Dean’s Blog

Strategic Planning

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on November 1, 2013 at 5:11 PM PDT

Today, many of the faculty and staff of the Albers School spent the day off-campus at an all-day strategic planning session.  That is right, the Albers School is developing a new strategic plan!  Our current plan was finalized in 2010, and while we have refreshed it every year, it needs to be updated.  In the meantime, the university finalized a new strategic plan in February, and we need a plan that is informed by the university plan.

 

Our process includes a 27 member strategic planning team, including faculty, staff, students, advisory board members, and representatives from other parts of campus.  We have two facilitators, Mike Diamond and Mark Robison from Academic Leadership Associates, who are doing a fine job of guiding our process.  This was our second full day meeting and a final meeting is scheduled for December 6th.

 

Between meetings we have five committees working on our five strategic objectives, which are around preparing highly demanded graduates, a compelling curriculum, the impact of faculty scholarship, social justice, and business and alumni engagement.

 

Each committee is charged with developing strategic initiatives that support their strategic objective, and then building out the action items and assigning responsibility and time lines.  All this needs to come together by the middle of December and it will!

 

We have looked at the mission statement and have decided we need to update it.  Stay tuned for that!

 

 We have a good track record with strategic planning.  Since I started as dean in 2001, this will be our fifth strategic plan.  Prior plans were developed in 2002, 2004, 2007, and 2010.  Some processes have been more elaborate than others, with the first one in 2002 being the most demanding.  In fact, Mike Diamond was one of the facilitators for that plan!

 

What are some of the lessons I have learned about strategic planning?  They would be:

 

  1. Use an outside facilitator, and definitely do not, as the leader, try to be the facilitator for the process.  Also, don't use someone else from the organization as the facilitator.  No matter how well respected they are, they have an agenda and a perspective that is hard to overcome.
  2. Make sure the planning team is widely representative of the organization, and add some people from the outside who can provide a different perspective.
  3. Communicate with everyone who is not on the planning team about how the plan is shaping up.  Do not bring them a finished product that they are seeing for the first time.
  4. If you, as the leader, have something you definitely want in the strategic plan, get that in the mix early.  Do not wait until the end to throw that in.
  5. Don't be afraid to reach out to people outside the planning team to help out along the way.  They will be happy to be included and can make up for competencies the planning team may lack.

 

Stay tuned for the Albers School's new strategic plan!

 

 

 

Brad Tilden

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on October 29, 2013 at 4:10 PM PDT

Brad Tilden, President and CEO of Alaska Air Group, was the guest speaker for the Albers Executive Speaker Series on October 24th.   He opened his talk by describing the difficulties faced by the airline industry, noting that since the industry was born it has not been profitable on a cumulative basis.  Billions of dollars of capital has been destroyed and bankruptcy has been a frequent occurrence.  Of late, the industry has consolidated into four major players who control 90% of the US market.  That has left Alaska with 3.5% of the market, yet despite that small market share it has been one of the few profitable domestic airlines.

 

What are some of the reasons for this?  One that Tilden mentioned was that performance at the margin can really make a difference.  Where you decide to spend your last $100k can make a big difference, they have found.  Also, he credits Alaska's practice of bringing in business leaders from other organizations to learn from them has also been very helpful.  Two examples he cited were Jim Sinegal from Costco Wholesale and Orin Smith when he was at Starbucks.

 

How does one survive in an industry of big players?  In this capital intensive industry aren't their overwhelming economies of scale that a small player misses out on?  That may be true, said Tilden, but there are also diseconomies of scale.  Being smaller gives one less to worry about and brings fewer coordination problems.  Tilden also gave credit to Alaska's use of "Lean."  These process improvements have been especially helpful in aircraft maintenance, and the Lean method keeps you from thinking you have everything figured out.  You are much more open to continuous improvement.  Simplicity is also key - it is not a good idea to be flying 14 different airplane types, for example!

 

When asked what he wanted his legacy at Alaska to be, he replied he wanted the company to remain an independent, be known as a good employer to work for, and leave a strong leadership team in place.

 

Jim Sinegal talks about Sol Price as his mentor.  Who was Brad's mentor?  He mentioned his predecessor, Bill Ayer, and his father.  Both were good role models for him.

 

When asked what advice he would give to college students, he noted two things - (1) When it comes to your career, make sure you do something you really enjoy, and (2), Don't play it safe with your career.  Take risks.  Apply for that promotion if you want it.

 

Finally, he discussed the importance of the people in the organization and creating a culture where employees  feel empowered and going the extra mile is recognized.  He also stressed the importance of safety - both for customers and employees.

 

Brad Tilden drew nearly 300 people to Pigott Auditorium, and they left very impressed with the leader of Alaska Airlines.  It was both what he said but also how he said it.  His sincere and approachable demeanor impressed his listeners.

 

Vocation of the Business Leader Conference

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on October 13, 2013 at 3:10 PM PDT

From October 11 to 13 the Center for Business Ethics at SU organized a conference inspired by The Vocation of the Business Leader (VOTBL), an important document released by the Vatican that discusses the role of business in society.  VOTBL was released in March, 2012 by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. 

 

Why is VOTBL so important?  Catholic social teaching goes back to 1891 with the publication of Rerum Novarum, and the various encyclicals over the years have dealt with a number of issues related to business indirectly, not directly, and often in language that is hard to follow.  This is the first document from the Vatican to directly address the role of business in society and to do so in a readable and sympathetic format.  

One of the keynote speakers for the conference was Professor Michael Naughton, from the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis.  Naughton was one of the chief architects of the document.  In his opening address he gave a nice overview of the document.  He noted the document is asking "What is the nature of the good business?" and what does that mean for a business leader?  He reminded the audience of "The Logic of Gift," or basically what is known as, "To those who much is given, much is expected."  Business leaders have been given much, and therefore should be grateful for that.  That gratitude should motivate them to lead a good business.

 

What does a good business look like?  Naughton provided a nice framework for the six core principles of a good business:

 

"Good goods" - provide goods and services that meet true human needs and maintain solidarity with the poor by also meeting their basic needs.

 

"Good work" - create a workplace that supports the dignity of the worker and practice the principle of subsidiarity in the organizational structure.

 

"Good wealth" - create wealth in a sustainable manner and distribute it in a just fashion.

 

(Naughton recalled that we first met in 1991, when I was at Creighton University and part of a group organizing a conference to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Rerum Novarum.  Mike noted that he was just out of graduate school and happy to find a group of scholars with interests similar to his own.  He has gone on to be one of the world's leading scholars on Catholic Social Teaching in the economic sphere.)

 

The keynote address was followed by a series of panel discussions throughout the day on the 12th and into the morning of the 13th.  They were organized to provide different faith perspectives on the documents, so that not only Catholics were involved in the discussion.  The organizers worked hard to make this an interreligious event.  Protestant, Jewish, Hindu, Mormon, and other perspectives were included. 

 

The panels included a mix of highly regarded academics, such as Dr. Patricia Wehane from DePaul University, Dr. Ken Goodpaster from the University of St. Thomas, and Dr. Moses Pava, business dean at Yeshiva University.  They also included representatives from the business sector such as Sherri Flies from Costco Wholesale, Brian Mistele, founder of INRIX, and Mark Seidl from REI.

 

John Dienhart, our Frank Shrontz Endowed Chair in Professional Ethics, was the main organizer, but he had lots of help from colleagues in Albers and across the campus.  This included Professors Jessica Ludescher and Marc Cohen in Albers, and Michael Trice from STM and Fr. Peter Ely, SJ, SU's VP for Mission and Ministry.  There were plenty of students who assisted, especially John's graduate assistant JP McCarvel.

 

The conference was a big success.  We estimate that over 200 student, faculty, staff, and community members participated.  Congratulations to John and his team for putting it together!

 

VOTBL needs to be part of the student experience in the Albers School, and we are in process of figuring that out.  We have had some success with that, but more work needs to be done.  In the meantime, I encourage you to read VOTBL if you have not already done so!

 

Coursera

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on October 8, 2013 at 5:10 PM PDT

At the Western Association of Collegiate Schools of Business meeting this week we had the opportunity to hear from Andrew Ng, co-founder of Coursera.  It was fascinating to listen to the insights of one of the pioneers of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), which have become a hot topic in higher education.

According to Ng, his goal is to expand access to higher education, and he does not believe that MOOCs will drive traditional providers out of business.  He believes that Coursera's impact to date has been to bring non-consumers into the market.  He notes that 80% of Coursera's students already have an undergraduate degree and are working full time, and in that mode are too busy to pursue a traditional degree program.

Ng explained that in the traditional model, what is constant is time on task, but what is variable is learning.  In the mastery model used by MOOCs, that is flipped and what becomes constant is learning and time on task is the variable.

He also talked about their experience with peer grading, which is better than you might expect.  The median peer grade is highly correlated with instructor grades, plus students like peer grading because it allows them to calibrate their performance against that of their peers in ways that cannot happen in the traditional model.  Coursera's algorithms can also detect "tough" graders and adjust scores accordingly.

They have also had good experience with peer answers to student questions as opposed to instructor answers. Coursera is also finding that peers take more time to provide more thoughtful and detailed answers than instructors do!

Coursera is also having good luck with its verified completion certificate program.  Even though they provide significant financial aid for these certificates, revenues are strong and helping to monetize the company. Moreover, they feel they have solved the verification problem with scanned photo IDs and keyboard stoke recognition patterns.

Coursera is collecting lots of data on student learning, single-handedly amassing more data than all of higher ed has collected from the beginning of time.  Analyzing this data gives them important insights on human learning that will grow in value as more of it gets analyzed.

After his talk, Ng said that one thing becoming clear is that we will have to "flip" the classroom to stay relevant.  Faculty members or programs that do not do that will fall by the wayside.  Flipping the classroom means putting content up on the web for students to view outside of class and using class time for more higher level work.

Ng noted that completion rates for Coursera courses are high if you only look at students who complete the first assignment (45%), but for all students runs at a much lower 7%. 

Asked if Coursera had algorithms to identify the most talented students, Ng did not answer directly, but made it clear this was in the mix with some of his examples of what could be done.

Asked how he thought Coursera would be different in a few years, Ng responded that it was his hope that under-served groups would be able to receive financial aid to take a collection of Coursera courses (12 was the number he mentioned) that would allow them to find a job and enter the middle class in our society.  It was clear that Ng sees the most important role for Coursera is to create access to education and economic opportunity.

While Ng sees a noble role for MOOCs, others are worried that Coursera will put professors out of a job.  Ng's response is that MOOCs cannot replace the most important things that faculty do, which is to mentor and advise students.  If anything, technology will allow faculty to reduce the low value activity of lectures and grading homework and allow for more time for high value activity such as mentoring.

It's tempting to accept Ng's benign description of MOOCs, but something tells me it will not be so easy for the rest of us.  We will have to change to stay relevant.  What will happen to traditional providers if the mastery model gains greater acceptance?  What about the rising cost of higher education (not just what we charge, but what it costs to deliver in the traditional model)?  Will the data advantage of MOOCs give them a significant advantage in improving their product?  And if the faculty role changes to mentoring and advising, will we need as many faculty? 

All the sudden the future does not look so sanguine!

BAP Shines

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on August 29, 2013 at 2:08 PM PDT

My blog has been pretty quiet this summer.  One thing that should be mentioned is the terrific performance of our Beta Alpha Psi (BAP) students at the American Accounting Association (AAA) Annual Meeting earlier this month.  As faculty advisor Sarah Bee noted, the BAP team hit for the cycle!

 

The Single -- Superior Chapter Award - each BAP member is required to complete 32 hours of a combination of professional and service hours.  50% of BAP chapters receive Superior Chapter status.

 

The Double -- Project Run with It - students apply to participate in a consulting engagement at the AAA Conference with one of three local non-profits (in this case, Anaheim, CA).  They serve on a team with three students from other universities and develop a solution over a two day period.  Each non-profit case has six teams consulting for their organization. The non-profit personnel judge the presentations of the consulting teams.  The team which included Nick Brazell from SU took first place.  (Twelve chapters out of 320 took first place.)

 

The Triple -- Best Practice Award - each year BAP provides three themes for best practice presentations.  Chapters create an activity or activities which support the goals of the best practice themes. One of the themes last year was the development of soft skills in accounting students.  Our BAP students put on 12 workshops which were aligned with the AICPA Core Competencies to enhance our students' soft skills.  The students competed at the regional conference against 13 schools and took first place in the region.  The students involved in this project included Jennifer Manning, Adam Reed, Michael Watson, and Zachary Johnson.  First place best practice winners at the regional level compete against first place winners from the other seven regions at the national conference.  Our chapter also took first place at the annual conference.  (Three chapters out of 320 took first place.)

 

The Home Run -- Gold Chapter Award - Chapters submit a video that covers the year in review and provides compelling reasons why the chapter goes above and beyond the superior chapter requirements.  Katy Long and Eric Breidenstein spent well over one hundred hours developing this video.  This was the third year in a row that our chapter received a Gold Chapter Award, which does not happen very often!  Twelve out of 320 chapters received this award in 2013.

 

What a great tribute to the hard work and talents of our BAP students!  Congratulations to our students and to their professors!

 

 

 

 

Graduation 2013

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on June 17, 2013 at 8:06 AM PDT

Commencement took place at Key Arena on Sunday, June 16th - Father's Day!  Albers graduated 307 undergraduate students and 240 graduate students, who were among 1800 SU students graduating this year.  The undergraduate ceremony took place in the morning.  The graduate ceremony took place in the afternoon.

 

On Saturday afternoon, June 15th, Albers hosted a graduation reception for students and their families and friends.  Over 650 students, family members, friends, faculty, and staff were in attendance to recognize our graduates.

 

A few highlights for Albers on graduation day included Ha Nguyen receiving the Provost's Award as one of two undergraduate transfer students (tied) with the top GPA.  Ha is a finance major who transferred from South Seattle Community College and is from Vietnam. 

 

MBA graduate Susan Weiss was the student speaker in the graduate ceremony.  She works at Boeing and grew up in California and received her undergraduate degree at Cal Poly.

 

Kalison Shilvock received the Paul A. Volpe Award for the undergraduate business student graduating with the highest GPA.  Kalison is a marketing and economics major.  Thomas Smith received the Jerry A. Viscione Award, which goes to the graduating graduate student with the highest GPA.  Thomas is a MBA student.

 

It is always bitter sweet for faculty and staff to see our students graduate.  We have enjoyed working with them so much and will miss them when they are no longer on campus.  On the other hand, we know they have to get out there and make the world a better place!

 

Congratulations and best wishes to our 2013 graduates!  We expect big things from them and we know they will make us proud with their future contributions to the common good!

 

Diane Lockwood

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on June 7, 2013 at 8:06 AM PDT

Diane Lockwood is retiring from SU after being a member of our faculty since 1981!  Diane came to Albers to teach organizational behavior, but for most of her time here she has been teaching information systems.  What happened??  Well, I learned what happened at a dinner we had last night in her honor.

 

In the early 1980's our accrediting body, AACSB, mandated that business schools begin including information systems in the curriculum.  But Albers had no faculty trained in this area, and Albers was not alone.  Other schools faced a similar situation, so AACSB put on a series of training sessions to retool faculty.  When the call went out at Albers for volunteers to participate in the AACSB training, Diane stepped forward.  The rest is history, but it shows that (1) Diane is willing to take risks, and (2) Diane is a team player and willing to do what it takes to make our program successful!

 

Therefore, we are very grateful for Diane's more than three decades of service to SU and we will surely miss her!  That was the theme last night at the dinner as colleagues recounted how supportive she has been of them.

 

I recall that when I first joined SU in 2001, coming from Creighton University in Omaha, it was so comforting to discover that Diane was born and raised in Nebraska!  Here was someone I could trust to tell me exactly what she thought with no "Seattle Nice" to muddy things up.  It has definitely worked that way, right Diane?! :}

 

Over three decades, you get to teach a lot of students, and so in that regard Diane is leaving a very impressive legacy.  Jeff Greenaway is one of Diane's former students who attended the dinner.  He made the observation that Diane had not only had a profound impact on him, but also on many other people that she has never met.  Why??  Because many of the things Diane taught Jeff, Jeff used in his work over the years.  One example he cited was one of Diane's maxims - "In God we trust, everyone else bring data." :}

 

It turns out there was another former student at the dinner, namely her current colleague and co-author, Professor Terry Foster!  Terry earned his MBA at SU and so was also a student of Diane's!

 

In her time on our faculty, Diane published more than 30 journal articles, which averages about one article per year.  That is a great level of output to sustain over three decades at an institution such as Seattle U., one that stresses both good teaching and scholarship!  Diane also received two teaching awards during her time at SU, and served as Department Chair and on numerous committees at the school and university level.  Her excellence as a faculty member was recognized when she was named to hold the Robert O'Brien Endowed Chair in Business.  We estimate she taught 15 different classes over the course of her career, which is a high number of course preparations for a faculty member.  (Her former department chair, Pat Fleenor, claimed it was 14 more than he ever he did! :})

 

Diane is known for her passion for fishing, especially salmon fishing.  A few of her colleagues alluded to this and we look forward to her tall tales now that she will have more time to pursue them!

 

Diane will be recognized as an emeritus professor at the upcoming graduation ceremonies on June 16th.  Thank you, Diane, for your many contributions to Seattle University over the course of your career!!

 

 

 

Economics is Number One!

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on June 5, 2013 at 2:06 PM PDT

Economics is Number One! On June 3rd, Bloomberg BusinessWeek ranked Albers number one in the nation among undergraduate business programs in the specialty area of macroeconomics!!  What a great honor for our economics faculty!  The ranking is based on student survey responses asking them to rank specialty areas on a scale from A to F. A few weeks ago, Albers was ranked #3 in the nation in the area of sustainability in the same survey.

What are some of the special things that characterize our macroeconomics courses?  We offer a rigorous macroeconomics curriculum that focuses on both theory and its application.  Our upper level elective courses apply macro models to economic growth, business forecasting, and financial market topics. Students are able to attend regional and national forecasting presentations and conferences such as meetings of the Seattle Economics Club featuring a variety of presenters, monetary policy simulations hosted by the Pacific Northwest Regional Economic Conference, and presentations by Federal Reserve representatives from the San Francisco branch. Albers economics students also have numerous networking and mentoring opportunities with professionals in the field by interacting with the Department of Economics Advisory Board.

Student members of the Omicron Delta Epsilon, the Economics Honor Society, help organize and attend panel discussions on campus related to current economic events, such as the Great Recession, regional transportation policy, economic forecasting, and, most recently, the debt crisis.

In other words, there is a lot that contributes to student satisfaction with our teaching of macroeconomics, not the least of which is the faculty who teach our macro classes - such as Dean Peterson, Meena Rishi, Quan Le, Vladimir Bejan, and Erin Vernon.

What needs to be mentioned is that some of the students in the survey took their Introduction to Macroeconomics course from me, yet the department was able to overcome my poor performance and lead the nation!  Very impressive! :}

One advantage we have over other business schools is that economics is housed in the business school.  On many campuses, economics is in the College of Arts and Sciences.  Having economics in the business school encourages the economics faculty to relate macroeconomic topics very specifically to business issues.  That is surely something that students appreciate.

Our Number One ranking is not a flash in the pan, by the way.  In 2012, the same survey ranked us fifth in macro and in 2011 we were ranked 25th.  This is out of the more than 500 AACSB accredited business schools in the US.  The same for sustainability - in 2012 we were fourth in the nation and in 2011 we were ranked 17th.  In both 2011 and 2012 we were ranked seventh in business ethics, but did not crack the Top Ten in that category in 2013.

In a previous blog, of spoken of the struggles we have to reconcile the rankings.  On the one hand, our students, alumni, and friends in the business community get very excited about a ranking such as this.  When we put out the announcement, we received a lot of congratulations from others.  On the other hand, can you really figure out who is #1??  Someone has to be, and we are glad it was us in 2013!

To read the Bloomberg BusinessWeek story on our macroeconomics ranking, you can go to: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-06-03/the-best-undergraduate-b-schools-for-economics

To read the Bloomberg BusinessWeek story on our sustainability ranking, you can go to:

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-04-29/the-best-undergraduate-b-schools-for-sustainability.

 

 

 

 

 

Leo Hindery

Posted by Bill Thompson on May 30, 2013 at 7:05 AM PDT

Leo Hindery, Managing Partner of InterMedia Partners and former CEO of AT&T Broadband and The YES Network, visited campus on May 28th. Leo graduated from the Albers School as an economics major in 1969, so it was great to welcome him back to campus. He spent the day speaking to classes and finished off as the final speaker in the 2012-13 Albers Executive Speaker Series.

Throughout the day, Leo emphasized several themes that are import to him. First, he is concerned about the decline of manufacturing employment in the. US. He feels it is essential in order to supply decent jobs and income to a significant share of the population. He laments that the US does not have a manufacturing policy and tolerates what he sees as unfair competition from China. He notes that our manufacturing trade deficit largely stems from China, yet we let China manipulate its currency and heavily subsidize its industrial sector.

A second concern is the large federal deficit, which he ties to excesses in defense spending, social security, and Medicare. He noted how the deficits force us to borrow overseas from nations such as China, but was unsure of whether that gave China leverage on the US or the US on China. Either way, it is the case that if a nation is borrowing from abroad a nation must run a trade deficit -- the two go hand in hand, which is not a well understood phenomenon.

A third concern is the growing inequality in income and wealth in the US. He focused on the outsized compensation of CEOs, who on average earn more than 350 times what the average employee in the firm makes. It was not so long ago when that was 75 to 1. He traced this to the rise of the belief that maximizing shareholder value is the one and only duty of a firm, as well as the rise of "trickle down" economics.

This has all been solidified with corporate campaign contributions that distort the electoral process and are changing the effectiveness of government. He estimates that in the 2012 campaign cycle $8.5 billion was spent by industry to influence the election.

He believes that growing inequality and loss of voice in public policy are a civil rights issue. He feels that the SEC, FCC, public pension plans, and civil rights groups all have it within their power to challenge these trends and push back the rising tide of inequality.

Later in his career, Leo has become identified with the Democratic Party and like minded causes, so it was not a surprise that this CEO did not sound like the typical CEO. Earlier in the day, in answer to a question, he offered that one of his regrets is that he did not take up these issues earlier in his career -- that he was too focused on his business career. That may be, but if he had not been working so hard and established the track record of success he has, he would not have the same credibility and moral authority he has today to speak to these important issues.

It was great to have Leo Hindery on campus and a great opportunity for our students to hear from arguably one of Seattle University's most influential alums. Leo recently had back surgery and we may have asked him to do too much in one day, but he was a real trooper and rose to the occasion. That shows his commitment to SU is strong!

41st Annual Accounting Awards Banquet

Posted by Kevin Leahy on May 23, 2013 at 11:05 AM PDT

The 41st  Annual Accounting Awards Banquet was held on May 22nd.  It is one of the longest standing traditions at SU and a strong testimony to the vitality of our accounting program.  At the banquet, 22 students received scholarships, three received academic awards, and four received awards for their work in Beta Alpha Psi, the accounting academic honorary.

 

Those attending the banquet included over 100 accounting students, faculty, staff, advisory board members, and representatives from the professional community.  The event is impressive in demonstrating the strength of our accounting students and the support our program receives from the professional community.  The advisory board in particular has been extremely helpful in recent initiatives such as the valuation program and the move to establish an internal audit program.

 

Each year the Chair's Award goes to a student, staff member, faculty member, or professional who has provided exceptional service to the accounting program.  This year's recipient was Catherine Banks, who represents Ernst and Young on the department advisory board and has chaired the board for a number of years.  This award is very well deserved as Catherine has provided exceptional support to our program.  Congratulations and thank you to Catherine!

 

Jani Medeiros, Administrative Assistant for the department, and Bruce Koch, chair of the department, did a great job of organizing and orchestrating the event.   Congratulations to Bruce and Jani and to the department for maintaining this SU tradition for so many years!