergraduate education by offering an entire degree program comprised of online seminar courses with less than 20 students on average in each. With no official campus, but rather seven residential locations across the globe from San Francisco to Mumbai, these online seminar courses are ultimately driven by what Houghteling refers to as the “science of learning.”
“What we are trying to do is build habits of mind throughout each student’s academic career,” Houghteling said. “It all comes down to cognitive processing, deliberate practice and motivational support.”
The deans were treated to a featured presentation by Bauer College Board member Scott McClelland, president of Houston Food-Drug Division Stores at H.E.B. Grocery Company. Through a history of H.E.B.’s achievements and failures, McClelland defined how the successful Texas chain set themselves apart from competitors and how business schools should follow suit as part of the future in the state’s educational pursuits.
“We started out as a single store and what you may not know is that stores two, three, four and five all went out of business,” McClelland said. “Now we have 363 stores, with 12 stores set to open in the next year, in addition to expanding our brand to include Central Market, Mi Tienda and Joe V’s Smart Shop. Over time, we can’t continue to be the best at what we currently do, we have to think of ideas our competitors haven’t thought of yet.”
McClelland shared the statistic that 26 percent of Houstonians earn less than $25,000 annually and indicated that this number is directly affected by commonly high poverty areas that produce ill-prepared elementary school students who do not finish high school and fail to transition into higher education. In order to combat the cyclical ties of poverty and low educational attainment, H.E.B. created their Excellence in Education Awards to donate $10 million back to the community to help increase childhood literacy by the third grade and ideally have children reading prior to starting kindergarten.
“The most important thing you can do for your program is giving back to your community and helping here in Texas,” McClelland said.
Deans also attended a networking dinner sponsored by Bloomberg BusinessWeek as part of the publication’s B-School Connection Program. In addition, an Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) training session was set up for deans who are working toward specialized accreditation for their business and accounting programs. This included updates on AACSB standards, guidance on how to achieve their required excellence standards and a question-answer session facilitated by William H. Glick, dean of Rice University’s Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business and vice chair of AACSB International.
By Danielle Ponder