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Meet the Dean: Graduate Studies at DeVry University

Chris Roe is the associate dean of the College of Business and Management and the acting dean of Graduate Studies at DeVry University. In addition to overseeing various campuses and centers in Illinois and Minnesota, he teaches general business, information systems, and project management at the university. Roe also works on faculty hiring and training and helps develop long-term objectives for the College of Business and Management.

Roe is also a graduate of DeVry University and DeVry University's Keller Graduate School of Management, earning a BSBA with a concentration in business information systems from DeVry's Addison campus and an MBA with a concentration in project management. He is pursuing an EdD in adult and higher education. He started working full-time at DeVry in March 2005.

Q: Has the recession had a negative impact on the number of applications you receive for business programs?

A: Not really. I have found that in times of a recession or economic discomfort, enrollments remain steady or go up at the undergraduate level. We've seen a slight decline in MBA programs because companies are not paying as much to send their employees to school. But many people in the job market are returning to school to earn a degree in order to improve themselves, so they can either move up and get a better job, or get the training they need to enter a more lucrative career.

Q: What study areas seem to be the most popular these days?

A: Right now the general business and accounting courses seems to be the most in demand. That's been a trend over the last 10 years, since the Anderson and Tyco cases where issues of accounting made big news. All businesses want honest accountants, so attendance is increasing at undergraduate and graduate levels. Project management is also popular. Every industry has a project manager of sorts these days. They may not call them "project managers," but these are people who are skilled at completing projects that have a definite beginning and end, and require balancing time, money and people. Our graduates know how to accomplish that, and their skills are in high demand in many industries--from technology to computer games.

Q: What does DeVry University look for in potential students?

A: Primarily we are looking for students who are focused on getting an advanced degree and really trying to advance their careers. We really pride ourselves on understanding what industries are looking for in new employees and providing the kind of training that makes our students an asset to these industries right from the start. Another major category is those who want to make a career change.

Q: How should one determine if business is a good career choice?

A: That's a difficult question to answer because there are so many different ways you can pursue a career in the business world. We recommend that students have a solid base--at least a few years of experience--in their preferred area of business specialization before committing to graduate school. Specializations can range from accounting to finance to marketing to project management. Graduate-level students should also be motivated to acquire foundations in areas outside of their preferred specialization, such as law, leadership, operations, and management. For potential students who don't have prior business experience, you have to ask, "What is it that really interests me?" If you can figure that out, then you can find something in business that will interest you. As an example, if you are a computer programmer, you may find that studying to become a systems analyst is right up your alley.

Q: What is your favorite part of your job?

A: My favorite is working with students. I see a lot of the students after they get here; they meet with me and we talk and we get them set up for classes. Along the way, I check in to see how their courses are going and how their instructors are doing and generally make sure they are getting what they need for their career. Then I get to see them walk across the stage and get their diploma. What's especially nice is that these students tend to be highly motivated; they are here because they want to be here, not because they have to be here, so it's a pleasure to work with them and see how their enthusiasm grows as they gain more confidence and knowledge.

Q: What is the most challenging?

A: Finding and keeping good faculty members. DeVry and Keller pride themselves on finding faculty members who work in their field and are highly skilled at that work. They know what companies need from their employees so they teach our students what they need to know. Our faculty members tend to already be very successful in their given field. That means they are already in high demand, so we have to convince them to come teach for us and add to what is already a very busy schedule. So we are always on the lookout for faculty who are the best in their field and who can communicate their knowledge in the classroom. We have CPAs and CFOs teaching our accounting classes, for instance. In most cases, our faculty members are already making good money in the industry and are not teaching because they need more money. They teach because they enjoy it and they want to give something back or because they feel passionate about their field.

Q: What does it take to become a faculty member?

A: I accept resumes every month and we bring candidates in to do a teaching demonstration. We give them the objectives for a particular class and ask them to demonstrate how they would teach the class. We want to get an idea of how they would be in a classroom. Interactivity is key. People who lecture for three hours typically are not very effective, so we're looking for how well they engage their students and interact with them and apply the principles to real-life scenarios. If all the stars align, we bring these candidates through our training, so they can understand the pedagogy of DeVry. Since we are large, we have a home office that sets out objectives for courses; everyone in marketing management, for instance, has the same course objectives and there are guidelines, but from there the instructors make the course their own. We have standardization in that everyone is teaching the same thing, but the way they teach is up to the faculty. This also ensures that our online students get the same quality instruction as our campus-based students.

Q: What inspired you to enter this profession?

A: To be honest, I wanted to teach. I was a nontraditional student; I went to a major university and wasn't ready, so I left and went to work and came back and got my degree later--at DeVry. After I got my degree, I realized I still wanted to teach. So two months after completing my master's, I was teaching at DeVry and was able to use both my degree and my experience in the real world. I was also working a full-time job at night on the IT side and wasn't particularly happy, so when an administration position opened up at DeVry, I applied and got the job. I really enjoy teaching, but I really, really like the administrative side and working with students and making sure they get what they need. And I enjoy working with faculty. I still get to teach, too, so I'm not missing that. I really don't know when I decided higher education was something I was looking for, but I found it and I'm very happy that I did.

Q: What advice would you give to those considering business school?

A: That really depends on the student. I start by asking questions--what do you like to do? If they're interested in marketing, I can go over their options and show them what courses they would take and pull down a binder showing the capstone projects that were completed by some of our marketing students. I ask them, "Is this something that would help you achieve your goals?" When they see these things, it's easier for them to decide if that is truly an area they want to go into.

Q: What separates DeVry from smaller, more traditional schools?

A: We have industry advisory boards for every one of our degrees in every one of our metropolitan areas. We bring these advisors in and ask what they are looking for from our graduates. We get that information and send it up to the national level and adjust our local markets. We also change our curriculum based on national trends. And now we have employers who are looking for our graduates. They appreciate the fact that we ask them what they are looking for. I'm not sure why more schools don't do it.


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