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Monday, 26 March 2012 09:58

Seidman b-school aims for closer ties to biz, community

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Seidman b-school aims for closer ties to biz, community PHOTO: Joe Boomgaard
GRAND RAPIDS — With the new Seidman School of Business, Grand Valley State University aims to further cement its connection to Grand Rapids and to the region’s businesses.

While the university’s primary responsibility is to serve the students, there is another group wanting be heard within higher education — the business community. With construction of the L. William Seidman Business School underway, GVSU President Thomas Haas said the investments are strategic in supporting the pipeline of students to the region’s workforce.

Haas said that what he is seeing around the country is some states coming back to the realization that talent is what will drive economic recovery.

“If the number of (higher education) degrees is up, so is the vitality of the state,” he said. “It’s a matter of priority and culture to understand the need.”

With 76 percent of employed GVSU graduates working in the West Michigan area, Haas wants to continue to develop talent using the strengths of the business school to partner with local companies and other higher learning institutions.

“Our focus is to continue our efforts in health sciences, engineering and math,” he said. “We’re making further enhancements in working with Muskegon Community College and (Grand Rapids Community College) and looking at ways we can partner with (Michigan State University) and (the University of Michigan).”

H. James Williams, dean of the Seidman Business School said the university had been thinking of building an additional facility for more than eight years.

“The university was in dire need of square footage,” he said. “We have fewer square feet per student than any of the other 15 public universities in the state.”

Behind the simple need for space, Williams said the university wanted a separate facility for the college strategically placed in downtown Grand Rapids.

“It helps to be more open and connected to the community,” he said. “But what were trying to do is stay on the cutting edge of business education.”

While the new Seidman building will help free up space for the health and education programs at the DeVos Center buildings, Williams said the real benefit will come from the university being able to more aggressively attract and recruit faculty and students.

“Across the country institutions of higher education are struggling,” he said. “Because of the economic downturn there are pressures on universities that were never faced before.”

The business school is like a front door for the community to the university, Williams said. By making the investment in the b-school and growing public/private partnerships, he said the university wants to prove to the state the real economic value that the higher education has for Michigan and for the West Michigan community.

The group Business Leaders for Michigan is also getting behind higher education and wants the legislature to make funding it a higher budget priority. The group detailed a plan in February for the state to be a “top 10” state in higher education funding for those schools that are performing at “top 10” levels.

Twenty-five years ago, Michigan was supporting public higher education institutions to the tune of about 70 percent of their operations costs. Today that number is down to 17 percent, Haas said. The disinvestment in higher education on behalf of the state is the most significant challenge to the university today, he said.

Continuing the growth pattern the university has seen over the last 30 years will be difficult, but maintaining the university’s relevance to the community, rigorous education standards and a return on investment are a matter of priority and accountability, Haas said.

“We want to show more clearly and forcefully the impact we are having on the communities,” Williams said.

The business school also tries to maintain close ties to the business community by creating advisory boards for each of the school’s departments. The university taps local business people to sit on those boards and provide the departments with information about real-time trends and about the workforce needs in the community, he said.

Through the boards and enterprise resource planning, an initiative implemented 12 years ago, GVSU emphasizes the integrated nature of business and communication between all of its programs. Whether a student is pursuing supply chain management, finance, marketing or accounting, the interface between the specific units is a point of focus for the college.

The Seidman school’s first full-time “integrated” MBA cohort will finish this August. The program gets its name by integrating a learning and professional environment: Students worked 20 hours a week in partnership with a local company and spent 20 hours in the classroom during the fall and winter semesters. In spring and summer semesters, the students will work full time with their employers and attend classes at night.

When the new facility comes online in the spring of 2013, it will also house all six of the b-school’s outreach centers, including The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Michigan Small Business Development and Technology Center. The college’s breakfast speaker series, which regularly has 200 to 250 attendees, will also move to new event space the new building.

Read 1575 times Last modified on Sunday, 12 August 2012 10:26

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