Author: Scott Slater III


Strong Backgrounds, Proven Scholarship Are Hallmarks of School’s New Faculty Members

New faculty members include (left to right): Rachel Chambers, Xiang Zheng, Sami Ghaddar, Mary Vernon, and James Warren (Contributed photos)

The incoming cohort of new business faculty includes a consultant on human rights for the United Nations, an award-winning researcher focused on fintech, two enthusiastic accounting experts, and a management professor who researches corporate governance, innovation and performance.Continue Reading


Will Connecticut, and the United States, Remain a Beacon of Educational Opportunity for International Students?

The recent U.S. Census informed us that population growth was essentially flat in the last decade, and more detailed analysis in the last year suggests that the birth rate has been declining, the death rates have been rising, and immigration has declined.

A trifecta.

GDP growth derives largely from population growth and thus projections for GDP growth are minimal in terms of long-term trends, while better in terms of recovery from the negative effects of COVID-19.

As the dean of the School of Business at UConn, I am particularly concerned about the effects of these trends on our School, our University, and our state. All of the national trends affect us, but they are exacerbated by the emigration reality. Within the USA people move, and the long-term pattern has been emigration from the Rust Belt and the Northeast to the South and West.

Amidst these various pressures, the School of Business and UConn have nonetheless grown. Students see opportunity in what we offer, as the Top 25, Research 1, flagship, land-grant University in our state. In-state, out-of-state, and international students have all supported us, but the challenges increase. Connecticut companies depend upon us to attract and educate the talent that they need to thrive and grow, and the communities within our state welcome our graduates as sustaining, long-term citizens.

The Immigration Challenge

Immigration is driven by at least three factors: governmental rules, governmental policy, and perception. Today the rules in the U.S. relate to who can get a visa to come here, for what purpose, and whether they can stay. For UConn the key questions are: can someone come to study and can they stay and work? These rules for student visas, H1B visas, and others, change over time. The policy questions are: How does one comply? Where do you get a visa and how?

The last year has been negative for potential students. Embassies that theoretically grant visas were largely closed worldwide. This COVID-19-driven reality curtailed one of our nation’s greatest exports, education. Embassies began to reopen a few months ago, but too late to support levels of student interest at pre-COVID-19 levels.

Beyond the student challenge is the employment challenge. Global students can typically stay for a period of time for experiential training. But our overall restrictions on immigration have reduced opportunities for students to remain after graduation, and the numbers who can earn Green Cards, and citizen- and permanent- status have shrunk. Worse yet, we have made it very hard for international corporations to bring existing, senior employees to our country for limited assignments. Many global companies have relocated activity to Canada or Europe so that they can bring their global staff together as a team.

Perception is the final issue. For decades the United States has been the destination of choice and opportunity. Recent events have made global citizens and their families less excited about the opportunity to study here. The ‘welcome mat’ is less welcoming. There is perceived negativism in our community toward others. Originally the Muslim bans were the poster child for this trend, and more recent issues around hate crimes against Asian citizens have exacerbated perceived negativism. Our visa restrictions have worsened the perception.

In the School of Business, we believe that business is a source of economic prosperity for the world and that a globally diverse student body prepares all of us for a thriving economy. We know that a diverse student body and workforce is a force for good. We strongly encourage and stand ready to do anything we can to enhance access to the USA for education and employment.

The Emigration Challenge

While we must address the barriers to students wishing to come here, we must also give those who are here good reason to stay. People remain in Connecticut for many reasons: good education, exciting communities, strong employment, exceptional healthcare, and more. We work closely with communities and employers to enhance the quality of life in Connecticut. Our current efforts around Innovation Places, community development, and the Connecticut Small Business Development Center are all examples of that commitment. We welcome additional ideas, and are committed to doing our part for the future of Connecticut.

The Demographic Challenge

There is not a great deal that UConn can do to change the demographic path. The future high-school graduates are already born, so the opportunity is to retain more Connecticut residents in the state or to attract more domestic or international families here. Our hard work developing innovative student programs and a first-rate learning environment established UConn as a beacon of educational opportunity. But we need state and federal policy to move in favor of retention and inbound migration.

What can we do?

UConn has joined other universities in crying out for support for student visas and student access to employment opportunity post-graduation. But our legislators respond to the volume and passion behind issues and each of us, and each of our companies and organizations, has a voice in this important debate. Let us use those voices.

Many companies have declined to interview and consider international graduates for U.S. jobs, even though they need their talent and training. The barriers they face are the uncertainty of long-term retention in the USA, or it is too difficult to comply with regulations, or it is too expensive. Yet those same companies lament the fact that they cannot find the specific talent they need to meet their needs. They divert jobs and activities to their international subsidiaries and locations, because it is too difficult in the USA.

The market for talent is global, and if companies cannot meet their needs in the United States (and Connecticut), they will move their needs around the world, following the talent and the ease of doing business.

The Fourth Estate, our legislators, our companies, and we as individuals must all confront these realities and begin to change the narrative. GDP growth depends on population growth, talent, innovation, and the attractiveness of our communities as homes to our workforce and our companies. Given our demographics, access to motivated, talented, global citizens is imperative. This is not a political call for open borders, but rather a strategic call for a longer-term vision about the future prosperity of our state and the nation.

Feedback

I try to share some thoughts on a regular basis, but I want to be sure to invite your responses. My mother always said you learn more by listening than talking. I stand ready to listen to your thoughts and welcome them. You may have views on immigration, emigration, and demography. You may have suggestions that you would like to see discussed in future Dean’s Messages. Your ideas are eagerly awaited. Feel free to email me at John.Elliott@uconn.edu and kindly copy my executive assistant, Tina Pierce, at Tina.Pierce@uconn.edu.

Back to the Dean’s Corner



Business Programs Lauded by Three Top Organizations

In the business school we focus on strategic planning to guide future and continuous improvement as we implement our plan. The central theme is excellent education that allows our students to become their best selves. We design and implement a learning process that ensures that they emerge as well-prepared citizens and employees who advance their communities and drive the economics of the state. As academics, we explore important questions, convene important discussions, and enhance the practice and understanding of management.

In assessing progress toward our goals, we look outside for input. I will share three recent examples of external assessments of UConn and the School of Business: the Deshpande Symposium 2021 Award for Excellence in Curriculum Innovation in Entrepreneurship; a scholarly assessment of worldwide real estate programs; and our renewed accreditation by the international Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

Multiple external assessments, by many organizations, help us recognize our progress. These three are timely and illustrate the breadth of approaches.

School of Business Reaccredited by AACSB International

Starting with the most general: UConn is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, but, as a business school, we are also accredited by AACSB International. This 100-year-old, voluntary body in its most recent (2020) standards emphasizes strategic planning, continuous improvement, the highest quality of faculty and staff engagement, and business as a key contributor to global prosperity.

We embrace these priorities.

Every five years, each participating university prepares a continuous-improvement report documenting its current status. A team of volunteer deans from peer institutions reviews the report, questions the details, visits and interviews the faculty, staff, and students at the school. This culminates in an exit meeting with the president and provost, and the delivery of consultative comments and advice along with either reaffirmation of accreditation, targeted delay, or denial over specific issues. Our peer review team’s recommendation of continued reaccreditation was affirmed just days ago by the AACSB Board of Directors.

Think of our voluntary engagement with the AACSB as quality assurance and alignment with best practices. Our AACSB engagement ensures that we measure and evaluate what is strategically important for a quality business school and, that we do so with someone looking over our shoulder and holding us accountable.

Real Estate Program Ranks #3 in the World

Our students have broad business interests and pursue degrees in many specialized areas, including real estate. In pursuing a real-estate major, our students must meet “general education” requirements for about half of their 120-credit hours of coursework, drawn from a mix of liberal arts and sciences. They must then study broadly in the business core that includes accounting, finance, marketing, management, and operations and information systems. Finally, their real estate study is concentrated on specific courses in finance and real estate.

Students, families and employers assessing the quality of our real-estate education look at rankings. Some rankings rely on surveys of knowledgeable people who give their opinion on various real-estate departments. A recent Journal of Real Estate Literature article used an objective measure of the success of the faculty in publishing articles to assess this quality question. They ranked programs based on the number of articles that faculty published in top journals. It allowed an unbiased, global assessment.

Our program came in third in the world on this ranking, behind only Florida Atlantic University and the National University of Singapore. Two UConn faculty were listed individually among the most productive scholars over the recent five-year period. Our faculty are leaders in understanding and illuminating key real estate principles and developments.

Prestigious Deshpande Foundation Recognizes UConn’s Commitment to Entrepreneurship

The third area that I want to illuminate is entrepreneurship. This is a university-wide initiative long championed by the School of Business. UConn built significant strength over the years, beginning in the 1990s with the leadership of the Wolff family, and enhanced significantly by alumnus Keith Fox, through creating the Innovation Quest (iQ) competition. These extensive efforts culminated in the founding and funding of the Werth Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation almost four years ago.

Increased focus across all the schools and colleges, and careful measurement and reporting of initiatives in entrepreneurship, led to recent recognition in the high-impact ranking by The Princeton Review, where graduate entrepreneurship at UConn is ranked in the Top 30, and undergraduate in the Top 50.

Today, I am pleased to share the very recent news that the Werth Institute was recognized by the Deshpande Symposium with the 2021 Award for Excellence in Curriculum Innovation in Entrepreneurship. The executive director of the Deshpande Foundation noted that Werth “…best exemplified the commitment to building innovative educational courses and programs that foster entrepreneurship education across the institution.”

This award, established a decade ago, is judged by a diverse panel from business and education. Their reference to building and innovating is suggestive not only of where we are, but also foretells a bright and dynamic future.

I share these vignettes and anecdotes to emphasize the importance we place on having a strategic plan, knowing where we want to go, and constantly assessing our progress, not by looking in the mirror and liking what we see, but by measuring and assessing information and progress. We often rely on third parties to independently assess our performance and hold us accountable. We are receiving significant, very welcome, affirmation.

Back to the Dean’s Corner


UConn’s Werth Institute Recognized for Excellence in Entrepreneurship Education

UConn Today – From business to nutritional sciences, engineering to the arts, the Peter J. Werth Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation has distinguished itself as a dynamic and multidisciplinary environment where all UConn students can find an opportunity to learn, connect, and innovate alongside their entrepreneurially minded peers and with the help of seasoned educators and mentors.


Welcome to the Marketing Department Professor Christina Kan!

Christina Kan (Contributed Photo)
Christina Kan (Contributed Photo)

Professor Christina Kan recently joined the Marketing Department in 2020 and has begun teaching courses as of this semester, Spring 2021. Professor Kan teaches Introduction to Marketing Management (3101). Alongside teaching, Professor Kan focuses her research on consumer financial decision-making and price promotions. Professor Kan shares, “I’ve always been fascinated by the consumer – how we make decisions, why we buy, why we don’t buy, etc. Marketing is about creating value for the consumer and as such, is a great opportunity to learn about consumers.”

Before her career at UConn, Professor Kan worked as an assistant professor at Texas A&M University. Professor Kan received her undergraduate degree in marketing at the University of British Columbia and her Ph.D. in marketing at the University of Colorado-Boulder. She is excited to begin a new chapter here at UConn and is impressed by the leadership and organization she’s experienced here so far.
Some advice from Professor Kan:

1. Try to connect the marketing you see in everyday life to your coursework. Whether it be on television, in local businesses, or anywhere else, marketing is all around us. Observing this will give you a deeper understanding of marketing and help you utilize concepts learned in the classroom in real-life applications!

2. In the new era of virtual learning, Professor Kan advises students to make an effort to form connections with professors and fellow students. The everyday conversations we have around campus are easy to lose virtually, but connection is key. Stay organized, create a schedule, and do not hesitate to reach out to others.

Welcome to the Marketing Department, Professor Kan!

We are thrilled to have you!


Dr. Rachel Chambers teaches Corporate Social Impact and Responsibility

Dr. Rachel Chambers (Contributed Photo)
Dr. Rachel Chambers (Contributed Photo)

Dr. Rachel Chambers is a Postdoctoral Research Associate who focuses her time at UConn on researching corporate accountability mechanisms and teaching Corporate Social Impact and Responsibility (BLAW/BADM/HRTS 3252). Dr. Chambers will join the faculty of the School of Business Marketing Department as an Assistant Professor in Business Law this fall. Dr. Chambers’ role provides her with the opportunity to introduce her research findings into the classroom and allows for lively discussions on corporate sustainability, social responsibility, and accountability. Only a few courses around the country teach undergraduates these topics; this is a special opportunity to uniquely learn and develop your educational toolkit. BLAW 3252 is offered to both Human Rights students and Business students, which creates a lively environment where students can learn from each other’s separate educational experiences and explore the knowledge together.

For marketing students, there is a growing need for individuals focused on social justice and environmentalism within large corporations. The pandemic has shed a light on the repercussions of poor corporate decisions; whether that be supply chain issues impacting the lives of foreign laborers in developing countries or the unethical health risks employees are facing in the U.S. There is substantial ‘sustainability noise,’ Dr. Chambers shares, where companies are sending out messages about their good practices, but there is little tangible action behind the claims made in advertisements or public releases. Marketers with a passion for human and environmental rights can influence an era of change for many large companies who fail to substantiate such claims. For consumers who wish to make purchasing decisions based on the ethical behavior of companies, it can be difficult to find readily understandable information on the actions of companies and effectively make decisions that reflect a consumer’s values. This is one conversation that is explored in Dr. Chambers’ course, as students search for solutions on how to channel the good intentions of companies into actionable results.

Historically, Corporate Social Responsibility Officers may have been located within the Marketing or Communications departments within a company. Now, Dr. Chambers is observing a shift in this role as companies create bespoke sustainability departments and involve other parts of the business in this work including the General Counsel’s office. Marketing is still very much involved, though, in a company’s messaging about sustainability, environmentalism, and social justice. Gaining exposure to these topics and developing this skill will be a great benefit in today’s corporate world and can create new areas of opportunity in careers after graduation. One of Dr. Chambers’ motivators is that by educating students on corporate responsibility, students will gain a toolkit of information to make knowledgeable decisions about how to work ethically, identify the companies they wish to work for, and learn how to be a more informed consumer. If you are interested in learning more or are interested in pursuing career opportunities in this area, consider registering for Dr. Chambers course, Corporate Social Impact and Responsibility, this fall.

Read more about Dr. Chamber’s experience and insight on her course, BLAW 3252, during this interview with the School of Business.


Internship Spotlight: Kathleen Walsh ’21, Cigna Marketing Leadership Development Program

Kathleen Walsh (Contributed Photo)Kathleen Walsh ‘21 is a senior marketing student majoring in Marketing with a concentration in Digital Marketing and Analytics and a minor in Management. This past summer, Kathleen interned at Cigna through the Marketing Leadership Development Program (MLDP) on the Competitive Intelligence team. Kathleen will be returning to Cigna full-time this summer as a MLDP Lead Analyst. In this role, Kathleen will complete her rotations on three additional teams before determining her final placement within one of Cigna’s marketing teams. Kathleen shares her excitement to be able to work in a career related to healthcare and support Cigna’s healthcare insurance products, something that benefits every customer they serve.

Cigna’s rotational program allows undergraduate and MBA students to explore various roles within marketing before committing to one specific role and team. This allows participants to gain a greater understanding of multiple distinct marketing opportunities. Kathleen shares that she found the rotations to be attractive and helpful as she continues to learn more and gain a better understanding of where within marketing are her career interests the strongest.

For summer internships at Cigna, the steering committee makes placements dependent upon an intern’s experience and business need. If students return for additional rotations in the full-time role, they receive greater opportunity to choose rotations that align with their aspirations. By the time of the third rotation, members can work in different Cigna office locations and decide which area of marketing they would like to work in. For those interested in a full-time career at Cigna, Kathleen advises to treat your first internship like an interview; “your summer internship is a ten-week interview. During the time you can show of your skills, while meeting with the steering committee to prove you would be a great asset to the program long term.”

Kathleen reflects on her excellent experience at Cigna. She shares that her work was meaningful, and the company creates a strong sense of community within the MLDP. Kathleen shares, “Through mentorship, volunteering, and other group activities, I found a great group of people at Cigna that I look forward to working with again … It is a testament to the company and everyone working there, that even virtually I was able to see a culture of helpfulness filled with individuals who really want young professionals to succeed.”

On campus, Kathleen is an Undergraduate Peer Advisor in the Advising Office. This position allowed Kathleen to improve her problem solving and interpersonal skills. Kathleen also serves as the Vice President of the Women’s Club Volleyball team, which has developed her leadership and communication experience. The summer of her junior year, Kathleen worked part-time at a behavioral healthcare company called Mental Health Strategies & Solutions that specializes in mental health. This prepared Kathleen for interviews at Cigna because it gave her experience in the healthcare industry.


Alumni Spotlight: Emily Vasington ’16, Associate Digital Product Manager at Whirlpool

Emily Vasington (Contributed Photo)
Emily Vasington (Contributed Photo)

Emily Vasington ‘16 came to UConn confident that she had a passion for marketing. During her undergraduate career, Emily joined the professional marketing and sales fraternity Pi Sigma Epsilon (PSE). Through her membership in PSE, Emily gained appreciation for the variety of areas within marketing and specifically enjoyed gaining exposure to consumer marketing and brand management. Emily later served as the president of PSE, which she shares allowed her a unique opportunity to interact and share her passion for marketing with other students while learning how to manage, recruit, and oversee an organization.

Emily accepted a Brand Management internship at Whirlpool during her junior year. After a successful summer interning in Benton Harbor, Michigan, Emily accepted a full-time offer to return to Whirlpool as an Assistant Brand Manager on the Maytag brand. In this role, Emily assisted in the successful launch of new products by establishing a positive brand image with consumers. While working on the launch of new products, it is imperative that brand managers successfully demonstrate the differentiation and value of a product over competitor offerings. A successful launch will help determine the future of the product and increase brand equity.

After two years on the Maytag brand, Emily challenged herself by accepting a new role within Whirlpool on the ‘Internet of Things’ team. Emily worked as an Associate Digital Product Manager on this team for an additional two years. Emily shares that this is her favorite experience thus far because it exposed her to new areas of the business and pushed herself outside of her comfort zone! In this role, Emily served as a liaison between business teams like sales and marketing and the developmental side of the business, such as hardware/software developers. One project Emily worked on during her time on the team was a re-launching of the KitchenAid app. This project was focused on rehauling the app to update the design, look and feel to better fit the brand image. Emily shares that was especially exciting being able to work on brand management products for Whirlpool because Whirlpool is a 100+ year old company. Modernizing the brand to compete with younger competitor companies was a special task for Emily.

To continue advancing her career, Emily has chosen to go back to school and is currently and MBA Candidate at Harvard Business School. Emily explains that she chose to go to Harvard because of their unique approach to the MBA Program. Harvard creates a general management experience rather than focusing on one area of business. This means that Emily is taking classes with all other MBA students, and can draw on the experience of students who have worked in diverse business roles in numerous industries. While specific marketing skills can be learned on the job, understanding how parts of the business work together and how to be a strong leader and imperative skills for any successful employee.

Emily’s vast career experience has revealed to her the importance of trying new things and challenging yourself outside of your comfort zone. Emily advises all aspiring marketers, “Every career move is a bit like building your toolkit … Even if it seems risky, it’s worth it…. When you push, you grow.”