Transforming Business Education

 A heightened focus on collaborating with the business community and a suite of programmatic innovations are in the works, all part of Dean Nilanjan Sen’s plans for the School of Business.

Sen joined the University last August from Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Now with seven months under his belt, he said his goals for the School will include bolstering corporate-academic collaboration, increasing international program offerings and introducing a broader range of interdisciplinary curricula.

“A constant dialogue with the business community is crucial in order to ensure that our efforts cater to their needs as well as best prepare our students to enter the workforce – and be able to immediately make a meaningful impact,” said Dean Sen. “We hope to continue to enrich these relationships by investing in talent management workshops and other executive education opportunities.”

To support these efforts, Sen named four associate deans from the ranks of senior faculty. Suraj Commuri advances to senior associate dean, Dennis Caplan has been named associate dean for undergraduate programs, Rita Biswas was chosen as the associate dean for international programs and David Smith assumes the role of associate dean of career services and alumni engagement. To further advance our programs, three new faculty are expected to join the School this fall.

Improving the Undergraduate Experience

Associate Dean Dennis Caplan leads the undergraduate effort. He said, “We are launching several initiatives to help students who are interested in business to meet the academic standards to enroll in the School of Business, and once enrolled, to complete their degrees and start their careers. These initiatives are expected to increase enrollments modestly, improve retention and maintain our already strong graduation rates.”

The School of Business is making improvements to the already successful Direct Admit program, which guarantees the best and brightest freshmen admission to the School of Business once they complete certain prerequisite courses. To attract more of these top students to campus, the school hosts receptions in New York City each spring. Deloitte sponsored our first-ever Direct Admit reception on Long Island in January. Once these students enroll, they will receive additional support. A weekly freshmen seminar will provide interaction with career services and advisement staff as well as faculty and the university’s Office of Student Engagement.

A school-wide undergraduate honors program, modeled after the very successful Financial Analyst Honors Program, is under development. The highest performing students will be recruited for this opportunity, which will focus on preparing them for the digital economy by providing broad coverage to emerging cutting-edge digital technologies across all business disciplines. It is expected that students who complete this honors program will be in high demand by employers because of their advanced technological skills. The target launch date for this initiative is fall 2020.

Other efforts include the establishment of an orientation for all business students similar to the one already offered for accounting students. A newly developed undergraduate certificate in business analytics will be one of the first undergraduate certificates at the university. Improved communications with the local community colleges will facilitate students’ transition from their community college to the School of Business.

Better Career Preparation

Associate Dean David Smith is working with Director of Career Services Deirdre Sweeney to provide additional resources to enhance student professionalism, improve competitiveness against peer school graduates and facilitate an increase in job and internship placement.

Dr. Smith said, “We have long emphasized developing and maintaining relationships with our alumni and key employers. They provide much needed mentoring, guidance and support as we prepare our students for a very competitive market. Students have responded enthusiastically to our enhanced focus on career services. I am confident that the result will be graduates who have a better chance to realize their potential, and satisfied employers.”

The School of Business has engaged former Deloitte Senior Partner Peter Guilioni to lead an effort to help MBA students meet their career goals through training in job search strategies, a personal value proposition, behavioral and case study interview preparation, and networking skills.

Going Global

Under the administration of Rita Biswas, who has over 20 years of experience in international education, the school is establishing dual degree programs with the Hanoi School of Business in Vietnam and Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies in India. Students from the latter institution could begin attending UAlbany as early as the fall of 2019.

Other projects under consideration include an undergraduate dual degree program with the Institute of Finance & International Management in Bengaluru, India and graduate dual degrees with schools in India, Italy and China. Biswas notes that globalization broadens the outlook of domestic students. Dr. Biswas said, “Globalization should not be ‘sprinkled’ across an existing course framework to check off a requirement box. Our students benefit from a multicultural experience right here in our UAlbany classroom.”

Biswas has already implemented a new international program. This semester, she conducted a spring break study trip to Argentina for finance students.

Expanding Graduate Programs: MBA and Digital Forensics

Responding to the growing demand for specialized skills in an evolving marketplace, a new graduate degree, an M.S. in Digital Forensics & Information Security, is expected to be approved before the end of the year.

The School also plans to develop a STEM-certified MBA program with a focus on digital transformation and an M.S. in Business Analytics. Dean Sen said the interdisciplinary MBA, planned for implementation by 2020, will have courses developed and taught by faculty from other colleges as well as leading practitioners.

“Even in our initial planning stages, we will be rigorously seeking buy-in from local industry leaders, career services professionals and the School’s alumni network across various industries,” Sen said.
The one-year program best fits professionals with five to six years of experience, according to Senior Associate Dean Commuri, who said the decision was in response to a national trend towards an appetite for a more expedited graduate experience in business.

“In order to keep at the forefront of higher education in business, we must constantly assess how our programs bridge the skills gap,” Commuri said. “The new MBA program, as well as a new undergraduate Honors Program, will have a strong focus on digital transformation, with themes including design thinking, digital tech and innovation management.”