While great professors and strong academics are essential components of a successful business school, much more goes on behind the scenes to ensure that students have an optimal experience. Business schools also need to engage in fundraising, community-building, and relationship-building with other organizations and institutions.
Mark Bannister, Dean of the College of Business and Entrepreneurship at Fort Hays State University, discussed the importance of these and other factors in an interview with MBAPrograms.org. In addition to serving as the dean of FHSU's business school, Bannister, a Fort Hays alum himself, is a Senior Policy Fellow of the Docking Institute of Public Affairs. He previously served as chair of the school's Department of Information Networking and Telecommunications and teaches courses on information technology management and legal issues. In the Q&A below, Bannister touched on the role of a business school dean and described some specific responsibilities he holds.
What exactly does being a dean entail, and what are some of the things you're responsible for on a daily basis?
Well, ideally, a dean's job is helping to set a general vision for a college, working with faculty to develop a consensus, to motivate, and to lead. Then, under those big picture responsibilities, there's a bunch of more implied responsibilities of building a faculty and of building the academic infrastructure of programs, coursework and support systems. There are also details when it comes to student support, ranging from student recruitment to advising and to placement. And a dean also is involved, as you would guess, in significant fundraising efforts. Today, state dollars and tuition dollars don't cover all the needs to really provide an excellent education, so it requires a dean to be involved with alumni, employers and other supporters of the college in order to raise the type of funding that's needed for, really, academic success.
Do you find that it's difficult for you to have to go out to these outside sources and ask them for money or do you enjoy going out and, you know, talking about your school and telling them why they should want to fund you?
I enjoy meeting successful alumni; I enjoy spending time with businesses. It's never completely easy to ask for money, but when you can present a project that's compelling, you can present an opportunity or a need where they see that their efforts will make a difference, and then asking for their help's not usually difficult.
I notice that you also teach some courses, so how do you balance your responsibilities as Dean with those as an educator? Do you find that the roles complement each other, or do you find that you're trying to wade the waters of both?
Well I, at this point, teach just one class a year. I find that to be a valuable use of my time because it keeps me in touch with the students. It also helps me understand the faculty needs as we migrate through learning management systems and other student-oriented software. When a faculty member says, "I'm having trouble with this upgrade to Blackboard," I know exactly what he or she is talking about. Also, my time in a classroom allows me to connect at least with a small group of students in a classroom setting and to really remind me of the purpose that really brings us to campus every day, and that is to educate and support students.
How important would you say is building and maintaining a strong brand for your business school, and what measures does Fort Hays's business school take to solidify its brand?
Building and maintaining a brand for a college of business is crucial and on-going. A brand is only as good as the placement and performance of graduates. Faculty publications, student awards and competitions, student research opportunities, great facilities and technology help build a brand, but in the end, student satisfaction and success is the litmus test. Brochures, websites, social media and other tools may help tell the story, but at the core, a program must have substance and have a true story to tell. Fort Hays State University is pleased that its MBA graduates have a track record of success in diverse business fields in locations across the globe.
What are some examples of community-building activities you have or have had in place for students?
Fort Hays State University's MBA program seeks to build community among its MBA students in a variety of ways. During the first week of class in the heat of August, it holds a "popcorn and ice tea social" that includes "ice-breaking" activities designed for students to meet the college's faculty and each other. Early in the fall, it holds the annual "MBA Dinner," which includes the new MBA students and MBA program faculty. A successful FHSU MBA alum serves as the speaker. All FHSU MBA students take the MBA 800 Graduate Success Lab in their first semester. Among its many features, it tends to bond students in a cohort and to build a sense of community. A number of both on-campus and distance learning MBA classes require teamwork, which forges strong and often long-term relationships. At the end of the MBA program, the college holds a reception for each graduating class in addition to the university graduate school commencement. Sometimes, this is the first time that distance learning students have met each other and their faculty face-to-face. At the reception and commencement, there are often both smiles and tearful "goodbyes" as graduates separate to head to new opportunities.
Interview with Mark Bannister, Dean of the College of Business and Leadership at Fort Hays State University, conducted by Jamar Ramos, MBAPrograms.org, July 11, 2013
Mark Bannister, Dean College of Business and Leadership, Fort Hays State University, http://www.fhsu.edu/informatics/faculty/bannister/