As we adapt to life in a post COVID-19 world, we find ourselves celebrating and appreciating milestones that we took for granted in “normal times.” This academic year, the most memorable and special event was once again having an in-person commencement. That semi-annual tradition signified that we were returning to "real" campus life. As we evaluate the scope of change over the last few years, we know life before March 2020 is in the past. How we use our campus, will change. Students want multiple ways of interacting with us. But this is new reality is an environment that we are built for—where we will bring together a diverse group of learners, engaged in a practical business education, to advance in their careers.
When the world jumped into virtual work and online learning, UBalt was ready. We’ve been offering online learning since the late-1990’s and our expertise and research in online learning has really made a difference. Our institutional expertise allowed our faculty to pivot at the start of the pandemic, with ease and with little disruption. We recognize that the flexibility to deliver our programs in-person, online and perhaps in a hybrid format, is the way our students want to learn. We will continue to be a university that enables students to study where they are—and where it is convenient for them. It’s all about the impact we make on the lives of the people we serve.
I am especially proud to see the influence that our faculty are having in the larger community. There is a lot of criticism pointed at business schools that we aren’t doing enough to address the fundamental issues in our society. Some of this criticism is undoubtedly valid. Our accreditation body, the Association for the Advancement of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), insists that schools report where they intend to have societal impact and the results of those intentions. Here are some areas we hope to make a clear and present impact:
Addressing Racial Equality. The strength of the Merrick School of Business is bolstered because of our student population and employers know it. Our students are racially and ethnically diverse. Of course, you can see that in our demographics, but they also offer life experiences that no data book could ever reveal, and that is the secret of UBalt. Since we are classified as a minority-serving institution, employers can consider UBalt as a primary hiring source for talented people of color. We know that there are concrete and positive business outcomes when organizations have a diverse workforce. We help our business partners with their talent acquisition goals.
To further make an impact in racial equity, we have faculty working with different industries to diversify the professions. For example, Dr. Jan Williams, associate professor of accounting, serves on the Academic Executive Committee of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). On that committee she has spearheaded several initiatives to advance and diversify the accounting profession. Dr. Williams has also led the launch of the Merrick School’s National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) chapter. A group of accounting faculty are actively working with industry partners and some community colleges, to launch an accounting apprenticeship program that would enable high school students, from more challenged backgrounds, to learn about accounting firsthand through work. We believe that over time, these apprentices will have what they need to launch their careers. We are so excited about this that we would like our alumni to reach out to us and discuss with us more ways we can further our impact in this area.
In addition to all the accounting efforts, I would highlight Dr. Seema Iyer's leadership of Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance. Her efforts highlight the precise communities in Baltimore where disparities in a whole range of measures are correlated with racial disparities. We build awareness but we also build frameworks that allow community groups, businesses, and public sector agencies to set goals and measure achievements against these to reduce the disparities. She and her team just published this year's iteration of their “Vital Signs Report.”
Economic Development. Our home is Baltimore, and we want to see our city and state thrive. One way we impact the city is through our work in entrepreneurship. Faculty members have been working as mentors for a range of local neighborhood-based business and social enterprises. For example, Sanwar Sunny, assistant professor of entrepreneurship and founder and CEO of Dynamhex, has worked with the city to make a positive impact on our climate. He is deeply involved in helping create blue and green technologies that will help Maryland achieve climate goals.
Our Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation has a new collaboration that involves serving as a partner in The Maryland Innovation Extension, an Economic Development Administration (EDA) University Center and with other higher education state institutions. The focus is on aiding underrepresented groups in entrepreneurship. There will be workshops, short courses, and an executive-in-residence program available to those looking to create and grow a startup company. The CEI also sponsored the 10th Annual “Rise to the Challenge” business pitch competition in the spring. Clarrissa Cozart, a UBalt Ratcliffe Entrepreneurship Fellow, and founder of Tailored Fit, a fashion line for tall boys, was chosen as the evening's "Most Promising Business." She walked away with $15,000.
Our students and alumni seem to always bring their “A-game" to our competitions. The UBalt “Pitch for a Million” real estate development venture competition, has become a showcase to Baltimore-area developers. Our participants, known as the M&T Bank Real Estate Fellows, are mentored for ten weeks as they create their middle-market neighborhood real development pitches. The winning pitch came from a team of three UBalt alumni. Their pitch focused on the Broadway East neighborhood. It’s just a two mile walk from our campus. They won some initial seed funding of $15,000. They are now honing their idea so that they can pitch for a line-of-credit up to $1 million from our partner in this initiative—Baltimore Community Lending.
We are always grateful to have the Jacob France Institute as a valuable resource for the State and City. The JFI specializes in conducting economic, real estate and workforce development analyses for City, County, State, and national clients. In the past year, the JFI has completed the development of the economic development strategy for Prince George’s County, an assessment of the performance of Baltimore City’s nonprofit funded workforce development system and is working with the Maryland Department of Commerce and State Legislature to develop a strategy for Maryland to promote advanced technology investment and meet the workforce needs of the State’s manufacturing industry. That is just a few projects. In the coming year, the JFI will be developing the State of Maryland’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy for the Maryland Department of Commerce.
Thought Leadership. As a business school we cannot insulate ourselves from real-world situations facing companies. We know that it is important to lead by example. We have the capabilities to offer relevant thought leadership to help companies and their unique situations. In the last year, Kalyan Singhal, professor of operations management launched a new publication, Management and Business Review (MBR). The Merrick School sponsors the publication along with 10 other leading business schools. Professor Singhal works with colleagues at University of Michigan and Wharton to disseminate findings that bridges business practice, education, and academic research. You can read the recent issue for free. We are offering a complimentary MBR subscription to all University of Baltimore alumni. If you haven't received the link in an earlier email, please let us know and we will ensure you receive it.
I would be remiss if I didn’t share some great speakers we had in the past year. They bring so much experience and wisdom to our community. Appearing in a hybrid event format, we welcomed Diane Cho, a founding principal of Cho Benn Holback and current principal with the firm Quinn Evans, for our “Lessons from Legends,” event. I really admired how she has made an impact on the places we work and live in. As part of our “Team with the Dean” series, we hosted several guests. In the Merrick Exchange’s “Dean’s Corner,” you can find the YouTube links to most of the events. There are two that I wanted to highlight. We hosted Joseph Sullivan, Executive Chair and Chief Executive Officer at Allspring Global Investments and Mike Gill, current Secretary of the Maryland Dept. of Commerce and former Chairman of Evergreen Advisors. Both brought an interesting perspective, and it was great to have them here on campus with a few students.
I could go on about the past year’s work to make our community stronger, but I’ll let the articles in this issue of the Merrick Exchange tell the story. But you should walk away knowing this, we are helping businesses use the best of business knowledge. We are helping to create more wealth in Baltimore. We are particularly aiming to create equitable wealth and eliminate racial disparities in our city—and in the business professions. These are a few of the contributions you can expect from Merrick School of Business today and in the future.
Murray M. Dalziel, Ph.D.
Dean, Merrick School of Business