Sunday, February 19, 2012

High standards keep B School among world's elite

Fundamental issues of self-examination for the Business School are coalescing this fall as a five-year endeavor enters the home stretch for reaccreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International.
The issues are crucial and elemental. What should students be? Know? Be able to do? And, critically, how the School of Business Administration - and the world -- can be assured of these achievements.
"Accreditation by the AACSB says we are among the elite business schools in the world," said Dr. Jud Stryker, chairman of the Maintenance of Accreditation Committee. "It is vital for the reputation of our business school that we maintain this level of excellence."
The AACSB first accredited the Stetson's Business School in 1996, so this is the third review to maintain the accreditation. Assessment, analysis and endeavor involving every aspect of the school and faculty member have been going on since the last reaccreditation in 2005.
Final reports are being collected and assimilated by the Accreditation Maintenance Committee in anticipation of an AACSB Peer Review Team visit in late January. Stryker said he couldn't hazard a guess at the great number of faculty and staff hours that have gone into the long process.
"So many people have been part of the process," he said. "Every faculty member has played an important role, but the effort grows in intensity as the team visit approaches and we must show that we have done what we said we would do."
The AACSB doesn't make specific requirements and say "you absolutely must do this or that," said Stryker, also associate dean of the Business School and chair of the Accounting Department. Instead, it lays out guidelines and the school itself establishes the parameters of unceasing improvements in research, scholarship, assurance of learning, sufficiency of qualified faculty, strategic planning, commitment of the university to the improvements and many, many other factors encompassing the entire school.
This graphic helps visualize elements of an MBA. "Continuous improvement" of the business and accounting programs is stressed by the AACSB, said Stryker. Quality of all facets of the school must be constantly monitored, improved and maintained. The AACSB's visit is the culmination of the previous five years' efforts.
Less than 5 percent of the world's business schools have achieved the elite distinction of AACSB accreditation. Stetson holds two separate AACSB accreditations, one for the entire Business School and a second, specialized accreditation for its Accounting Program. Almost 600 business schools in the world hold the former, but only 173 hold both.
"And if you look at private schools who hold both accreditations," said Stryker, "it would be in the area of 35 schools worldwide."
Although hundreds of details covering every aspect of the school are involved in honing an educational edge to meet the world's most discerning standards, the entire effort is focused on one straightforward goal: unsurpassed quality of student learning.
A reaccreditation presentation earlier this year to the Business School Board of Advisors asked several questions that reflect the crux of the effort: "What do we want our students to BE when they graduate from Stetson? What should they KNOW? What should they be able to DO? How can we be assured that they have learned what we want them to learn? How can we improve learning outcomes?"
The questions go to the core of the school's vision and mission, evident in every classroom and inherent in the solid, unquestionable reputation of every student's diploma. Stryker has no uncertainty that the questions' intrinsic standards have been exceeded in every way: "I have no doubt we will be reaccredited."
Other faculty members serving on the Accreditation Maintenance Committee are Mike Bitter, Carolyn Nicholson, Ted Surynt, Michelle DeMoss, Yingtao (Michael) Shen, Scott Jones and Stuart Michelson, dean of the Business School.  

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