As I write this, we are in the early days of 2014. Of the many things that the School of Business Administration has to celebrate this year, friendships are at the top of our list.
The Wu-Feng Center for International Business Education – In October of last year, I had the enormous privilege of announcing the largest gift the SBA has ever received. Bingxin Wu, board chairman of Sanzhu Group, Beijing Genetic Engineering Research Institute and Beijing Nuozhou Institute of Biology, and his wife, Shuqin Feng, donated $600,000 to us to establish a center for international business education. The center will be home to a global leadership lecture series and an expanded executive-in-residence program. It also will provide scholarships to students who would like to study abroad in China. I am grateful that their passion for education and cross-cultural exchange will yield such benefits for SBA students and faculty.
Greater Houston Dean's Business Advisory Council – While UHV's campus in Victoria boasts both traditional residential and nontraditional students, we are ever cognizant of the fact that three-quarters of the SBA's students are adults who live and work in Harris and Fort Bend counties. The SBA has enjoyed strong relationships with business executives in this area for the last several years. Late in 2013, we were able to formalize these friendships through the establishment of a Dean's Business Advisory Council in the Greater Houston area. Fifteen long-time supporters of the SBA representing the banking and finance, oil and gas, healthcare, staffing, and consumer goods industries have committed to helping us keep our programs relevant, our graduates well-trained, and our achievements visible. I encourage you to visit the DBAC webpage to learn more about this vital group.
Ron Sardessai Endowed Professorship – Dr. Ron Sardessai was a valued colleague and friend in the SBA for 25 years, and we were deeply saddened by his loss in 2011. It is fitting, then, that in the months following his death, the enormous generosity of his family and colleagues resulted in the creation of an endowed professorship in his memory–the first such endowment in the SBA. Dr. Massoud Metghalchi, an accomplished professor of finance who joined the SBA in 1991, is serving as the first Ron Sardessai Endowed Professor.
Partnership Professors – The generosity of SBA's friends and sponsors allowed us to establish the Partnership Professors program three years ago. Each year, we recognize five faculty selected based on their professional accomplishments and contributions, and award them a stipend which supports their ongoing faculty development or research. I encourage you to visit our Faculty page to learn more about these outstanding professionals.
Real-World Insight – Our Distinguished Speaker Series, sponsored by our longtime friends at the Willis Group, accounts for many of the highlights of our academic year. Presented as both stand-alone events and keynote addresses at the BBA and MBA conferences, the series brings in successful leaders from multiple industries to speak to students about the world of business today and in days to come. Over the last two years, speakers have included Mr. Heber Lacerda, president of Regency Nursing & Rehabilitation Centers; Mr. Farouk Shami, founder of Farouk Systems; Dr. Jim Duncan, chief analyst for ConocoPhillips Gas and Power; Mr. John Ragan, vice president of NRG; Mr. Ron Ledbetter, vice president of INTECSEA; Mr. Mike Willis, chairman of The Willis Group; Mr. Ravi Kathuria, president of Cohegic Corporation and author; Mr. Jerry Moreno, manager of human capital performance for Spectra Energy; Mr. Steven Kaufman, president of Zeus Mortgage; Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale, founder and owner of Gallery Furniture; and Atul Vir, president of Equator Advanced Appliances.
Alumni Engagement – In March 2013 we hosted our second annual SBA Alumni Week, welcoming back a dozen of our successful graduates to share the benefit of their experiences with current business students. Through this event, as well as the BBA and MBA conferences at which alumni serve as panelists, we continue to build on these friendships which yields internships and career placement opportunities for our students, and offers our alumni opportunities to recruit from an uninterrupted stream of talented graduates for their organizations.
Student Focus – The most valuable friendships the SBA will ever have begin in the classroom, whether real or virtual. SBA recognizes that students have many priorties competing for their attention, and we constantly strive to provide a quality education that fits among them. This goal has led to our offering the BBA program at three physical locations as well as online. It has led to our asking students what time of day works best for face-to-face classes. It has led to our developing partnerships with community colleges which allow students to make the transition from a cost-effective associate's degree program to completion of the BBA as smoothly as possible. It has led to our hiring additional faculty in attractive specialties, and reorganizing into departments to promote better class scheduling. And it is why our undergraduate enrollment has doubled over the last five years.
I encourage you to spend some time looking around our website to learn about all of the achievements that our friends have made possible. our awareness of shifts in the job market, leading to the development of niche programs to meet the needs of the new economy. Our service learning program that places students with regional employers for real-world business experience. Our study abroad program allowing students to experience first-hand the imperatives of a global economy. Our faculty achievements in teaching and research, recognized and supported by Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Our accreditation by AACSB International - The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, for which engagement of all our constituents is so vital. And our many recognitions and awards from such organizations as U.S. News, the Princeton Review, and GetEducated.com.
The years ahead promise us new challenges, new opportunities, and new horizons. As we move forward, the SBA remains dedicated to a continuing vision of excellence through teamwork and to remembering always our responsibility to our most important friends: our students.
Farhang Niroomand, Ph.D.