When I took the helm in the Merrick School of Business five years ago, I knew it would be an incredibly exciting time to lead my alma mater. At the time I was hired, the University had established aggressive enrollment growth plans and capital improvement plans. These plans have required strong leadership and relationship building by all of us. Today we see some of that hard work come to fruition with the construction of new campus buildings and the implementation of several new academic programs across the institution.
In my role as dean, I’ve had the opportunity to build relationships and alliances with our vast alumni base and with some of the state’s most influential business and community leaders. But the true reason I come to the office each day—and what I cherish most of all—is being the voice for our students, faculty and staff.
Though we are still working in the midst of tough economic times, and some now question the cost and value of higher education, we power on—knowing that what we teach today promises significant returns for our graduates, relevancy to today’s and tomorrow’s workplace, and stability of growth and innovation in the state’s economy.
Make no mistake; we realize that we are functioning in an environment of shrinking operational budgets with the expectation of providing our students with an excellent business education. In fact, over the last five years the Merrick School’s state-funded operating budget per student has averaged around $4,395, while our endowment per student has averaged $8,990. These figures show that our alumni and the business community are committed to supporting the school. It is validation that they believe in Merrick’s leadership and how we are transforming the business school to meet the needs of a diverse 21st century work place.
With the financial help of our alumni and friends we’ve been able to:
- develop an honors program in business and accounting;
- start a mentorship program building on the success of a new required course in personal and professional skills in business;
- expand student internship and study abroad opportunities;
- strengthen writing, oral and information literacy skill development in our undergraduate programs;
- launch the Merrick Speakers Series and a student-focused Lessons from Legends series;
- build an entrepreneurship center with financially-backed business plan competitions;
- unveil several new academic programs, and redesign a number of others;
- recruit and retain top-notch faculty, and
- exceed our financial goal for the recent Uniquely UB capital campaign.
All of these activities—plus many others—rely on the generosity of advisory board members, alumni and friends who unselfishly give their time, talent, and treasure to support the mission of the Merrick School. Without these individuals and the professional relationships in which our work is rooted, the ability to provide opportunities to enhance student success would be compromised. This is why the faculty, staff and I work tirelessly to move the school forward—it is for our students and their future success as the next generation of managerial talent. The recent gift by the Merrick School Advisory Boards of the Beta Gamma Sigma bronze key (located in the lobby of our William H. Thumel Sr. Business Center) is a tangible reminder of the collective commitment to instill honor, wisdom and earnestness in our students.
In this issue of the Merrick Exchange, we are sharing stories highlighting who we are as a school. Though it is difficult to individually acknowledge all of our faculty scholarship, we share a few stories of faculty making their mark in research and with their service. Executive in Residence J.C. Weiss was recently bestowed the University System of Maryland’s Faculty Award for Public Service; professors Al Bento and Anil Aggarwal recently published a book on cloud computing; Danielle Fowler, associate professor and director of UB’s Cyber Discovery Camp, shared her expertise at an elementary school’s STEM fair; Dong Chen, assistant professor of finance, received the Merrick School’s Outstanding Article of the Year Award for his publication in the Journal of Banking & Finance entitled “Classified boards, the cost of debt, and firm performance.” Last but not least, we bid farewell to six retirees and recognize their combined 181 years of service to MSB's students.
The stories about our students are also remarkable. Two Merrick students won the University’s Inspired Discoveries undergraduate research competition. Seniors John Hall and Josh Ziggas presented research which analyzed direct mail marketing data as it pertained to the real estate industry and utilized what they learned in Professor Deepak Sharma’s statistics class to formulate their research.
We also welcomed a new honor society to campus this spring. Sixty-four students were part of the founding chapter of the new entrepreneurship honor society, Sigma Nu Tau. These students were part of a larger group of 154 students who were inducted into one of our five honor societies. Lastly, we share student experiences in our two global field studies this year—one to Peru and one to Brazil.
As I reflect back and look at how my leadership has shaped the empowerment of many, I’m as proud today as the day I started. I am humbled by the fact that the relationships I’ve developed have blossomed into friendships and that the students who I care so much for are getting the quality education they deserve. These vignettes of success shed some light on what makes this school so special, and why we all have pride in what we are doing here.
Thank you so much for having the trust in me to lead this great school and I look forward to all of our future successes as your dean and an alumna.
With UB pride,
Darlene Brannigan Smith, Ph.D.