Oklahoma State University

06/20/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/20/2024 15:58

Looking Ahead: Dean Payne has high expectations for second year at Spears

Looking Ahead: Dean Payne has high expectations for second year at Spears

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Media Contact: Terry Tush | Director, Marketing and Communications | 405-744-2703 | [email protected]

Dr. Jim Payne is nearing his one-year anniversary as dean of the Spears School of Business. In addition to the normal duties and activities associated with an academic school year, his first year also involved overseeing the school's re-accreditation process and creating a strategic plan for Spears Business. Payne took the opportunity to share his thoughts on how his first year at OSU went and his expectations as he enters his second year.

You came aboard last summer at the end of July with the semester starting in less than a month. Were you overwhelmed with such a short time to the start of the fall semester?

Payne: It wasn't too overwhelming as six weeks prior to starting at the end of July, I was already being introduced to several alumni through virtual meetings along with a number of faculty and staff touching base.

What were the key areas you wanted to address in your first year at Spears Business?

Payne: Well, it was not so much by my choice, but we had an upcoming Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) peer review visit for both our business and accounting programs in February. A lot of work went into preparing the continuous improvement reports, and the visit itself went well. As part of our re-accreditation process, we also developed a strategic plan for Spears Business that aligned with the university's strategic plan. We are in the process of finalizing the work plan associated with the strategic plan to provide some annual benchmarks and guidance as we move forward over the next five years.

With the accreditation from AACSB International considered the hallmark of business education excellence, what did you learn from the accreditation visit about Spears Business?

Payne: The accreditation visit confirmed many of my initial thoughts and what I have learned in my short time at Spears. First and foremost, we do an exceptional job with undergraduate students in providing a high-touch educational experience, much more so than I have seen anywhere else. This is reflected in our strong retention, graduation and placement rates. Indeed, the Spears Business motto, the "Power of Personal" is very much ingrained in our identity. Such attention to detail is a credit to the faculty and staff, especially given our enrollment growth reached nearly 6,200 students this past fall.

Second, our master programs continue to improve and offer incredible value to working professionals seeking to expand their skill sets and advance their careers. There is a great deal of pride in these programs as evident by the rankings we receive from a number of outlets. Third, in line with our land-grant mission, we have a number of centers within Spears that are actively involved with a wide range of external stakeholders from across the state and nation, ranging from assisting industry partners with workforce training to working closely with the tribal nations to assist with economic development efforts. Fourth, there is a genuine interest among the faculty and staff to make a difference in the lives of our students and have an impact on the communities we serve.

Even with a lot of the administrative work you have done this past year, I know you have been on the road quite a bit meeting alumni and donors. How was the experience and what have you learned?

Payne: I have been on the road some with several visits to Houston, Dallas, Tulsa and Oklahoma City, along with visiting Naples, Florida; and New York City. The visits have been great. Our alumni are very passionate about Spears and OSU, and not afraid to share some tips on wearing orange. The best was the Bedlam game in our football suite - I never saw such absolute joy everyone had that night. I am looking forward to working with our foundation staff in Spears to continue to meet and learn from our alumni and donors. As I shared with several alumni, my job is to continue to identify ways to increase the rate of return on their investment of time and resources in receiving their degree from Spears as well as ensure the success of the next generation of Spears students.

As you wrap up your first year, what are some areas you hope to work on in the coming year?

Payne: We have been working with Academic Affairs to contribute to the revamped general education program, which will continue into the fall semester. We also have several programs and certificates working their way through the approval process that I hope we will be able to announce in the fall semester as well. Faculty and staff hiring is always important as we work to maintain class size and the necessary support services given our enrollment growth. In light of the new polytechnic orientation for the Tulsa campus, we will be evaluating in some detail our undergraduate program offerings in Tulsa to better align with the campus's polytechnic mission.

As we continue the excellence within our undergraduate and master programs, I want to focus a bit on our Ph.D. programs and the research mission of Spears. While our teaching and outreach efforts are front and center for the parents of our students and many alumni, the research aspects of our mission are often overlooked. A vibrant business school needs a robust research platform in order to attract and retain high-quality faculty, who are essential to the development and delivery of the curriculum that prepares students with the critical thinking and analytical skills to be competitive in the marketplace. Moreover, the production of Ph.D. graduates and the dissemination of research through academic journals and conferences, not to mention the impact of research with respect to our land-grant mission is critical for our reputation and ranking among business schools within top-tier research (R1) universities across the country.

You continue to publish in addition to your many administrative responsibilities. Is that true? How do you find the time?

Payne: Some call me crazy for doing so, but I guess I am old school. For me, I am intellectually curious by nature, and so carving out some time in the evenings or weekends to do some reading and writing is actually a nice break from administrative work. It seems I always have a few ongoing research projects with friends and colleagues, and it is a great way to keep in touch with them.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing business education?

Payne: I think the biggest challenges apply not only to business education but to higher education in general. From my perspective, the biggest challenge rests with questions on the relevancy of a college degree and the competitive forces that have emerged in higher education over the past few decades. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics will clearly show higher earnings for college graduates relative to those without a college degree, the cost of higher education is often a barrier for many students and their families.

I get it! As a first-generation college student, if it weren't for the opportunity that Berea College afforded me, I certainly would not be where I am today. This is why scholarship support is so important in building endowments to help future generations of students. Also, with the changing demographics across the country, there is intense competition for students that requires delivering in-demand academic programs and a learning environment that appeals to students. Based on my experience this past year, I feel Spears Business is well positioned to compete and successfully navigate the ever-changing landscape of higher education.

Engage@Spears magazine
Photo by: Gary Lawson