Nailing Down the Future of the Rawls College of Business
Dean Lance Nail has high expectations for students, faculty and staff.
by Leslie Cranford
Texas Tech’s dean of the Rawls College of Business, a finance guy by trade and training, may be trying his hand at marketing and slogan writing. His vision for the Rawls College of Business can be summed up in his tagline redo of Texas Tech’s “From here, it’s possible.”
“From here, it’s more than possible, it’s expected,” Lance Nail said. “It’s not only possible to be a success wherever you go with a Texas Tech degree, or a degree from Rawls, it’s expected that you’ll be a success.”
Nail arrived on campus Aug. 15 from the University of Southern Mississippi (USM), where he was dean of the USM College of Business for four years.
Seeking National Recognition
His big goal, among many, is to have the rest of the country recognize what a hidden gem Texas Tech has in the Rawls College of Business, because he said that certainly is what it was to him.
“The caliber of the faculty was unknown to me, and I was a sitting dean at another institution. I had no idea how good the faculty was here,” Nail said. “So for me, the overarching goal is to make people realize what a special place this is–what a great teaching and learning environment we have for our students.”
Nail points to U.S. News’ Best Undergraduate Business Programs rankings as evidence of the college’s evolution.
“We have improved in the peer rankings mainly because of the new building,” Nail said. “I believe that in three years the college will be ranked significantly higher.
“We need to do more to get the word out about our enormously talented faculty and their nationally recognized research,” he added. “That’s what we need to share with the other business school deans, and that’s what will improve our peer-review rankings.”
One of Nail’s new initiatives is to create a Rawls research publication that will focus on the faculty and their research to go biannually to all of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) institutions. The AACSB accredits fewer than 700 colleges of business internationally, including the Rawls College. Nail said the majority of institutions are not approved by that accrediting body.
Another aim of Nail’s is to build trust and respect among all the stakeholders in the college–something he said his team did very well at Southern Mississippi, “because if you don’t have the trust and respect of everyone who’s involved, you won’t go anywhere.”
“We not only want to remain relevant, but we want to be a leader in business education.” — Lance Nail
Redefining “Tech” in Texas Tech
After years of planning and fundraising, the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business Building opened to students and faculty January 2012.
Read more about the new building in LEEDing the Way, from Texas Tech Discoveries Spring 2012 issue.
With technology and business operations always evolving, Nail said it’s important the Rawls College keeps up with the changes. The college has the state-of-the-art facilities and cutting-edge technology for full global reach and nontraditional formats, and they are expanding study abroad programs with a greater emphasis to the students on their importance.
“We not only want to remain relevant, but we want to be a leader in business education,” he said. “When you consider that we have ‘Tech’ in the title of our university, we need to be technological in what we do. I think that’s what our stakeholders expect of us.”
Nail knows that technology can enhance productivity and convenience for students and faculty.
“Digital badges of competency and proficiency will replace or supplement components of an institution’s business degree plan, and online and nontraditional delivery will continue to grow,” Nail said.
Massive open online courses, or MOOCs, are classes taught online to a large number of students with little involvement by professors. Typically, students watch short video lectures and complete assignments graded by machines or other students, allowing one professor to support a class with hundreds or thousands of participants, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Business Skills vs. Business Knowledge
Nail cited Harvard Business School Professor David Garvin, who found that employers feel the Master of Business Administration is too centered on knowledge-based learning without enough emphasis on business skills such as communications, collaboration and conflict resolution.
Additionally, Nail said, surveys of business deans reveal similar employer dissatisfaction with the undergraduate business degree as evidenced by communications and critical reasoning skills that are not as strong as expected and too few “practical” business skills.
“Compared to many other business colleges, we are in the envious position of being part of a comprehensive research university,” Nail said. “Not only are the Rawls faculty extremely gifted scholars who are excellent teachers and mentors, but they are surrounded by the same in other colleges. Texas Tech is a rich environment for collaboration and multidisciplinary programs.
Nail wants to continue to spread the word about the Rawls faculty and their nationally recognized research through a bi-annual publication distributed to AACSB institutions.
“Experiential, collaborative, project-based and solutions-based learning will become requirements of successful business curricula. My hope is we’ll find ways to leverage what we’re doing across campus–behavioral sciences, marketing, management, consumer behavior, consumer psychology–more of a multidisciplinary approach to how we’re conducting research, and hopefully, we make everyone better.”
Nail believes the business curriculum will become more attractive as a joint degree or supplemental certificate program, global business will be taught by an international consortia of faculty, the AACSB will be more proactive in promoting the rigorous standards for accreditation and business skills will be valued more greatly than–and maybe equally with–business knowledge.
Ethical Business is Not an Oxymoron
Ethics training and dialogue is something Nail emphasizes greatly. “We are adding extracurricular programming in ethical business conduct and sustainable business practice so that Rawls students are more fully aware of the ethical dilemmas they will face in life–personally and professionally,” Nail said.
At USM the business college had an ethics week, during which speakers with different backgrounds would come and share their experiences regarding ethics. “We brought in Cynthia Cooper who was the whistle-blower in the WorldCom fraud case; she was the one who reported the fraud,” Nail said. “She talked about how difficult it was to do the right thing because everybody around her was doing the wrong thing.”
Looking at the long list of goals and dreams and expectations Nail has for the college, one might wonder why he decided to take on those many challenges.
“This place is electric,” Nail said, “with the enthusiasm, the energy, the growth, the excitement! As I met the faculty, the staff and the students, everybody was just happy to be here. They’re all pushing in the same direction, and all want to achieve more. It’s just an exciting place to be.”
About the Rawls College of Business
The Rawls College of Business accounts for about 25 percent of Texas Tech graduates. The college consists of six areas of study: accounting, energy commerce, finance, information systems and quantitative sciences, management, and marketing.
Additionally, the college offers dual programs in conjunction with architecture, agriculture, foreign languages, law, medicine, and environmental toxicology, as well as an accredited weekend MBA for Working Professionals program and Health Organization Management (HOM) program that allows medical students the opportunity to obtain both an M.D. and M.B.A. over four years.
New Entrepreneurship Class
The Rawls College of Business is offering a new one-credit hour class titled Perspectives on Entrepreneurship. Inspired by the vision and support of Chancellor Kent Hance, this cross-campus class is designed for students from all academic backgrounds. Students will have the opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship from a diverse and dynamic group of successful entrepreneurs who will share their experiences and unique perspectives on what they have learned. Through this format, students will gain a better understanding of the skills and abilities critical for success in entrepreneurial ventures while also assessing their own personal interest in becoming an entrepreneur. The class is open to all majors; students interested in learning more about entrepreneurship are encouraged to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leslie Cranford is a Senior Writer in the Office of Communications & Marketing at Texas Tech University. Photos courtesy Neal Hinkle.