Dean’s Blog

Academy of Finance

Posted by Liz Wick on January 17, 2012 at 9:01 AM PST

Last week we launched our eighth annual Academy of Finance course. Thirty students from Franklin, Ballard, Chief Sealth, and Ingraham High Schools will be coming to campus for eight weeks and be taking classes on various business subjects, including marketing, economics, and business communications. They also receive information on the college application process and financial aid.


In presenting this program, we partner with the Seattle Public Schools and local chapter of the National Academy Foundation (NAF). NAF was founded in 1982 and works to prepare young people for college and career success by providing industry-focused curriculum to underserved students in four areas - Finance, Hospitality & Tourism, Information Technology, and Engineering. NAF's network has grown to 500 academies and serves more than 50,000 students across 41 states, D.C, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.


Students come to campus to take a class once a week. This forces them to navigate the campus (including parking!) and see for themselves what life on a college campus is like.


They take classes from Albers faculty and do a final project that integrates the course work they have taken. This year, the classes are in Business Communications, Operations, Ethics, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, and Economics. If students fulfill all requirements for the course, they earn a college credit from Seattle U.


Jessica Young is a student in our Master of Professional Accounting Program (MPAC) who works full-time at Boeing. Jessica is on the local NAF board, and was there to greet the students last week. Jessica noted that she participated in the first Academy of Finance program at SU back in 2005! As a result of the program, she really wanted to attend Albers, but ultimately chose to attend UW because of the cost. After graduating from UW with an accounting degree, she took a job with Boeing and is now a part-time student in our MPAC program. It is great to have Jessica back as a student at SU and to see her involvement with the Academy of Finance!


We are pleased to be able to partner with the Seattle Public Schools and the local NAF organization to work with these students each year. We are very grateful for the opportunity to contribute to their learning and inspire them to pursue business studies at the university level!


Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on January 3, 2012 at 10:01 AM PST

The start of 2012 is a good time to look back and recall the highlights of 2011.  All in all, it was another good year for the Albers School!


First, our AACSB accreditation was extended for another five years.  Given the high expectations of AACSB, reaccreditation is never a routine "ticket punch!"


We continued to do well in the rankings.  Our part-time MBA program was ranked 52nd by Business Week and 59th by US News and World Report.  Our Leadership EMBA was ranked 18th by US News, and our finance program 24th.  For the first time, our MBA program was ranked in the Grey Pinstripes Top 100.  Our undergraduate program was ranked 115th by US News, and our accounting and finance programs were in the US News Top 25.  Business Week ranked our undergraduate program 4th in sustainability and 7th in business ethics.


We developed and launched our Health Leadership EMBA program, getting all the necessary approvals within a six month period and beginning to recruit in May for an August class.  Now that is aggressive!


Our students showed they perform at a high level of accomplishment.  Our SIFE team finished ninth in the nation and our Beta Alpha Psi chapter was one of only seven in the nation to receive the Gold Chapter Award.  Our graduate students won the Pacific Northwest Case Competition and the Seattle Chartered Financial Analyst Institute Investment Research Challenge.  Our Graduate Leadership Formation Specialization students did a stellar job in organizing the second annual Red Winged Leadership Award, presented to Global Visionaries.


Our faculty had an excellent year, as well.  Rex Toh received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly and three faculty - Jot Yau, Carl Obermiller, and Greg Magnan - earned "Big Hit" recognition for their publications in top journals in their disciplines.  The scholarship of all our faculty was highlighted with our first Celebration of Scholarship event in February.  Of course, they are also continuing with their excellent work in the classroom!


We launched the Center for Business Ethics in June, which is supported by an endowment created by the donations of a number of generous benefactors.  We also launched the PMI China Initiative, which will include a series of events exploring the economic integration of China and the US.


The Albers Executive Speaker Series had another good year, featuring leaders such as Jim Albaugh, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Craig Jelinek, CEO of Costco Wholesale, Kimberly Harris, CEO of Puget Sound Energy, and Tun Channareth, Nobel Peace Prize winner.


On a personal level, contrary to popular belief, the launching of Dean Blog was not my top highlight of the year.  That would have to be the April 1st edition of Dean Spam! :}




Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on December 22, 2011 at 9:12 AM PST


On November 1st I wrote about our AACSB accreditation, discussing the visit of the peer review team looking at extending our accreditation for another five years (“reaffirmation” is what AACSB calls it).


 This week we received the good news that the AACSB Board of Directors has approved the team’s recommendation that our accreditation be extended!  The extension of our accreditation reflects the excellent work our faculty and staff are doing to provide an outstanding education to our students!  There is a lot of work that needs to be done to meet AACSB’s high expectations, and it is our faculty and staff that get the work done!


In the review, the visiting team gave Albers high marks in several areas:


  • We were commended for an effective strategic planning process that drives program innovation.
  • Our student advising programs were identified as doing excellent work in supporting student needs.
  • The Albers Placement Center was highlighted for its work in assisting students with career planning.
  • Our outreach to the business community through our advisory boards was highlighted, and in particular our engagement of boards in the strategic planning process and in faculty recruiting.
  • Our Mentor Program was spotlighted for the opportunities it provides to students.


The report also encouraged us to continue our efforts to enhance and support the quality and impact of faculty scholarship and to seek ways to expand our financial resources.


AACSB is the premier business accrediting body worldwide.  Currently, there are 643 accredited schools in 43 countries, and less than 5% of the world’s business schools are accredited.  AACSB is all about quality business education and continuous improvement.  Once you are accredited, you want to make sure you stay accredited!


As I mentioned on November 1, re-accreditation is not automatic and requires our continuous attention.  It is not something you can pull together in the six months before the visit.  A visiting team will be back in Fall, 2016.  In the meantime, we will maintain our commitment to quality business education and continuous improvement!


Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2012!


Undergrad Leadership Program

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on December 6, 2011 at 4:12 PM PST


Last week, Susan Weihrich, Teresa Ling, and I met with students from our Undergraduate Leadership Program.  They invited us for breakfast, so of course we had to show up!  Sharon Lobel is the faculty member overseeing the program, and she was there as well.  


This is an impressive group of students who have obviously benefitted from Sharon’s guidance.  They are going to significantly contribute to the Albers School over the next two or three years (they are sophomores and juniors).  Many of them are already taking on leadership roles in some of the student organizations in the Albers School, and they are looking for other ways to contribute to our “ecosystem.”


One initiative they are launching is the Albers Leadership Club.  This will be a vehicle for them to continue contributing to the school.  One function of this club will be to encourage all club leaders to come together and share best practices while pursuing collaborative activities.  We all agree that our student organizations can have a greater impact and events will be more successful if the clubs collaborate with each other.


In answer to their question about what more they could do for Albers, we challenged them with several areas, including “what should we be doing to recruit more freshmen to the Albers School?” and “how can we get more undergraduate students to attend the Albers Executive Speaker Series?”  Our speakers always do a great job and I am always disappointed with the low turnout of undergraduate students who can really benefit from attending!


The students asked some great questions.  At one point they asked what leadership roles I had when I was an undergraduate student at LaSalle University back in the day.  Now that is an interesting question and one I had not thought about!  I was able to remember being President of the Economics Club and being the student representative at meetings of the Department of Economics.  


But what really seemed to interest them was me being part of a start-up club called Gallery Associates.  Our role was to support the newly opened art gallery at the university, and I was able to tell them that it was only because of my art history teacher that I was inspired to get involved with this group!  After all, economists are left-brained people, right, and no one is more so than me, so how in the world did I end up in the art gallery??


We reminded them that there are many opportunities for leadership, and they do not all flow from one’s rank or title.  One can lead by seeing something that needs to be addressed and taking the initiative to fix it.


It was very inspiring for the three of us to spend time with this group of student leaders.  They are a talented and savvy bunch, and we look forward to seeing the contributions to the Albers School and SU that they will make during their time here, and the impact they will have on their profession and community after graduation!




Contact Hours

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on December 4, 2011 at 4:12 PM PST


Contact Hours??  A blog about contact hours??  Why blog about contact hours, and what are they anyway?


Contact hours are the time faculty is supposed to spend working with students in a course.  A contact hour is actually 50 minutes, not 60.  Our typical three credit graduate course, for example, is supposed to have thirty contact hours.  The typical five credit undergraduate class is supposed to have fifty contact hours.


It turns out that with some frequency some of our graduate courses are getting shorted contact hours.  Every winter quarter it seems that some classes are meeting only nine times, meaning only 27 contact hours.  That's a 10% shortfall for the course!  In the eight week summer term, some of our graduate classes have closer to 26 contact hours.


I am not sure how long this problem has been there, but we finally decided to do something about it.  Beginning with the Spring, 2012 quarter, we will start adding time to courses that would otherwise be shorted.  For example, a ten week class that meets only nine times and would normally run from 6:00 to 8:40 PM will now meet each evening from 6:00 to 8:55 PM.  The times will be on the schedule and students and faculty will know in advance and be able to plan accordingly.


I really don’t know why we let this situation go on for so long.  Our graduate classes don’t have many contact hours to begin with, so missing them shortchanges students and makes it impossible for faculty to cover the material they planned to cover.


It is an example of getting used to something that we should have recognized as being incompatible with academic excellence.  I think the lesson is, “Be Vigilant!”  Big or small, there are lots of things out there that we can change for the better!




Recognizing Faculty

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on December 4, 2011 at 3:12 PM PST


On December 2nd we installed three faculty as endowed chairs and professors.  Saluting these faculty in this way allows us to recognize their excellent work in the Albers School.


Carl Obermiller was installed as the third holder of the George Albers Professorship of Business.  Carl teaches courses in marketing and social issues, marketing metrics, and new product development.  He has been a driving force behind our sustainability specialization in the MBA program and now serves as co-chair of SU’s Sustainability Committee.  He has produced high quality scholarship, publishing in such highly regarded journals as the Journal of Marketing Research, the Journal of Consumer Behavior, the Journal of Business Research, and the Journal of Advertising.  At the ceremony, Carl commented that his latest research was on “Do consumers really listen to marketers?”  Great question!


The Albers family was a generous supporter of SU and the Albers School, and to honor that support our school was named the Albers School in the early 1970’s.  In 2001, we received a generous endowment from the estate of Genevieve Albers which supports the Albers Professorships (and other activities in the school).  George Albers was Genevieve’s father and a successful business man who established a successful food processing business that was sold to Carnation, which was then bought by Nestlé.  The Albers brand is still used today by Nestlé for corn meal and grits!


Chips Chipalkatti was installed as the fourteenth holder of the Robert D. O’Brien Endowed Chair in Business.  Chips teaches in the areas of financial accounting and accounting for intangible assets.  He has been instrumental in the development of our business valuation program.  Chips has been a very successful scholar, with publications in the Journal of Accounting Research, Journal of International Accounting Research, the CPA Journal and the International Journal of Financial Services Management.  In his remarks, Chips noted he is busy organizing a business valuation conference in Seattle in late February.


Robert O’Brien served on SU’s Board of Regents from 1963 to 1971 and then was a founding member of the SU Board of Trustees from 1971 to 1999.  He is given major credit for helping SU through the financial difficulties it experienced in the 1970’s.  He had a lengthy career at Kenworth Motor Truck from 1943 to 1958 and then PACCAR beginning in 1958, retiring as Chairman in 1978.


Jot Yau was installed as the second holder of the Dr. Khalil Dibee Endowed Chair in Finance.  The chair was established with a generous donation from Gary Brinson to honor Dr. Dibee, who was a teacher and mentor to Brinson while he was a student at SU.  Brinson went on to a legendary career in the investment industry, but never forgot the support he received from Dr. Dibee.


Jot teaches primarily in the areas of investments, portfolio management, and hedge funds.  He has guided many students to pursue a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation.  Jot has been a dedicated scholar, publishing in journals such as the Journal of International Business Studies, Journal of Futures Markets, Financial Analysts Journal, and the Journal of Alternative Investments.  He has also published two books, including one on socially responsible investing.  In this remarks, Jot noted that one thing he wanted to accomplish as the endowed chair was to strengthen our ties with Seattle’s finance community.


Khalil Dibee retired from our faculty in 1994 after nearly 30 years of teaching at SU.  He was known for his rigorous classes and commitment to academic excellence. Jot Yau, Chips Chipalkatti, and Carl Obermiller are carrying on that legacy of academic rigor and commitment to excellence!  We are blessed to have them as colleagues!


Tod Nielsen

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on November 4, 2011 at 1:11 PM PDT


On November 3rd, Tod Nielsen, Applications Platform co-President at VMware, spoke at the Albers Executive Speaker Series.  Tod has more than 20 years of experience in the software industry, including previous positions at Oracle, Borland Software, Microsoft, and BEA Systems.  He had plenty of good advice and insight to share with our students.  Tod is also the brother of Melore Nielsen, SU’s Dean of Admissions.


Tod made a presentation on lessons he has learned over the course of his career and framed them as Five Pillars.  The first pillar is the importance of “Milestones.”  Everyone can look back and see certain critical moments or decisions along the path that one takes.  It is also important to look forward, to think about where you want to be in five years, and what the things are that must happen to get there.  The five year plan may not materialize, but it is important to have one.


The second pillar is “Diversity.”  Tod emphasized the importance of having a diversity of experiences early in your career that you can build on later in your career.  He encouraged students to make lateral moves in the organization in order to build that experience, something people often resist.  He also noted the benefit of working in a dysfunctional organization or for an ineffective leader.  That way you learn what does not work!


The third pillar is the “Mentor.”  He stressed the importance of finding mentors over the course of one’s career.  Their advice will frequently be very valuable.  It is also important to find a mentor who does not think like you and can offer a different perspective.


“Customers” are the fourth pillar.  You need to remember that the product is for the customer, so make sure to find out what they want and need.  Tod also emphasized the need to talk to a diverse set of customers, and not extrapolate from a narrow group to a broader audience.


The final pillar is to “Give Back.”  He stressed the need to leave the world a better place than you found it.  This needs to include your time, talent, and treasure, but especially your time and talent.


In the Q&A, Tod gave a number of important insights on the current and future state of the technology industry.  He also said the following:


What is the most important characteristic of a leader?  The ability to listen to others.  Too few leaders do it, and most of the time the people in the organization know what is going wrong and how to fix it.


What is the most important thing you look for in hiring a manager?  It’s passion for what a person does.  Domain expertise is overrated.


What keeps you up at night about VMware?  The pace of innovation – is the company too far ahead of customers and the market?


All in all, it was a fun and interesting evening.  Tod’s talk will be available via podcast.  Check at


The next speaker series event is on January 24th, when John Stanton visits.  Stanton is a highly regarded leader in the wireless industry.





Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on November 1, 2011 at 1:11 PM PDT


AACSB International is the premier accrediting body for business schools.  Albers is one of 637 schools worldwide (41 countries) with AACSB accreditation, which amounts to less than 5% of the world’s business schools.  For more information on AACSB, you can go to


Every five years, schools go through a process of reaffirming their accreditation.  This is our year for reaffirmation.


Back in the summer we submitted a report on our programs and operations.  That report was reviewed by a peer review team consisting of three current or former deans.  Our team consists of Dean Ali Malekzadeh, from Kansas State, Dr. Rich Flaherty, former dean at UNLV, and Dr. Abol Jalilvand, former dean at Loyola of Chicago.  This is a very experienced and respected team.  If we can meet their expectations, we can meet any team’s expectations!


After reviewing our report and asking for additional information, the peer review team visited our campus October 30 to November 1.  They met with advisory board members on Sunday, October 30th.  Throughout the day on Monday, October 31st, they met with Albers faculty, staff, and students while also reviewing files and documents.  Near the end of the day they began to draft their report.  Tuesday morning, November 1st, they delivered their report and recommendation to President Sundborg and Provost Crawford.


The team report makes a recommendation on whether our accreditation should be extended for another five years.  That recommendation will go to the AACSB Maintenance of Accreditation Committee (MAC).  The MAC will meet in December and decide to accept the report or send it back to the peer review team for further consideration.  If all goes well, the MAC accepts a recommendation to affirm accreditation and that gets forwarded to the AACSB Board of Directors for their approval shortly thereafter.  Reaffirmation is then formally announced at the AACSB annual meeting in April.


Reaffirmation is not a fete accompli.  About 30% of schools going up for reaffirmation are placed on continuing review, which means that reaffirmation is postponed for a year or two while they work to address areas where they may not be meeting AACSB expectations.  For example, problems frequently occur with the Assurance of Learning (aka “assessment”) system or with faculty qualifications, such as when schools do not have enough research active faculty.


I think we put together a solid report, and did so within the mere 50 pages that AACSB allows.  Of course, there is no limit to the number of appendices you can submit, so that ran 218 pages! :} Kudos go to Susan Weihrich and her two graduate assistants, Maria Klink and Zoey Wu, for producing our report.


From what I have heard, our faculty and staff did a great job of preparing themselves to meet with the team.  I was not a part of the meetings – don’t want the dean in there influencing people’s answers – but several people said, “You would have been really proud of how we answered the team’s questions!”  That was great to hear and I am sure it will be reflected in our report.


So far, so good, but check back later when the process is further along.



Global Action Day

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on October 26, 2011 at 9:10 AM PDT

November 1st has been proclaimed Global Action Day by Seattle mayor Mike McGinn.  It is an opportunity to recognize the accomplishments of our state’s global development sector and work for more collaboration and increased impact worldwide.   The local organizations involved in global development include Global Washington, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Global Partnerships, and the Initiative for Global Development.


Way back in the day, global development (called economic development back then) was my field of research in graduate school and my dissertation was in the field – “The Demand for Labor on Small Farms in Less Developed Countries: Implications for Employment Generation.”  You can tell how old that is – Less Developed Countries is not a term we use anymore!  Emerging Nations is the proper term these days.  When I was on the faculty at Creighton, each year I would teach the International Economic Development course to undergraduate students.


Now, of course, I am not doing research and teaching in global development, but we have three economists on our faculty who are -- Meena Rishi, Quan Le, and Claus Pörtner.  This is a significant commitment on the part of the Albers School to this important sector.


More importantly, we are offering the International Economic Development (IED) specialization and minor to undergraduate students.  These programs allow students to take specialized coursework in the area, and students also must combine that with a complementary experience – study abroad in an emerging nation or an internship with an NGO doing development work.


Fortunately, our IED program can draw upon the global development sector here in Seattle.  Although we would prefer IED students to go abroad, when that is not possible there is a long list of local organizations they can work with.  We are very fortunate in that regard, as there are few metro areas in the nation that offer a global development sector to draw upon.


It is easy to see how the IED is at the heart of the SU mission.  If we are truly to be “leaders for a just and humane world,” a key concern must be how to raise the standard of living for so many of the world’s people.  If we are concerned about global education, the issue of global development has to be one of the greatest challenges to address.  Today, we have 15 economics majors specializing in IED and 9 IED minors.  It is great to see so many SU students inspired to engage so deeply with the global development challenge.




Why Graduate School?

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on October 22, 2011 at 11:10 AM PDT


The College Success Foundation (CSF) helps low income and underserved students to graduate from college and succeed in life.  The foundation does great work, and many SU students and alumni have benefitted from their assistance.


On October 22nd CSF hosted its students and alumni on the SU campus to explore attending graduate and professional school.  CSF asked me to talk to students about why they should consider going on for that next degree.  Here are some of the things I told them:


The first thing to know is that graduate or professional school is going to be a lot of work and it will be more focused than a traditional undergraduate degree.  Therefore, it is important to have a passion for what you choose to study. 


One of the negatives about attending graduate school is the opportunity cost involved.  Namely, while you are going to school, you are not in the workforce earning income.  Of course, there are many programs designed for people to go to school and work full time at the same time, what we call part time programs.  For example, virtually all of the graduate programs at Seattle University are programs that work that way. 


Of course, there is a price to pay with these programs in terms of not having as much time for family and recreation for the two or three or four years of your study.  Yet many, many students have successfully navigated that path and feel they made the right decision.



Most people know how an undergraduate degree boosts employment prospects as well as income.  So for example, in 2010 the unemployment rate for people with a high school diploma averaged 10.3% compared to 5.4% for people with bachelor’s degrees.  Median weekly earnings for people with a bachelor’s degree was over $1000 in 2010, compared to a bit over $600 for high school graduates. 


The situation for people with master’s and professional degrees is striking.  People with a master’s degree, any master’s degree, had an unemployment rate of 4% in 2010.  Those with professional degrees had an unemployment rate of 2.4%, and those with doctoral degrees had an unemployment rate of 1.9%. 


There is a similar impact on earnings.  Those with doctoral and professional degrees had weekly earnings 50 and 60% higher than those with bachelor’s degrees, respectively.  Master’s degree holders earned about 25% more.


Another way to look at this is to look at estimates of life time earnings from the US Census Bureau.  Depending on your race and gender, the increase in life time earnings of a master’s degree over a bachelor’s degree ranges from 16 to 34%.  For a professional degree from 37 to 67% , and for a Doctoral degree between 30% to 55%.


Let’s look at the numbers for Hispanic males – high school lifetime earnings are about $1.31 million, undergrad degree $2.1 million, master’s degree $2.8 million, and professional and doctoral degrees $3.1 million.


Money is not everything, so why else would you go on to get a higher degree?  Researchers have suggested that it not money that really motivates people to do good work and be successful and enjoy going to work every day.  People need a certain amount of income to live on and don’t want to feel taken advantage of.  They do want to be paid for what they do, but that is not the real source of their satisfaction.


Daniel Pink has summarized the research into three things -- autonomy, mastery, and purpose.  Autonomy means that we have control over our lives and our situation.  You don’t want someone telling you want to do all the time.  You want to be able to use your own good judgment.  One would think that the more education you have, the easier it is to find a situation where you have autonomy, and that the organization where you work is going to trust you to do your job well.


Mastery means you want to be good at what you do.  Well, doesn’t a graduate degree contribute to that??  Whatever it is you are passionate about, presumably more education makes you better at it and improves your skill set.


The final aspect is purpose, which means that you feel like you are doing really important work and the organization that you represent is involved in an important mission.  I don’t think you need a graduate degree to achieve purpose, but it may make it easier to find because your education helps you find out about you.  In other words, your graduate education allows you to find what your passion is, what is important to you, and what your core values are.  This enables you to go out and find a situation where there is alignment with your values and passions.


A graduate degree can impact these three important non-monetary factors, not just your earnings power.  These are compelling reasons to be thinking about that next degree!