The college made history last spring when it was awarded accreditation by the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business. This honor, according to Dr. Mitchell Muehsam, interim associate dean of the college, is the most prestigious accreditation in the academic business environment. Only about one-fourth of the 1200 colleges in the United States offering undergraduate business degrees, and less than half of those offering master's degrees, are accredited by the AACSB. The SHSU programs were accredited at both levels.
"The accreditation helps everybody, because immediately the reputation of the school improves dramatically," Muehsam said. "There are certain employers that will only interview at schools that are accredited by the AACSB."
In announcing its action, the AACSB commended the College of Business Administration on the commitment of the president and vice president to the accreditation process, in particular for support in acquiring necessary computer resources and qualified faculty. The group also cited SHSU's well developed assessment program and the faculty for their classroom innovation in the teaching of production management (robotics).
Students entering the school of business this fall will be the first to launch their education under the auspices of this prestigious honor.
While the College of Business Administration was being welcomed into the fold of the nation's elite business schools, two other events of paramount importance to SHSU were taking place. That same spring, the university received a $1 million gift to establish the Smith-Hutson Endowed Chair of Banking along with a $350,000 scholarship donation. The gifts, from a Sam Houston alumnus identified only as Mr. Smith, were made in honor of one of Smith's long-time business associates, Robert Hutson, who graduated from SHSU in 1965. In gratitude for the generous donations, the Board of Regents of the Texas State University System voted to name the college's headquarters building the Smith-Hutson Business Building.
The Smith-Hutson endowment will support a faculty member who will teach banking and/or related courses at the university. That person will also be charged with developing and broadening curriculum in banking, conducting research related to the banking industry, and interfacing with banking practitioners through training programs and dissemination of information.
Currently the search is on to fill the post.
"We are looking for an individual who has both academic and professional experience in the banking environment," Muehsam explained. "Someone we hope will be a leader in both academic circles and in working with local banks of East Texas to help improve knowledge of the banking industry and help solve problems that face the banking industry."
The search committee hopes to have the position filled by the fall of 1997, Muehsam said.
This fall, 14 students who were named recipients of the Smith-Hutson scholarships will begin their studies in the College of Business Administration.
"This is a program aimed at students with financial need and academic potential, so we have excellent students coming in," Muehsam said. "Many of them would not be able to go to school without the scholarship assistance."
Another feather in the business college's cap came last spring when two of its faculty members received awards of excellence from the university. Vic Sower was presented with the Excellence in Teaching Award for his innovative use of robotic techniques in his quality control classes. Bill Kilbourne, a marketing professor, earned the Excellence in Research Award.
Looking ahead to the coming year, one of the top priorities for the College of Business Administration is to fill the dean's post which was vacated by James Gilmore who is now serving as SHSU's interim vice president for academic affairs. The search committee hopes to have a new dean selected by the start of the spring semester, Muehsam said.
Returning students will find two new scholars, Robert Peevey and Dewight Steward, on the general business and finance faculty this semester. Ross Quarles, who has done groundbreaking work in the field of environmental accounting, has been appointed chair of the Department of Accounting.
On the technology front, SHSU business students can anticipate spending some homework time in front of a computer terminal this year. More and more professors are requiring students to utilize Internet resources for their research projects, Muehsam said. In the management information systems classes, students are taught how to create their own home page and communicate, via the Net, on an international level.
"The reality of the computer age is that, no matter where you are in the world, if you have access to the network, you have access to information from all corners of the world," Muehsam said. "We are giving our students every opportunity to be comfortable with that."
Another practice that Muehsam wants business students to get used to this semester is visiting regularly with the faculty.
"One thing we do want to emphasize to our students is our pride in the accessibility of our faculty. We want to encourage them to do more than just get a classroom education," he said. "Students should take time to get to know the faculty and learn from the faculty's experiences."
Some of the business college's faculty will be spending time on the road this year, commuting between Huntsville and The Woodlands where SHSU is launching both graduate and undergraduate programs. The effort coincides with SHSU's involvement in the new University Center scheduled to open in The Woodlands in the fall of 1997. This summer, SHSU offered a limited number of courses at Montgomery College, the temporary site for the University Center. This fall and spring, the course offerings are being expanded in preparation for the opening of the University Center facility next fall. At that time, the College of Business Administration "will be coming in with a heavy load," Muehsam said. He expects the University Center curriculum to have a very positive influence on SHSU's MBA program.
"There are a lot more nontraditional students in the educational world these days with lots of restrictions on their time," Muehsam said. "We have always prided ourselves in creating a program that is accessible and is both considerate of the full-time student and the nontraditional student."