When Brad and Alys Smith donated $25 million to the Lewis College of Business at Marshall University, they didn't just write a check to get their names on a new building.
"What Brad is challenging us to do is re-imagine the entire college and its academic functions," Avinandan Mukherjee, dean of the business college, told The Herald-Dispatch reporter Taylor Stuck. "It's really a challenge to create a bold future for the college and to be unique and distinctive in many ways."
The people in charge of the Lewis College of Business understand a basic rule of business. You grow or you at least adapt to the changing market, or you will be left behind and suffer the consequences. The Marshall business school is both growing and adapting.
Marshall already offers an online MBA degree, and it is adding an online undergraduate business degree to accommodate students who prefer that option.
Earlier this month, Marshall's Board of Governors approved a proposal to offer a doctor of business administration degree - a DBA. While many people who want to advance in management earn a generic MBA or a specialized master's degree in business, the DBA meets another need, Mukherjee said.
The DBA will be a high-demand program that helps fill holes in the consulting sector as well as faculty positions at a business school, Mukherjee said. The program will be a hybrid, meaning it will be mostly online with five in-face meetings a year. It will be the second doctoral program at the College of Business.
There are no existing DBA programs in West Virginia. The program will leverage Marshall's already existing master of science degrees in accountancy, health care administration, human resource management, and MBA programs, Glen Midkiff, director of stakeholder engagement for the Lewis College of Business, said in an email to The Herald-Dispatch.
"It will enhance the College's brand; increase its reputation, general gift-giving, and fund raising; and promote industry partnerships," Midkiff wrote. "A DBA program will also increase the College's overall profile, and enhance its research impact and productivity. The proposed DBA program is in line with the College's accrediting body, AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business), that has encouraged its members to develop innovative doctoral programs that support business executives in advancing within their existing industry or becoming full-time faculty members."
Midkiff said the College of Business hopes to introduce a general business undergraduate degree next year. It would be for students "who desire a well-rounded understanding of all business areas rather than a specialized area of business, i.e., accounting, business management, computer information systems, economics, entrepreneurship, finance, human resource management, managerial marketing and marketing," he said.
Mukherjee said the college will also add more certificates.
Smith will work with faculty this summer to help them incorporate design thinking - a way of identifying problems and finding solutions - into regular coursework.
"It will help us build a curriculum that is state-of-the-art for the new generation and new industry that we face," Mukherjee said. "Our huge effort right now is entrepreneurship and innovation. This college is all about entrepreneurship and innovation. We want every student in the business school to learn design thinking."
Athletics gets the lion's share of attention when people in the community look to Marshall for something to be excited about, but Marshall's academics are on the rise. The Lewis College of Business, the forensic science program and others show Marshall's academic programs can meet the needs of West Virginia and the Appalachian region as long as resources and commitment are there.
In case West Virginia legislators missed it, that last statement was aimed at them.