A year ago the Merrick School of Business set out to develop a new strategic plan. I believe the plan that we developed is the boldest in our history. It incorporates the thoughts of faculty, staff, students, administrators, alumni and business leaders—150 intelligent and engaged participants in all. Through focused discussions, we explored the thoughts of our stakeholders and discovered where each group hope the business school will be in the next five years.
What came out of this process is a strong collective voice for the School’s strategic vision. From there, three overarching values statements emerged and were deemed critical to our success:
- continuing our commitment to quality,
- fostering a learner-centered environment, and
- being actively engaged in our community.
Continuing our trajectory of academic excellence is the focus of this strategic plan. Our vision is to be a school of choice for students with great potential, energized by a faculty with strong research and teaching capabilities, and supported by business leaders with high expectations for thought leadership and talent.
As a learning community, our mission is to transform and empower students while remaining true to our legacy of serving non-traditional and first-generation college students. We recognize that the key to our students’ success is to foster an intellectual and professional learning environment that brings theory to practice. We are dedicated to providing exactly that.
The plan reveals five priorities, each of which drives the document. Interwoven and mutually reinforcing, these collective priorities position the Merrick School of Business to achieve its mission of transforming and empowering its students.
How will we achieve our vision? One way will be to enhance the academic performance and career growth of our students. The complexities and competitiveness of the global marketplace demand that our graduates enter the workforce fully equipped, well-rounded, and focused on their proposed paths to success. Functional skills are not enough. To be competitive, students must be critical thinkers who can comprehensively explore issues and ideas before formulating an opinion. They must be able to think creatively and communicate effectively. They must have a high degree of emotional intelligence, including the ability to take responsibility for their emotions and understand how the choices they make affect their professional relationships.
We must clearly articulate the realities of the global marketplace; the world’s economies are increasingly interconnected. To be prepared for a career in an increasingly competitive globalized business environment, students must have well-developed global perspectives as part of their business management education. In addition to learning the technical skills that facilitate this new reality, they also require an awareness of the socio-economic and political conditions that drive globalization. Our students must develop the capacity to build partnerships and collaborate across borders, while they consistently expand their cultural awareness and global thinking.
When we think about the 21st-century university, we know that we must create a culture of innovation that delivers distinctive programs and responds to market needs. Given the significant shifts occurring in the American higher education system, the School must reorganize itself to encourage and reward both incremental and radical innovation in its programs and their delivery. Our teaching must add significant value to students and the markets in which they will operate. The digital economy, combined with an increasing scarcity of resources, requires the continuous redesign of degrees, delivery modalities and organizational processes.
And who drives all the academic and learning opportunities? Well, our faculty of course. They are the operating principle through which our mission is successfully completed—and so attracting and retaining high quality faculty are our dual top priorities. Faculty add significant value to our students and their employers with world-class teaching; to the community at large by generating knowledge and offering national leadership in this pursuit; and to the business community, non-profit organizations, and the government by providing service.
Lastly, I want to talk about the importance of alumni and corporate support in achieving our vision. The strength of a business school is equated with the power of its connections to alumni and the broader business community. The School’s drive to become the very best in its class is only possible through the hard work, dedication and support of alumni and our supporters in the business world. Whether by making opportunities or jobs available to students, endowing faculty positions, providing scholarships, investing in our Centers of Excellence, funding the Speaker Series, or supporting the school’s learning environment, these strong ties benefit the School in ways that are simply immeasurable.
We have set forth on a course to attain greatness. It is a bold and exciting challenge for all of us—but from my vantage point we are headed there. Climbing 30 places in the 2012 U.S. News & World Report rankings is but one important milestone in our journey. I sincerely hope you will join me in our efforts.
With UB Pride,
Darlene B. Smith, Ph.D.