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Redesign the MBA curriculum. Expand international programs and awareness. Coordinate faculty efforts within the MBA programs. Make a positive difference in people’s lives.
Those are the challenges, and opportunities, Dr. Stanley Harris faces as new Associate Dean for Graduate and International Programs within the Auburn University’s College of Business.
Harris, Torchmark Professor of Management, has been at Auburn since 1986 and has served as Academic Director of the Physicians Executive MBA Program and Director of the PhD in Business Management Concentration since 1996, will succeed Dr. Daniel Gropper, effective July 1.
A veteran of Lowder Hall since 1988, Gropper will become Dean of the College of Business at Florida Atlantic University.
“Dr. Harris has a long and distinguished record as an innovator, educator and leader in our graduate programs,” said College of Business Dean and Wells Fargo Professor Dr. Bill Hardgrave. “He inherits a very successful graduate program and a burgeoning international program. I am confident his leadership will lead these programs to new heights in the future.”
Auburn’s Graduate MBA programs have been recognized nationally and internationally by a number of respected publications. The Executive MBA (EMBA) program was named Best Remote Learning Program in North America by European CEO Magazine, the online MBA program was ranked No. 7 nationally in January by U.S. News & World Report, and Auburn was ranked 16th nationally among business schools with online MBA programs by Poets & Quants.
“I’m lucky enough to enter a role where I’ve got some big shoes to fill,” said Harris. “Everything is very successful. But when things are going well it’s easy to get complacent. I think part of the challenge is ‘how can we maintain and continue to be innovative and differentiate ourselves, not just be happy with our success?’
“I don’t want to be a caretaker in this role. I want to grow it. I want to nurture it. I want to make it stand out even more than it stands out, and I think you have to keep innovating to do that.” Harris said part of that innovation includes modifying the MBA programs’ curriculum.
“It’s been more than 10 years since that curriculum has really been changed, or updated,” he said. “It’s had some tweaks. Redesigning the curriculum and redesigning the program for on-campus and online MBA, or outreach MBA, is going to be a major priority.
“I look forward to working with the faculty, staff, students, alumni and businesses to design a curriculum that engages students and faculty and best positions our graduates to compete for quality jobs.
“How we differentiate ourselves and what our identity is with regard to those (MBA) programs is going to be very important. We have a perfect opportunity to answer the questions, ‘What do we want to be?’ ‘How are we going to be unique?’ ‘What are we going to do that enriches the program, gets faculty and staff excited, and at the same time makes us a place students want to be a part of and companies want to recruit from?’”
Auburn’s on-campus and online graduate program offerings include Master of Accountancy; Master of Business Administration; Master of Science in Information Systems; and the Master of Business Administration: Finance. Executive programs include the Executive (EMBA) and Physicians Executive (PEMBA) Master of Business Administration, and the Master of Real Estate Development (MRED). Doctoral programs include PhD in Business with concentrations in Management and Information Systems.
Harris said growth in graduate programs outside the MBA is also important to the college.
“The international program is another aspect of my job,” he said. “The world seems to be getting smaller in some ways, and gulfs seem to be getting bigger in other ways. How can we get students to really appreciate this? Increasingly, our students will be working with international colleagues, suppliers, and customers; employed by international companies in the U.S.; or actually working somewhere outside the U.S. Just look around us here in Alabama. The world is coming to us. We need to expand international awareness and understanding.”
Harris said he is eager to explore new and fresh ideas to enhance and expand Auburn’s programs. Why? He prefers to think out of the box.
“I’m a broad, creative thinker,” he explained. “I can see a problem from multiple angles and appreciate new ways of handing it … Stepping outside the box is a little like stepping outside yourself and challenging your assumptions. The majority of the time, you’re going to say ‘I’m fine with the way I see things, but sometimes you are going to see things in a new, insightful way.’ It also helps you develop a greater sense of empathy -- how other people might see the world differently. It sparks you to be creative. Interacting with people different than you can help you think out of the box. It primes you to think about things in a little different way.”
What interested Harris in applying for this position?
“I love teaching and the influence it has on students,” he said. “But this whole notion of trying to run and coordinate faculty efforts to do the MBA programs … it has a much more broad impact on people’s lives, in particular the students.
“I want them to create a program where students grow not only in knowledge, but as people so that they will be more satisfied with their lives, happier with their choices, and content with how their skin fits, and better contributors to the organizations that hire them and communities in which they live. To me, it’s that overall package of this important endeavor that attracted me to the job.”
Harris said he often works with outside companies to help them “facilitate decision-making.” He believes that skill will be useful in his new role.
“I’m hoping the skills I have for facilitating will translate into this job where no faculty report to me, but they’ve got to make this thing happen,” he said. “So how do we come up with a new curriculum? How do we decide? It’s not going to be Stan Harris’ curriculum. It’s going to be what we, together, come up with. Creating that sense that we’re doing this together and enfranchising everyone to be a part of that is probably the biggest challenge I face.”
Harris and his wife, Nancy, who met in the PhD program at the University of Michigan, have two children, John, 23, and Daniel, 19. To learn more about Dr. Harris, read our Q/A with the new associate dean on theshareholderonline.com, or click here.