Business school looks to future

Business students can look forward to more study abroad and exchange options and a greater level of interaction with Washington institutions, as the School of Business starts implementing its new strategic plan.

The plan outlines measures to increase school prestige and enable students to receive a more comprehensive education.

“I think it’s been a big, vigorous undertaking, and now it’s time to implement it,” said Susan Phillips, dean of the School of Business.

Officials said a committee to evaluate the school met about every two weeks since the summer of 2002. It issued its report in November.

Phillips said large programs within the school are conducting curriculum reviews to see how changes can be incorporated into their fields of study. Ideas include emphasizing research, business ethics and the effects of globalization.

Phillips said changes would be implemented slowly so they can be monitored as they take effect.

The school has had success with an abroad program in Paris and is looking to expand with programs in Germany and Denmark in the coming years, officials said.

They also said they would like to see the school become more marketable to students by becoming involved with financial institutions in the D.C. area such as the World Bank.

“We felt this would be a competitive advantage … We want to differentiate ourselves from other schools,” said Donald Hawkins, a professor of tourism studies, who served as co-chair of the original committee that looked at the plan.

Faculty members said the school involved all “stakeholders” in its evaluation including faculty, staff, alumni and students. Some professors who teach strategic planning in their courses were involved in designing the process for coming up with a new vision and mission for the school.

“We asked questions about what we did, what were the strengths and weaknesses, and how we want to identify ourselves – what do we want to be known for,” marketing professor Vanessa Gail said.

Phillips said the school reviewed its goals because it had accomplished many of its old ones, including improving how outsiders viewed the school. The undergraduate programs at the school have been ranked in the Top 50 of U.S. News and World Report for three consecutive years, and the Master’s of Business Administration has been in Business Week’s Top 70 for two consecutive years.

Other factors prompted the change, including growth in the undergraduate program, which has gone from 1,149 students in fall 1998 to 1,553 students in fall 2003, a 26 percent enrollment increase.

The public management courses were moved out of the business school and into the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, prompting the drop of “public management” from the school’s name.

“We can’t wait for the opportunities to come to us; we have to determine strategically where we want to be and move aggressively in that direction,” Hawkins said.

“I think strategic thinking leads to planning, but the most important part of strategy is execution and implementation, and that’s where we’re at now,” Hawkins added. “The faculty and administration are ready to make some positive steps.”

The school will also be changing physically, as it moves to its new building, Duques Hall – located at 22nd and G streets. Phillips said the school hopes to be completely transitioned by December 2006.

Phillips said the new facility will include more conference rooms, something lacking in current School of Business facilities, housed in Monroe Hall and the Hall of Government.

“It’s perfect timing,” said Gail, who taught at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill when its business school went through a building change. “It affects everything and everyone in so many ways you don’t think about.”

Some of Gail’s students are engaged in a project to determine how the School of Business is perceived inside and outside their marketing research class.

“Clearly the image needs some improvement because GW doesn’t get the recognition it deserves,” said Dan Kelly, a junior in the class. “People know about it, but it’s not considered as high quality as I think it should be.”

Kelly said attaching a name to the school would make it fit in with other prestigious schools in the nation, such as the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

Kelly said improving the school’s image could have long-term positive effects.

“People don’t remember what something used to be,” he said. “If GW gets a Top 10 ranking, I get to be from a Top 10 business school. Any improvement helps everyone involved.”

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