Dean’s Blog

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!





René Ancinas

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on October 21, 2011 at 5:10 PM PDT


The Albers Executive Speaker Series kicked off for the year with René Ancinas, President and CEO of Port Blakely Companies, visiting on October 19th.  Port Blakely Companies is a fourth-generation family-owned business with forestry and real estate interests in the Pacific Northwest and New Zealand. Many of those who attended found René to be one of the best if not the best speaker they have listened to in the series.  That is saying a lot, because just about every major business leader in Seattle has participated in the series!


René talked about his background as a musician has influenced his approach to music.  He said some of his best role models for leadership have been musical conductors.  “Everybody leads from the seat they are in,” said René. The person in front cannot tell everyone what they should be doing.  The successful conductor gets them to lead themselves.  This is the model that René uses in his own leadership.


René suggested there are five key principles to leadership:


  1. Walk the walk.  You will not be successful if you say one thing and do another and do not lead by example.
  2. Take a servant leadership approach.  It is not about you, it is about the success of organization.
  3. Know your weaknesses.  Don’t try to be someone you are not.  Find people who are strong in ways you are not.
  4. Build a good team. Or, maybe he meant to say build a good orchestra! :}
  5. Develop and inspire people.  That is definitely the conductor model!


René noted that as a leader, he is more concerned with selecting people for the team based on their values alignment and what they bring as a person in terms of their beliefs and self-awareness.  Skill requirements serve as a filter for finding people, but skills are not the critical factor.


Finally, René used Prezi to do his presentation, a cloud based presentation software.  The audience loved it and I think he has inspired some new adopters!


The next speaker is Tod Nielsen, co-President at VMWare, on November 3rd.  You need to be there!





Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on October 12, 2011 at 8:10 AM PDT


The Western Association of Collegiate Schools of Business (WACSB) annual meeting was in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho October 9 to 11th.  Forty-five AACSB accredited schools from the western US were in attendance, with schools from Arizona to Alaska and Montana to Hawaii represented.  These meetings are always very valuable for networking with deans from other business schools in the region.  Some deans find this to be the most valuable meeting that they attend.

I had never been to Coeur D’Alene except to drive through on I-90.  I recommend getting off the highway!  Coeur D’Alene is a pleasant, manageable town with a great, big lake and plenty of scenery. Our meeting was at the Coeur D’Alene Resort, which is right on the lake.

Idaho, Idaho State, and Boise State were the host schools and they did a nice job or organizing the conference.  Unfortunately, they did not get much cooperation from Mother Nature, as it was cloudy and rainy most of the time.

These meetings always feature presentations and panel discussion on emerging issues for business schools.  The problem that frequently happens is that the program is not designed to appeal to the wide variety of schools in the audience.  For example, this meeting ranged between Research I schools such as Arizona and Oregon, to small privates such as California Lutheran and PLU, to medium sized publics such as Cal-Northridge and Eastern Washington.

One panel featured a discussion on commercialization of technology.   Unfortunately, it was addressed from the perspective of very large public schools, so it had almost no relevance for most schools in the audience, including SU.  The discussion would have been much more meaningful if the panelists represented the variety of schools in attendance.

Another panel discussion focused on financial strategies to address current budget problems.  While the panel was more representative, no private schools were in the group.  Granted, public institutions face more stress than privates, normally, but everyone is dealing with budget pressures.

A final panel focused on how schools support faculty research.  It did have a private school in the mix, but the schools were on the large size.  A more representative mix could have been developed for this discussion. 

One of the questions that came up in this final session was how to measure the quality and impact of faculty research.  It is an issue we are currently wrestling with in the Albers School.  There are no easy answers and I didn’t come across any at this session that could be used by Albers, even though I explicitly asked the panel and audience to share what they were doing.  The Research I schools have addressed this issue by coming up with a limited list of journals for their faculty to publish in.  The rest of us are not interested in that approach. 

In our case, we are now looking at classifying journals into four classes, but ideally we would come up with something which factors in other considerations.  The quality of a journal is not always easy to identify, and just because an article gets published does not mean it has impact or influence on practice or the discipline.  The ideal system would be multifaceted, but no one seems to know what that would actually look like.

What I did learn from this panel is that Albers does a reasonably good job of supporting faculty research, at least when compared to the four schools presenting.  Well, one was a Ph.D. granting school, so we don’t provide that level of support, but we don’t tell faculty there are only four journals they should publish in, either.

The final session was devoted to Beta Gamma Sigma, the academic honor society for AACSB accredited schools.  Once again, Seattle University was recognized as a premier school by BGS.  This is a credit to Fred DeKay, who serves as faculty advisor for BGS and managed to pull this off while on a leave of absence!  Way to go Fred!

Next year’s WASCB meeting will be at Lake Tahoe.  I am planning accordingly!




Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on October 5, 2011 at 8:10 AM PDT


Earlier this week a peer review team from NCAA visited campus to follow up on the self-study we submitted in April.  Both the self-study and the visit are important steps in our four year process to return to Division I athletics.  2011-12 is our fourth year.  If all goes well, we will be a Division I school in 2012-13.

The self-study was a large and complicated project.  It involved over 60 people from campus working on three sub-committees and a steering committee providing overall direction.  It included students, faculty, staff, and others.  It was a big group, but we intentionally made it a big group because we wanted broad campus participation.  For example, we purposely included student athletes as well as students who are not athletes.

The self-study resulted in a number of improvements being made within the Department of Athletics, but also improvements that impact the entire campus.  In that sense, the process was very helpful and I think the participants feel good about that.

As it now stands, all Division I schools must undergo the self-study process every ten years.  The self-study that we did is the same self-study that long standing Division I schools.  The difference for us was it was our first time through, and something every reclassifying school does in the third year of the four year process.

The NCAA has told us that we are one of the last schools to go through the process as it now exists.  They are studying how to change the certification process to make it more streamlined and less burdensome.

Having been through accreditation processes for AACSB (the business school accrediting body) and the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (the accrediting body for the university), I expected a thorough and burdensome accreditation process!  I wasn’t disappointed but I was not troubled by it either.  It was a good exercise for the university.  We were able to identify areas of strength and aspects of what we do that need improvement. 

Nevertheless, NCAA seems to be almost apologizing for the process and vowing to do better.  Well, that will be beneficial to whoever is involved in the next review cycle.  One thing that is clear is that the next review will not be another ten years from now, as the self-study cycle will become more frequent, perhaps requiring something every year!

In developing our self-study, we received great support from our NCAA liaison, Mira Colman.  Most striking about Mira was her responsiveness.  It was like she was sitting by the computer (or holding her Blackberry) waiting for our email so she could respond!  She couldn’t have been more supportive of us!

The sub-committees received exceptional support from Eric Guerra and Lauren Rochholz in Athletics.  They took care of all the details throughout the process, whether it was scheduling meeting rooms or posting our report material to the NCAA website.  They may have a different take than me on the burdens of the self-study process, though! :}

In a week or so we will receive the peer review team report and be able to respond to any issues by mid-December.  In February, the NCAA Division I Committee on Athletics Certification will meet to review our self-study and the peer review report and make a decision on our readiness to move to D1.  If all goes well, we will be a D1 school in July, 2012.

So far, so good!




Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on October 2, 2011 at 3:10 PM PDT


This past weekend I attended the inaugural of Fr. Tim Lannon, SJ as the 24th President of Creighton University.  When a President is inaugurated at a Jesuit university, the other Jesuit schools are asked to send a representative.  I was on the Creighton faculty for 19 years before coming to Seattle U., so I, along with Fr. Mike Bayard, SJ, represented SU at the installation.

I first got to know Fr. Lannon when I was on the Creighton faculty and he was President of Creighton Prep High School.  We were both asked to serve on a Supervisory Committee for the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.  It seems the fraternity had engaged in some inappropriate activity and was on the verge of being booted off campus.  The only way they could remain was under the direction of a supervisory committee consisting of Phi Psi alumni and faculty.  Yes, that means Fr. Lannon, the first alum to serve as President of Creighton, was a fraternity brother when he was a student.  (And I had to be inducted into the fraternity so I could serve as a faculty advisor!)

There is no doubt in my mind that Fr. Lannon will be a great President for Creighton.  He has a great way with people and was an inspiring leader at Creighton Prep and St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, where he was before returning to Creighton.

Returning to campus, I was able to see the tremendous improvements that have taken place with the campus infrastructure.  The campus footprint is much larger than when I left, and many buildings have been added during the presidency of Fr. John Schlegel, SJ.  While this is very impressive, it is not the campus facilities that make Creighton an outstanding academic institution.  Returning to campus after being gone for ten years, I was able to visit with a number of my former colleagues. It was a reminder of the many wonderful faculty and staff at Creighton.  They are good at what they do and dedicated to the university and its students (just like the faculty and staff at SU).  I dare not name names because I will leave someone out, but it is really the people that make Creighton a great institution!  And I know they will thrive under Fr. Lannon’s leadership!

The trip back was an opportunity to remind myself about the great network of 28 Jesuit universities in the US and the quality of education they deliver.  Seattle University is not alone in its mission and its success!  It is also a reminder that great leadership (Fr. Lannon at CU or Fr. Sundborg at SU) and great facilities (the new library at SU or the Harper Center at CU) are important for the success of a university, but not as important as the competence and dedication of the faculty and staff.