Conversing with the College of Business Administration Dean
Dean Deborah F. Spake, Ph.D., recently joined Kent State University from the University of South Alabama to head up the College of Business Administration. Prior to serving as associate dean at the Mitchell College of Business at the University of South Alabama, she taught at colleges in Alabama, Michigan and Germany, where she most enjoyed teaching strategic marketing at the MBA level and also brand marketing, since those courses allow students to work with businesses to solve problems. Spake has extensive experience in marketing research and has published widely. She is very active in the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB).
Kent State Magazine recently sat down with Dean Spake and asked about her background, what she sees as the strengths of Kent State's program and her vision for the college.
KSM – How did your professional and academic career bring you to your position as dean of the College of Business Administration at Kent State?
DS – After earning the master's degree, I began working for a publishing company as its marketing research director and later made the transition from corporate to consulting and worked for firms that specialized in marketing research and strategic planning. I completed the Ph.D. and taught for a number of years before moving into academic administration six years ago. I found that the job allowed me to draw on both my industry and academic experience to help move a college forward. The opportunity to bring those skills and experience to Kent State, at a time when the campus is growing and being recognized for its many achievements, was appealing.
KSM – What is the overall mission of the College of Business Administration?
DS – Our mission is to create new knowledge and to educate undergraduate, master's and doctoral students. We accomplish that through a balanced collective engagement in rigorous and relevant research and teaching, and we revisit the mission as needed to reflect modern business college focus and practices.
Beyond the classroom, we can also share knowledge from the cutting-edge research we conduct with the business community as it relates to economic development. One of my first priorities will be to meet with corporate leaders in Northeast Ohio to solidify existing relationships and forge new ones.
KSM – What are the greatest strengths of Kent State's business programs?
DS – Certainly, a great strength is the college's faculty and staff who are dedicated to student learning, research advancements and outreach to the business community.
Another strength is the college's focus on experiential learning – bringing authentic business experiences and practices to students before they graduate. Students are better prepared and more competitive when they take advantage of our resources. We offer internships, shadowing and mentoring opportunities, working with our entrepreneurs in residence, receiving coaching from business leaders, attending sessions by guest lecturers, visiting business workplaces and more. Kent State students are fortunate to have access to a full-time business experiences manager who can help them make the most of all of these opportunities.
At Kent State, undergraduate and graduate education-abroad programs deliver value in the deeper understanding gained from seeing other places, people and business practices. Students understand that we live in a global economy where products are created in part or whole in other places in the world. Their education-abroad experiences help them to appreciate differences in the way markets operate and the connectedness of a global economy by seeing it firsthand.
The international component of the Executive MBA gives working professionals the opportunity to meet with business leaders, tour selected businesses, meet with the U.S. Embassy, visit a local university and explore a country's culture, thus comparing their own industry experiences to business practices in other parts of the world.
KSM – What are the advantages of a business degree in today's workplace?
DS – A degree in business offers a wide variety of opportunities. Every company is a business. Nonprofit and government agencies are businesses. All are in need of the skills that business graduates provide.
For graduates and professionals, if you want to be in management in any field, you need to add business, whether management, accounting or finance. Business degrees help you rise to the level of management within a company or give you the ability to manage your own company. In starting their own businesses, people with degrees or skills in other disciplines need to know about accounting, human resources, management and marketing.
I formerly taught in an MBA program that frequently had physicians come back to get their MBAs so that they could run their private practice. One former student is a cancer researcher who came back for an MBA because he needed to learn how to commercialize his work. The same is true at Kent State.
So, from freshmen to graduate students to experienced professionals, the question we could ask incoming students is – from high-tech to healthcare – where wouldn't a business degree help you?
KSM – Imagine that you're selling the college to an incoming student or the parents of an incoming student. What would you say?
DS – Despite its large size, the college is a very "high-touch" experience. Professors know you. Timely, personalized advising offers you a high level of support, and our advising office is fantastic. Experiential learning is an essential part of the program, including education-abroad opportunities, internships and so much more. This program gives you real business experiences that will better prepare you for your business career after graduation.