Scott Johnson, Ph.D., is the dean of the School of Management (SOM). He discusses a wide variety of topics in this interview with UM-Flint staff writer Robert Gold.
Are there new or emerging areas of research SOM faculty are undertaking that you are particularly excited about? How would you characterize the variety and scope of SOM faculty research?
There are many exciting new areas of research by School of Management faculty. We offer a broad set of programs, so we have faculty doing research in many areas such as Accounting, Finance, Human Resource Management, International Business, Management Information Systems, Marketing, Organizational Behavior, and Supply Chain Management. The research becomes quite focused within these areas. For example, we have faculty doing research on topics related to mobile marketing, corporate social responsibility, the emerging global middle class, self-expression in the workplace, IT alignment in supply chain partners, and intuition in the venture founding process. These are just some of the interesting projects faculty are investigating.
How does that research further the education and career preparation of students?
Faculty research keeps our professors engaged in their areas of expertise. The point is not to simply repeat what is in a textbook. The goal is really to help identify trends in various industries and help students anticipate how these trends will affect their careers. For example, all industries are being changed by the continuing movement to digitization. However, the interesting question is how this technology will transform our world. Robotics, lean manufacturing, electronic medical records, electronic customer relationship management systems, and ubiquitous global communication networks all point to very different ways we will work and compete in the future to create value and relevance. Research is about creating new knowledge and adding to the existing knowledge base. Students definitely benefit by having professors who stay current in their respective areas of expertise.
Can you provide an update on the Hagerman Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation? How will the center and its resources further enrich the experience of UM-Flint students?
We were extremely grateful and humbled by a generous gift by Phil and Jocelyn Hagerman. The gift establishes the Hagerman Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The center will coordinate student scholarships, support a summer program for high school students, provide faculty support for teaching and research efforts in entrepreneurship, offer partial funding for the student Entrepreneurs Society, and provide an award for our annual business plan competition. In addition, the gift will help support a nationally recognized faculty scholar in entrepreneurship. The goal is to help students understand that entrepreneurship is an exciting path and is at the heart of a market driven economy. Entrepreneurs are the drivers of economic growth, jobs, and wealth creation. Certainly not all students will want to go out and start a business, but we want to give a head start to those who choose that route.
How important and valuable is community outreach for the School of Management? What opportunities do students have to learn from or network with business professionals outside the university?
The community we live in makes for a much richer experience for student and faculty. In the past year we had 12 faculty members who taught courses labeled as Civic Engagement courses. In these courses, faculty design the course to create special student projects and learning experiences that are experiential and hands-on. We are also part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Dr. Cathy Miller teaches the tax course during each tax season and students work with elderly, disabled, or otherwise needy individuals to help them file income taxes. Students learn about taxes and are able to be engaged in the community to offer assistance. We also have over 30 internships each year where students work directly with business managers to gain insight about an industry and a job. These interns have the opportunity to learn the business and connect their academic work with the real world. We also had a very successful business plan competition with 12 student teams competing. There were five finalist teams and of course one winner. The winning team received $5,000 to help fund their plan. The judges consisted of business people in the community who offered feedback and suggestions for each team presenting in the final round. So, we value student involvement in the community and recognize that this networking provides a strong grounding for future success.
There seems to be a trend in higher ed towards more focused management programs (i.e. innovation management, design management, cooperative management, etc.). Are there new majors or areas of study SOM is considering adding?
Yes, I think it is a natural tendency for programs to evolve and become more specialized. Not long ago, there were programs across the country in distribution or logistics. This has now morphed into a more comprehensive term called supply chain management (SCM). In recognition of this important area of business, we will begin to offer a new major in SCM in fall 2016. A similar example is what has traditionally been called small business management. This concept has evolved into entrepreneurship and innovation. This coming fall, in 2015, we will begin offering a new major in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management. At the graduate level, our Masters of Science in Accounting is still relatively new. The program is now in its third year and has seen excellent growth. Finally, the MBA will offer a new concentration in Organizational Leadership. Our faculty are very innovative and aggressive in creating new programs that will help our students be successful.
How does the university’s location in and relationship with a city like Flint benefit SOM students?
What I find fascinating about Flint is that people can literally see the positive changes that are happening around us on a daily basis. The college town feel is rapidly evolving in Flint. UM-Flint has been growing at a faster rate than the majority of other public universities in Michigan. We offer a very high value education. Students are choosing to be here to attend a great university like UM-Flint and also be a part of this Flint renaissance.
How does SOM leverage its expertise and resources when working with other colleges/units within UM-Flint and the University of Michigan system?
There are tremendous opportunities at UM-Flint for partnering and being engaged across various programs and departments. I think one of the challenges for faculty is to simply learn about the many things and then choose how to be engaged. There is the Innovation Incubator on campus, various research support programs, the MHealthy initiative, the Thompson Center for Learning and Teaching, mentoring opportunities, and University Outreach. Also, as you know, the faculty are very involved in the governance of the university. There are many committees, both at the SOM level and at the university level where faculty make important decisions about programs and initiatives. In my experience, I always liked serving on various university committees because it gave me the chance to meet faculty and staff members outside of my particular college. For example, there are committees that support the Thompson Library, the International Office, and an advisory committee on budget and strategic planning. Each committee has representatives from across the many programs and departments in the university. SOM faculty are represented on these various committees to help the university function efficiently and effectively.
How does SOM support working professionals looking to further their skills or prospects?
Our main focus is on our academic programs such as the Bachelor of Business Administration, the Master of Business Administration, and the Master of Science in Accounting. So, I would certainly encourage working professionals to take advantage of these programs. At the undergraduate level we do have an online option that helps student complete the final two years of their degree without the need to come to campus. Our NetPlus! MBA is a very popular option for working professionals wanting to pursue an MBA. Each course meets face to face for a half day on Friday and Saturday twice during the semester. We call this a mixed mode course option. This provides the opportunity to know students and professors in a face to face environment, but also takes advantage of the conveniences of online learning. We also offer graduate certificate programs in many areas of business that can serve as a refresher for working professionals who may already have a degree.
Outside of our normal academic programs, the School of Management offers free morning seminars at the Riverfront Center on various topics such as “how to buy and sell a company,” “the physician as entrepreneur,” and “creating a business that has value.” We bring in guest speakers for these morning sessions who are experts in these areas. We also offer an Economic Forum each December with local and out of state experts who discuss the regional and global economic outlook.
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