» Business student numbers up while USM total enrollment is down
By TED CARTER / Hattiesburg Business Today
Faye Gilbert narrowly missed getting to inaugurate a new home for the College of Business and Economics at Radford University in Virginia, where she served as business school dean.
But the opportunity arose anew upon her arrival at the University of Southern Mississippi in summer 2013 to become the first woman to serve as dean of the College of Business.
Making the appointment doubly sweet was a return to the university from which she earned bachelor and master degrees in business administration in 1983 and 1984, respectively.
She accepted the USM post just as Radford University was completing construction of its new business and economics building. That USM was building the 93,000 square-foot Scianna Hall influenced her decision to pursue the job, she said in a recent interview.
“I had just built a building at Radford. I thought I could bring what I had learned in that process to help build this one.” the Ocean Springs native said. “Knowing I was going to get to move into this building was so uplifting.”
Now that the college has been in Scianna Hall for more than a year, Gilbert said she can accurately describe the new home as a “transformative step in business education” for the University of Southern Mississippi.
“This is taking us several steps up,” she said.
Scianna Hall is next to the Trent Lott National Center for Excellence in Economic Development and Entrepreneurship, facing U.S. 49 South. It opened in fall 2015.
Students and professors can arrange their classroom setups to their choosing and have access to technology that has expanded the reach and connections of the instruction, she said.
“Each classroom now has LED screens as well as screens up front,” giving views of the screens to students “no matter what way they are facing,” Gilbert added.
Also, each classroom can be connected visually to the college’s satellite campus in Long Beach.
“Perhaps the most precious benefit of Scianna Hall is the space it provides for students to gather,” the dean noted. “Our building is filled with students studying in the Lock Commons, sitting in the Mississippi Power Foyer, or gathering in groups in our study rooms. They use the benches on the 3rd floor to read and they use empty classrooms to practice presentations.”
Visiting deans, Gilbert said in an email, have called Scianna Hall an “exemplar for blending the right amount of technology with gathering spaces that foster student learning.”
A visitor to Scianna Hall can walk into a marketing lab that may resemble a google workspace, Gilbert noted, citing the informal setting as more comfortable – and thus more productive – for the current generation of students focused on addressing marketing issues and problems more creatively than their earlier counterparts.
“If you want to sit on the floor, that is fine. Just deliver the answer,” Gilbert said.
Accounting classrooms have more traditional tiered seating that gives students a way to keep their materials in front of them.
By contrast, in sports management you will find students rearranging the room to conform to whatever the day’s instruction will be, Gilbert said.
Planning for the new business school home began at the end of the last decade. USM officials projected that student enrollments would soon greatly outpace the accommodations available in the business college’s home in Greene Hall.
Today, the College of Business is growing while enrollment in other majors is declining. Enrollment in the business college has climbed by 5.6 percent to 2,300 students since 2014. Enrollment in the MBA program has jumped 37 percent in the same period, with more than 100 student s now pursuing master degrees.
Those increases have come despite a 2,000-student enrollment dip for the university this year.
General business administration has had the largest growth the last couple years, according to Gilbert, who attributes the increases to the combination of instruction online, in-person and a mix of the two. “They don’t buy the album. They buy the playlist,” she said of today’s students.
Accounting graduates are most in demand, Gilbert said. “We have 100 percent placement for our students in accounting at the graduate level. With much of the demand coming from regional firms such as Ridgeland’s HORNE and such national firm as KPMG, BKD and Deloitte.
USM business grads who responded to a career survey last spring showed an acceptance rate for graduate school of 81 percent, up from 72 percent in 2014.