Welcome to The Eller Times, sharing highlights of news, events, people, and partners of the Eller College of Management.
As demand for graduate programs for managers swells nationwide, the Eller College takes its Executive MBA (EMBA) to Phoenix this year to better serve the professional community throughout the Southwest.
"This is the fastest growing part of the country," said Paul Portney, dean of the Eller College, explaining the College's first foray into the Phoenix MBA market. "Sustained economic growth will require business leaders with cutting-edge analytical skills and real-world experience." These are precisely the graduates the Eller EMBA aims to turn out, adding the academic and research-grounded knowledge of an MBA to the experiential knowledge held by the high-level professionals the program serves.
The Eller EMBA — to be offered annually in Phoenix and every other year in Tucson — differs from other executive MBA programs in a number of ways. To begin with, the program is among the most accelerated in the country at just 14 months with regular classes scheduled every other Friday and Saturday.
To achieve that schedule, the curriculum was built on a new concept in graduate management education: integrating topical areas to align with the way that professionals need information at work. Instead of separate courses in accounting, finance, marketing, etc., the Eller EMBA integrates these domains in thematic modules, addressing the competitive landscape, for example, or process analysis and cost management.
The integrated curriculum drives another distinguishing factor of the program, the Innovation Project, for which students develop a solution to a challenge faced by their organizations, such as completing a merger and acquisition plan or re-engineering a division's operations. In this way, the Eller EMBA delivers immediate return on investment in addition to the long-term benefit of enhanced management knowledge.
The College officially announced the Phoenix offering last week. Billboards, radio spots, and print ads will build awareness of the program in Phoenix throughout the first half of 2006.
Professionals interested in the Eller EMBA can learn more and register for information sessions at www.EllerEMBA.com or by calling (888) Eller-MBA (355-3762).
Three new courses offered this spring add depth and dimension to the business and leadership education Eller delivers.
One of the classes serves Eller sophomores by developing a skill that's critical across a range of business activities — attracting investors to a venture, pitching an initiative, convincing a board to take a new direction, or simply selling a product or service — persuasion.
Taught through the Business Communication program, Impact Strategies and Persuasion in the 21st Century will integrate lectures, guest professionals from the local business community, video tapings of student presentations, and a number of other methods for building both individual and team skills.
Two other new courses — both cross-listed in entrepreneurship and management and policy — serve upper-division and graduate students. They complement another 400/500-level entrepreneurship and management and policy course, Outsourcing of Professional Activities, which debuted at Eller last fall.
The first of these, International Business with Special Emphasis on India, will be taught by Amar Gupta, professor of entrepreneurship and MIS and Thomas R. Brown Chair in Management and Technology.
The class exposes students to the business, politics, and social culture of India, delving not only into the potential for American outsourcing, but also problematic issues, such as the brain drain India faces as highest-paying jobs with external, multi-national corporations pull talent from the country's internal industry, research, and government.
Student teams will focus on individual companies or industries throughout the course, sharing their research as part of the educational experience. Following the lecture portion of the course, students have the option of traveling to India for eight days to experience the business and culture first-hand.
Another course, Accelerating Business Process Engineering and Systems Development with Reusable Business Knowledge, introduces a paradigm that emphasizes the importance of agility in business — an agility gained by reusing and reconfiguring components of business knowledge.
As innovation proceeds at an ever-greater rate, the need to adapt quickly and grow creatively is replacing efficiency as the most critical corporate measure, just as knowledge is fast replacing tangible materials as the key asset of an organization.
The course will be co-taught by Gupta and Amit Mitra — former assistant vice president of the American International Group, where he oversaw worldwide information systems — and draws heavily on their co-authored book published recently, Agile Systems with Reusable Patterns of Business Knowledge.
Douglas Merrill opened his talk at the Eller College last December with a favorite quote: O brave new world that has such people in it.
You might not expect Shakespeare (The Tempest, Act V Scene I) from Google's senior director of information systems, the man in charge of the company's internal engineering and support. But then Google, Inc. has been full of surprises since it was founded in 1998, not the least of which was its IPO in 2004, the third-richest U.S.-based IPO in NASDAQ history.
As a guest of the Department of Management Information Systems (MIS), Merrill addressed a standing-room-only crowd, giving an overview of the company's humble beginnings and remarkable progress in its mission to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."
His presentation underscored not only Google's accomplishments, but also challenges the world has yet to overcome. At one point, he projected a darkened screen, points of light pulsing with varying intensity in what appeared to be a night map of the world's city lights — a map with an unsettling anomaly. "Where's Africa?" Merrill asked. The continent is virtually invisible on what isn't a map after all, but a real-time visual representation of queries to Google's servers — a chilling testament to the persistent digital divide between first- and third-world nations.
Merrill's visit was the beginning of what Eller faculty hope will become a win-win relationship with the company that in a few short years became a world leader in information services. Last October, Google launched operations in Phoenix with facilities primarily focused on engineering, operations, and IT support. The Eller College, with one of the nation's top-ranked MIS programs, could help power those operations, graduating students with a combination of technical expertise and creative thinking, people of that "brave new world" that Merrill seeks.
"Google's core competency is in finding new and unusual ways to solve problems for which everyone knows the answers," Merrill explained. It requires exceptional employees and a hiring process that Merrill said can be "brutally random." Applicants might end up interviewing with a host of unidentified people or playing bingo. "We want people who are comfortable with ambiguity," explained the man who, as a scientist with the RAND Corporation, used to brief the U.S. military, intelligence agencies, and the Office of the President on issues of information security.
"Google exemplifies the focus on technology and innovation that Eller promotes," said MIS department head Mohan Tanniru, noting that the MIS department’s innovative work in data and text mining and other information technologies aligns with Google's corporate strengths. Indeed, when Google announced its Phoenix operations, Arizona governor Janet Napolitano characterized the company as "the right kind of player for the new economy we're building – one that values education, new technology and the future."
We couldn't have said it any better.
Jan. 25: An Evening with Carl J. Schramm
Carl J. Schramm, president and CEO of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, speaks on stimulating entrepreneurial growth and opportunity in U.S. universities. Schramm is this year’s Anheuser-Busch Entrepreneur-in-Residence for the College’s McGuire Entrepreneurship Program. He is a past Robert Wood Johnson Fellow at the National Academy of Science and two-time recipient of the National Institutes of Health Career Science Award. Attendees will have the opportunity to visit with Schramm and other cross-campus and cross-industry leaders in entrepreneurship at an open house reception from 5 to 7 p.m. E-mail to RSVP for the open house: email@example.com. Parking is available at the Highland and Second Street Garages.
Feb. 10: Tablet PC Education Event
Eller College Undergraduate Programs and Gateway will co-host Tablet PC Technology in Education, a free event for faculty and instructors from Eller and K–12 schools in Southern Arizona. The event will include interactive presentations on using tablet PCs, presentations on classroom instructional technology and wireless educational environments, and a panel discussion. Continental breakfast and lunch provided. For information, contact Eller Learning Technologies manager Veronica Diaz: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feb. 16: Career Showcase
Coordinated and presented by Delta Sigma Pi and Eller College Student Council, Career Showcase was established in 1994 and is the largest student-managed career fair in Arizona. Along with a pre-Showcase week of career search strategy workshops, the event plays a key role in the career search process for undergraduates. Contact Pam Fick, director of Undergraduate Programs career initiatives, for information: email@example.com.
Feb. 17-18: Professional Admissions Interviews
Undergraduate Programs conducts professional admissions interviews, a central component of the admissions process for both public administration and business programs. Each year, Eller alumni and friends from the private and public sectors interview students and provide critical feedback to help guide their professional development. Sign up to lend a hand!
Feb. 23: Fathauer Lecture in Political Economy
Economist and author Robert Frank of Cornell University will speak at 5 p.m. in McClelland Hall with a reception to follow. Frank has written a number of books linking economic principals and human behavior, including one of The New York Times 1995 Notable Books of the Year, The Winner-Take-All Society, co-authored with Philip J. Cook. Reservations are required for this free event: firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a leading software developer and solutions provider for the banking, healthcare, insurance, and financial services industries, Misys depends on universities to graduate innovative thinkers with top-shelf skills in informatics and IT systems. Enter the Misys Charitable Foundation, which supports education in information and communications technology.
With Tucson the home of the company's second-largest office among some 120 worldwide, the Eller College was a perfect fit for the Foundation's goals, explained Judy Mann, corporate relations manager for Misys Healthcare Systems. "Our objective is to further IT education globally," she noted, "and this is especially important in areas where there are high concentrations of Misys operations. We looked at different opportunities and were very impressed with Eller's excellent reputation."
With a win-win match at hand, the Misys Charitable Foundation awarded $12,000 last semester to three Eller undergraduates demonstrating strong promise in these areas, continuing a scholarship program begun in 2004.
Irina Serachitopol completed her MIS degree last semester. She had previously worked at Misys in a summer internship program and is now in her third year working with the Arizona Cancer Center as a research technician.
Tracy To is currently a senior pursuing an MIS degree. She first learned of Misys while working as an IT intern at Protiviti, Inc. "Understanding Misys' role in IT helped me realize how much more the IT field encompasses than just computer programming," she said. Tracy plans to work in IT consulting and will continue to gain experience with an internship this summer at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Kristen Vaz is a senior completing a double major in MIS and accounting. Keenly interested in the vital role that technology plays around the world, Vaz sees Misys as a critical player in IT systems. "The healthcare industry is booming," he explained. "There are major advancements to be made in medicine with the use of new technologies."
The Eller College completed its first semester using tablet PCs donated by HP as part of a $74,000 grant last year. Courses in the Department of Marketing and Business Communication program used the HP tablets in the initial pilot last fall.
This semester, Eller Learning Technologies will launch the second phase of the project in MIS, where teaching assistants will use tablet PCs to streamline research and work with databases. The teaching assistants will first attend a day-long seminar to learn about tablet PC functionality and instructional technology.
Unlike notebook computers, tablet PCs allow users to write directly on screen, similar to the "notes" function on many PDAs. Last semester, students were able to download slides for lessons from their Blackboard accounts and add handwritten notes directly to the slides during class. Similarly, as instructors present slides in class, they can quickly jot down information arising from class discussion, then save the more complete slides and make them available for download. The screens of tablet PCs also swivel 180 degrees and fold down flat, making it easy for users to share work and deliver presentations to small groups without a projector.
Judges for the S.E.E.D. Business Plans Competition have again named a team from Eller’s McGuire Entrepreneurship Program among the event’s eight finalists. With this placement, Eller teams have been named finalists every year since the competition’s inception in 2003.
The 2006 finalist team, MS-Dx, has built a business plan around a third-party patented blood test for detecting Multiple Sclerosis. Drawing strength from its diversity, the graduate-level team represents four academic disciplines: science, biosciences, management information systems, and business management.
"I think our team really came together because we think of this as a real venture, not just an assignment" said team member Marie Wesselhoft, who has extensive professional experience in medical diagnostics. "This test is needed in the market, it's viable, and it's even somewhat altruistic — we knew from the beginning it could be real. That creates a different energy when you're working on the project and when you go in front of a panel of judges. That's our edge."
TechKnowledge Point in Santa Barbara presents the annual S.E.E.D. competition, which universities nationwide regard as one of the most prestigious events in collegiate entrepreneurship education. The company also publishes Entrepreneur magazine and oversees its annual rankings of entrepreneurship programs nationwide.
First-semester juniors participated in the Undergraduate Programs' first Core Project Expo, presenting business plans created in a pilot to integrate learning from multiple core classes. In addition to teams honored in each of multiple categories, the Effortless Innovations team took top honors for best poster presentation in the expo. Effortless Innovations — a business idea for an innovative trash disposal system — was the work of:
Undergraduate Programs also presented awards to top achievers in various departments at its Fall 2005 Convocation:
Last but not least, the College was proud to see four undergraduate students elected to the 2005 Homecoming Court:
Kudos to our outstanding undergraduate achievers!
Network-centric operations allow the U.S. military to engage in battle like never before, working from an information grid that gives each independent ship, plane, etc. the ability to "see" a broad picture of a battle by combining information from individual units across a network. The sum of that information gives each unit a more accurate, coherent understanding than any one unit could muster on its own.
When the attacks of 9/11 led the USS Carl Vinson to abandon its routine watch deployment and instead lead a coalition of ships in combat against Afghanistan, its crew demonstrated an exceptional grasp of network-centric operations. What set their performance apart? The human element — a clear understanding of how and why people adopt technology, a view that trumps the faulty logic of "if we build it, they'll use it."
This is the argument put forth by John Kruse and Mark Adkins — respectively director of software development and director of research at Eller's Center for the Management of Information — in their case study "The Technology Trap" published by the U.S. Naval Institute's Proceedings magazine in August 2005.
Reviewing exactly how commanders and crew used network-centric operations, Kruse and Adkins identified a number of actions that led to unparalleled success. Leadership clearly designated specific uses for key channels of communication — voice circuits, electronic chat, Web-based content, etc. — while all but eliminating other, competing channels. They also made a concerted effort to reward information sharing and innovation.
In doing so, they made the network-centric tools both easy to use and incredibly valuable — two critical tasks in getting people to adopt new technology.
The command staff also proved masters of "the human element" in a number of ways — streamlining communications to free their staff to do their work, eliminating duplicated efforts (like regurgitating info that had already been uploaded to the Web in PowerPoint presentations for higher-level reporting), giving their staff greater freedom to perform, and encouraging transparency at every level.
In the end, Kruse and Adkins identified a number of clear lessons found in the systems used on board the USS Carl Vinson:
1. Implement systems that benefit people at every level, not just the boss.
2. Worry less about building the perfect toolset and more about how to maximize use of simple tools at hand.
3. Implement systems that need to be used frequently and heavily.
4. Don't duplicate efforts — good systems don't create more work.
5. Let people experiment with tools and in doing so expand the tools' uses and worth.
These maxims proved invaluable in battle in the fall of 2001. But any manager or IT professional will quickly recognize that they apply well beyond the North Arabian Sea.
Building a Business in Law
When Colleen Goodell Knecht first started law school at the UA Rogers College of Law in 1996, she wasn't planning on taking on a second graduate degree at the same time. But the unexpected can yield exceptional results.
During her first summer after starting law school, Colleen interned at Honeywell, doing research and legal leg work in the Space and Aviation Division. That experience whetted her appetite to "get a broader spectrum of business knowledge," she explains. She already knew that she was more interested in transactional law — that vast world of legal work outside the primetime T.V. courtroom dramas — and recognized that deepening her business knowledge could only help her career.
Colleen completed a dual MBA/JD degree in 2000 and her instincts about adding a business degree to her resume proved correct: "It definitely gave me a leg up in getting the job I wanted," she recalls, noting that the MBA "triggered people's interest" and helped her to stand out from other candidates.
That job she wanted was with the Phoenix office of Morrison & Hecker LLP, a law firm with a compelling mix of clients from offices not only in Arizona, but also Missouri, Kansas, and Washington, D.C. Then, in 2002, the company merged with a Missouri-based law firm to become Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP, doubling its employee base to nearly 350 and setting the path for its position today as one of the largest firms in the country.
It wasn't long before Colleen realized that this new company didn’t hold what she was looking for. So when two fellow attorneys asked her to join them in starting an independent firm, she quickly joined the team. Today, that start-up — Zwillinger & Georgelos P.C. — is going strong with impressive work to their credit, including the $45 million sale of the largest insurance broker in the state of Arizona and the $250 million purchase of Circle K by the fourth largest convenience store operator in North America. Its six attorneys handle securities, labor and employment law, and commercial litigation, as well as Colleen's areas of focus: real estate lending, acquisition, and sales, and mergers and acquisitions.
As a shareholder in the firm, Colleen's MBA has taken on new value. It's still important in her legal work — "I look at things from a different perspective; I understand our client needs better than someone who doesn't have a business background," she notes — but it's also helped behind the scenes at Z & G as well. "We're a small business," she points out. "We run our own shop." That MBA background in HR, accounting, marketing, and more helps Colleen better understand not only her client's needs, but her firm's needs, as well.
In the end, the JD/MBA combination was a perfect marriage for a rewarding career. And while Colleen is one to push herself to her limits, it's not a job she plans to leave any time soon. With a more recent happy marriage — her own, in December 2004 — and now a child due in March, she'll soon have the chance to test her talents in a whole new way.
BSBA Marketing '94
It's no surprise that Mark Strickling is passionate about The University of Arizona. It's a great school, he served as an Arizona Ambassador and was a member of the Student Success Committee while earning his marketing degree at Eller, and as an Arizona Wildcat and two-year letterman, he played on the kick-off return team when the Cats won the 1994 Fiesta Bowl. With his degree and outstanding memories, it's no problem for him to promote the UA as the regional director of The University of Arizona Alumni Association Phoenix office.
But then, promotion has always come naturally to Mark. "I am always marketing," he confides. "I found myself marketing in every job I ever had." In fact, for Mark, it's inescapable, and not just on the job: "When you wake up in the morning and get dressed, you're marketing yourself to the world. Everyone is a marketer."
While that may be true, it's undoubtedly true for Mark, whose first job out of college 11 years ago was working as the marketing coordinator for the El Con Mall in Tucson, handling public relations and organizing events. He later transferred the experience he gained there to the same role at the University of Phoenix.
Later, as an admissions counselor for the UA, he won the College Board's Ned Tibby Award for his recruiting finesse, and was characterized as "a walking billboard for the UA." Then, despite his Wildcat blood, he went to work for ASU — he assures us they always understood where his loyalties lay — working as an academic professional advisor and furthering his interests in personnel development.
While at ASU, Mark developed leadership seminars, motivating students with strategies for maximizing their potential. The spirit of that work is evident today in a new program he recently brought to the Regional Alumni Association, reaching out to "future alumni" through a program he's dubbed "Cycle of Success."
The idea is simple: Each year, the Alumni Association awards a number of scholarships with funds raised through alumni events, sales of alumni license plates, and other revenue streams. Mark's goal is to pair each of those scholarship recipients with an Alumni mentor working in the student's field of interest. Ideally, that mentor would not only be a sounding board and source of encouragement throughout the academic year, but also an internship sponsor in the summer. The idea was sparked by Mark's looking back on the mentoring and support he received as a student — part of what made his UA experience exceptional. "A lot of people helped me," he notes, "and it made me want to give back. My hope is that these students who are mentored will someday look back and want to do the same for someone else, serve as a mentor, give an internship, and further that Cycle of Success."
The program will pilot this year, and it's actually only one item on a long list of goals Mark has set for himself — everything from increasing Wildcat awareness throughout the region to finding new ways for alumni to be involved in campus activities. "It's all giving back," Mark says, "and that's what I love. That's where I want to use my energy and my passion." In his current role, Mark is well positioned to do just that, a situation he sums up in three simple words: "I'm loving it."
To be a part of Cycle of Success or for information on getting involved with the Alumni Association in Phoenix and Northern Arizona, contact Mark at email@example.com.