I don’t have to tell you that these are challenging times. We are at the crux of an important moment in history where we are facing the twin viruses of COVID-19 and systematic racism. Our entire community is committed to be a model for other universities in the new normal and a beacon of light for transformational business education.
Unlike most universities, UB actually mirrors the deep diversity of the modern workforce. The world is made up all races, genders, ages, knowledge-sets and backgrounds. It is something we tout and celebrate at UB. Clearly, our students’ life experiences are varied and that gives us the opportunity to work to prepare our students to accept people different from themselves. And for that, I have strong optimism for the future of the Merrick School of Business and the people we will impact along the way.
We talk about impact a lot in higher education. Nothing has impacted us all more than the pandemic. Many of you know we’ve been delivering an Online MBA since 1999. A matter of fact, we were the world’s first AACSB accredited school to obtain this distinction. So, when COVID-19 struck in March, and the UB campus closed, we were ready to transition our face-to-face classes to the virtual world with quality, speed and faculty experience. This is in contrast to many other business schools who were pondering whether they could even deliver courses online. The reality is that in “normal” times many of our students like the combination of coming to campus for some classes and taking other classes online. In the future, we believe that we will have to be even more flexible in terms of offering — some face-to-face, some totally online and some combination of both. Over the past few years more and more undergraduates have opted for online classes. We are particularly pleased that in the last year we received approval to deliver an online version of the B.S. in Business Administration program. Right now, all the business administration requirements for two specializations, general business and accounting, can be completed online. Therefore, in terms of delivery, we feel we are in the right place, at the right time.
We also believe that this is the right time and place to study business at Merrick School. Many of our undergraduate students are coming back to higher education to complete their degrees. What we have found is, that no matter the age (22 or even 66!) that when they complete a degree, it becomes a great pathway to economic mobility. In fact, we are particularly proud of UB’s 2019 ranking on the Social Mobility Index which was #21 of all institutions in the country.
Our graduate students are largely professional at work with over five years of work experience, looking to advance their own professional careers either within their company or industry or in a few cases to make a transition into a new industry. For both our undergraduate and graduate students we help them launch or expand professional and entrepreneurial careers. Our specializations are designed to enable our graduates to become business professionals or entrepreneurial leaders. Recently we added specializations in data analytics both to the B.S. in Business Administration program and the UB MBA. Students with these skills are in high-demand. We also are enabling our students to build careers around “risk,” which we think in tomorrow’s world, will be even more in-demand. We just launched the only undergraduate specialization in Maryland in Risk Management and Insurance to fill that need. And we now have a specialization in Cybersecurity in our MBA and a new degree for cyber-security professionals, M.S. in Cybersecurity Management.
But our students go into a whole range of professional careers and it is wonderful when we have alumni come back to campus. For example, last year I attended an annual Beta, Alpha, Psi event — where dozens of accounting alumni came back to network and others spoke on the panel. Current students love the fact that we frequently have alumni visitors return to campus (or virtually) during a given semester. I also enjoyed a dinner where two of our graduates of the Ratcliffe Entrepreneurship Fellows Program, who now work with two of Baltimore’s most promising start-up companies, came back to talk with our current Entrepreneurship Fellows.
What is pre-occupying my mind these days is what business is going to be like post-Covid19 and what that means for business education. Our faculty is deeply involved in working through this question. We had a competition for special summer research funding for faculty focused on the question. As a result, several faculty members are working on relevant and impactful projects. Take the work of professors Regina Bento and Lourdes White for instance, they are working on research geared toward managerial decision-making during a pandemic and the ethical issues and risks associated with it. And the work of professors Dan Gerlowski and Ting Zhang. They are working on research as to whether teleworking will be the new normal and the implications for real estate markets. These are just two, we actually have nine of these projects that our faculty are pursuing, all of which will further the compelling knowledge of the business world.
Every semester we have guest speakers come to campus and sit down with me for a fireside chat. And this fall I will interview several business leaders to see what their perspectives are for the post-COVID-19 business world. Look for future messages about this series which will be open to our students, faculty and members of the soon to be launched “Dean’s Circle.”
Lastly, a bit of UB news. Because of public health concerns we intend to operate remotely for the fall semester. But as I indicated from our experience with online education, we believe we can deliver business education with high-quality in this modality. Of course, we miss seeing our students and you our alumni, in-person. Please keep an eye out for the events we will be doing virtually. A nice byproduct of doing everything virtually is that more people are finding their way to our virtual events and they even find them more engaging.
Thank you again for all your support and take the time to explore this issue. There is a lot discover.
Murray M. Dalziel, Ph.D.
Merrick School of Business