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College of Business Executive Dinner and 50th Anniversary Celebration

April 4, 2016


Good evening ladies and gentlemen.  On behalf of more than 52,000 degree-seeking students at the University of Texas at Arlington, let me welcome you to the 2016 Executive Dinner and Celebration of the College of Business’ 50th anniversary. 

In addition to this milestone anniversary, the College is celebrating its first-ever ranking for the part-time MBA program in the top 100 in the nation.  This advancement in recognition of our business program adds to the ever-growing list of accomplishments for the University. 

From our recent designation in the elite group of R-1 Doctoral Universities – Highest Research Activity in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education – the definitive list for the top doctoral-research universities in the nation, to last month’s news of our having nationally ranked graduate programs in each of our eight academic colleges, our reputation is on the rise. UTA is known for innovation, diversity, excellence in teaching, research, outreach, and service, a commitment to access, and a dedication to ensuring student success. 

As one of the top three universities with the most transfer students in the U.S. and home to one of the most successful online programs nationally, we believe in doing things differently and in staying on the cutting edge. 

It’s therefore fitting that as the College of Business celebrates its many accomplishments and, and envisages its next 50 years moving in line with the University’s new aggressive Strategic Plan, that the theme for this year is “The Future of Business” 

Pervasive.

Transparent.

Technological.

Global.

Diverse.

Sustainable.

Augmented.

Open.

Playful.

Disintermediated.

These are just some of the descriptors that Dean Croson has used to prompt discussion of the Future of Business over the past year. All are essential for the present. 

In contemplating the Future of Business, and that of our College of Business from this perspective, I have two sets of terms I would offer as well – the first being

Inclusive.

Purposeful.

Value-based, and

Engaged.

While the second comprises of

Flexible,

Accessible, and

Innovative

The first set is fairly straight forward and is derived from all that you know much better than I do.

Inclusive – among others, the 18th Annual Global CEO Survey by PWC indicated that 85 percent of CEOs whose organizations have a diversity and inclusiveness strategy say it has enhanced performance.

Purposeful – A recent University of Cambridge report, Global Tolerance, The Values Revolution, indicated that 62 percent of Millennials want their career to have a positive impact on the world, and 53 percent would work harder if their organization was making a difference to others. Yet, the 2015 Deloitte Millennial Survey indicated that 75 percent of Millennials believe businesses are focused on their own agendas, rather than helping improve society.

Value-based – The 2015 Global CSR Study by Cone Communications/Ebiquity indicated that 84 percent of global consumers actively seek out socially and environmentally responsible brands, and 90 percent are willing to switch purchases to brands associated with a good cause, while the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer showed that 87 percent of global consumers believe business should place at least equal emphasis on social interests as business interests.

Engaged – in a 2015 report, The Power of Three: Taking Engagement to New Heights, Towers Watson, a global professional services company, noted that companies with high employee engagement and enablement can have net profit margins 4 times greater than companies with low engagement and enablement.

Each of these terms relates, in my mind, directly to the PEOPLE who make up the Future of Business.  Brian Solis, author of  “What’s the Future of Business,” notes that the first step in dealing with the future is to understand who is shaping it, and that’s where the second set of terms makes its presence felt.  At this juncture, I should emphasize that I’m focusing on the future of the College of Business rather than on business in general although I acknowledge that our future success will, and should be, intrinsically linked to that of the corporate world.

I recognize that for many businesses the terms “sold out,” “full,” “no space,” and “no vacancy” are popular and often great goals to be achieved.  In higher ed however, especially in the future, these will signal a death spiral since that institution or unit will clearly mark itself as being out of phase with the globally connected, always-on world where customer needs have to be met instantaneously, or at least very rapidly, and in a manner that emphasizes agility in meeting rapidly changing specifications and needs even for individualization. 

In the interconnected, knowledge economy, two separate worlds—one the physical one where technology was merely an enabler, and is essentially where most of academia resides, has collided with the digital world as Rohit Thakur in “Dancing With Disruption” describes it in which technology is not just the enabler, but is the core and has resulted in the need to create a new game.  Lisa Gansk, author of “The Mesh,” goes one step further in explaining that access to certain goods and services now trumps their ownership and so the goal now is based on the pursuit and increased market share of things easily shared and accessed. 

In academic terms this emphasizes the need for flexibility, accessibility, and innovation in the delivery of knowledge.  Merely focusing on bricks and mortar, being slow to change or develop new curricula, and restricting access believing that that is the only way to reach excellence are things of the past. 

Well-structured digital offerings, supplemented by knowledge on demand, and even individualized or cohort-based degrees and certifications that align with changing corporate needs while still ensuring the comprehensive education of our students, will become the norm in a world where the availability of knowledge has already been redefined by Google. 

As we look to the future we will need to do much more balancing the use of high-tech with high-touch.  As I gaze into the crystal ball for the near term future of this College, I see a future with rapid enhancement in engagement, greater flexibility and agility in meeting tomorrow’s needs today, and in using technology to not just reach more students, but also totally redefining the definition of student and degrees—enabling knowledge to be available on demand, in packages, online, synchronously and asynchronously, using our faculty augmented by experts from the corporate world and the very best in academia globally, but at a very high level of quality.  We need to use technology to meet corporate needs globally responding rapidly to changes in the economy and in career streams.

This College has been a pioneer in education before with its highly reputed programs in China and I am confident that it will continue to lead through re-envisioning how knowledge and degrees are delivered, enabling simultaneously the generation of a highly skilled workforce and the top intellectual capital for the state and nation.

As I look out before me, I see both the faces of those who are actively engaged in shaping the Future of Business today, as well as the faces of those who will shape the future of business tomorrow. All of you have a role to play and I look to each of you to assist as we, at UTA, meet our responsibilities to the region, state and nation, as the model 21st Century Urban Research University – one that believes that the future is not two, five, or 10 years away, but is NOW.

Welcome again, and thank you for being here as we look forward to the next 50 years.