Dean’s Letters


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


Master’s Degree in FinTech Is Latest Big Innovation at School of Business

In a recent newsletter, I announced the launch of a new, Online MBA program at UConn. The program goes live this fall, and we have almost 40 applications under review, and another 53 in process.

Today I am pleased to announce another innovation, the launch of a Master of Science degree in FinTech. Our UConn Board of Trustees approved this program on April 28. This graduate degree will prepare people to participate in the rapidly changing intersection of finance, technology, and analytics. Continue Reading


UConn, School of Business Embrace Life-Transformative Education

Tom Katsouleas, UConn’s new president, arrived with a clear vision, which included a university-wide commitment to life-transformative education (LTE).

The LTE Task Force started by asking: Why are we working here at UConn? The response: “UConn seeks to imagine what our University would look like if every one of our faculty and staff responded to that question with: ‘We are here to help transform the lives of UConn’s students.’ ”Continue Reading


UConn’s New Online MBA Program, Launching this Fall, Will Build on Proven Experience

I’m excited and proud to announce that we are launching a fully online MBA (OMBA): Excited because this new program is uniquely poised to provide a high-level academic experience that will prepare our students to be agile in the changing landscape of the post-COVID business world; Proud because of the laser-focused efforts across the School and University to bring this program to life. Continue Reading


Connecticut is Thriving: Let’s Keep It Going

Gov. Ned Lamont created the Governor’s Workforce Council to lead efforts to grow and refine Connecticut’s workforce. Led by distinguished individuals, four committees foster a broad approach to workforce development. For example, UConn President Tom Katsouleas is an ex-officio member of the Career & Education Committee, while Jim Loree, CEO of Stanley Black & Decker, chairs the Business Leadership Committee. I serve as one of many collaborators in this effort. Continue Reading


The Power of Words vs. Indifference

Thursday morning the weekly meeting of the Deans of UConn’s Schools and Colleges was narrowly focused on the previous day’s events in Washington, DC, when thugs invaded and desecrated the United States Capitol. From our own academic perspectives, we reflected upon our shared responsibilities to nourish critical thinking among our colleagues and students; to defend the rule of law in civil society; and to continue to make UConn a welcoming home to the exchange of ideas. I reaffirm those principles on behalf of the School of Business. Continue Reading



A Year of Change

I have been sharing thoughts regularly since my return to the School of Business after 15 months in the Provost’s office. In June, I reflected on George Floyd’s death and in August, I urged us all to be active—to vote and to respond to the census. As I look at the election, the big news is fuller engagement. At this writing, we know that over 66% of eligible voters voted, well above the 60% engagement in 2016. We responded to the imperative to choose. Engagement is good for our democracy and our communities.

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Dean’s Report 2020

UConn School of Business Dean's Report Fall 2020 Equity Now

Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to share with you the 2020 Dean’s Annual Report. In it, we highlight many of the achievements of the last year: the outstanding research being conducted by our faculty; the continual support from our alumni allowing us to enrich the lives of our students through scholarships, internships, mentorship and employment; the amazing work of our students in the classroom and beyond; our incubation and support of entrepreneurship; and our ongoing commitment to diversity. Continue Reading