As part of a broader restructuring of academic departments, SUNY College at Brockport plans to evolve its department of business administration and economics into a separate school.
The school will be launched in about three years and provide greater opportunities for business partnerships and academic programs, SUNY Brockport officials said.
The change is part of an overall academic restructuring to replace a three-school structure in use for nearly 30 years. The new structure includes the schools of the arts, humanities and social sciences; sciences and mathematics; health and human performance; and education and human services.
Brockport’s business department already has received accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, which is "the platinum standard for business schools," says Anne Huot, Brockport provost and vice president for academic affairs. But Huot noted that more than 95 percent of institutions with AACSB accreditation are organized as schools.
Locally, the E. Philip Saunders College of Business at Rochester Institute of Technology is accredited by AACSB, along with the Bittner School of Business at St. John Fisher College, the Jones School of Business at SUNY College at Geneseo and the Simon Graduate School of Business at the University of Rochester.
Roberts Wesleyan College also has a division of business, which offers four undergraduate business majors, two graduate programs and two certificate programs. Its master of science degree in strategic leadership and four bachelor of science degrees are accredited by the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education.
The advantages of being a separate school-including the increased stature locally and the creation of more opportunities for students to partner with businesses-made it clear that the change was necessary, Huot said.
"We have during the last period planned to develop our department structure into a school and in doing that can make better connections with the local and regional business community," she said. "We will have a higher profile. I think we have the best value in the area and we’re able to do some things in a school structure that we can’t now in a department structure."
The idea for creating a business school was floated by Huot about a year ago, said John Keiser, business professor and department chairman. But after the school was proposed, the economic downturn hampered plans and it became uncertain when the project could move forward. He takes the school’s recent announcement of the academic restructuring and plans for a business school as a sign that it was not put off track too much.
"It’s nice that Dr. Huot is really promoting this," Keiser said. "I think it is a good signal of this happening sooner."
Details of the restructuring still are being discussed. Keiser said there has yet to be in-depth discussion with the department’s advisory board, a group of local executives who advise the department on curriculum, programs and initiatives.
SUNY Brockport has been benchmarking schools of business at both public and private institutions to determine what kind of program is most suitable, he said.
Being out of the shadow of the school of professions, which housed nine departments including health care and recreation and leisure departments, will help the business school establish itself, Keiser said.
"Before we were part of a grab bag of different departments and the dean may or may not have had a business background," he said. "If we become our own school of business, we will have our own administrative team dedicated to business and business scholarship.
"Also," he said, "just being a school of business would add credibility and prestige and put us in a greater competitive position for students and faculty."
The AACSB accreditation is geared mostly toward schools, Keiser said, which meant that SUNY Brockport’s department was an overachiever but also lacked some of the resources it needed. Nearly 1,100 students are in the department, one of the most popular in the school.
This year Brockport is adding accounting and forensic accounting graduate degree programs, and a business school would offer the chance for even more programs, Huot said.
"We’ll be able to offer more electives and more things in conjunction with the local business community," Huot said. "It will start by growing our partnerships."
As the school grows, its physical footprint is likely to increase as well, Huot said. At the outset she envisions it fitting within the business department’s current space, but eventually the school will rehabilitate some existing space and create more state-of-the-art facilities like high-tech conference rooms.
The school also might eventually have a greater downtown presence as well, especially at the graduate level, she said. In particular, the master’s of public administration program located downtown could have a natural connection with the school.
Keiser also envisions a stronger connection with the SUNY Brockport Small Business Development Center downtown.
"That falls under our department, in a sense, but we kind of co-exist autonomously," Keiser said. "That entity would fit far better in a school of business."
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08/28/09 (C) Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303.