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The College of Business is gearing up for next week’s start to the 2021 academic year at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Dean Barb Rau offers a Titans Return update about refinements to online learning, shifting office spaces, faculty/staff changes and how best to support students, faculty and staff in their personal and professional development.

Barb Rau

What lessons learned during the pandemic will faculty and staff be bringing forward with them into the new academic year?

In the College of Business (COB), faculty and staff have refined their skills for online learning. We have been fortunate to hire a new instructional designer, John Belotti, who is bringing new ideas and energy around our online course design. Some of this spills over into the face-to-face course design as the integration of technology into all of our classes progresses at a rapid rate.

Our support staff have attained a new level of familiarity and excitement for the efficiencies that can come with using technology to streamline our processes. It does not always unfold smoothly—technology does offer its own challenges—but moving from paper forms to electronic forms means we don’t lose as many requests, electronic document sharing and signatures significantly speeds up the process of decision-making and keeping people informed about all aspects of a process. We are finding new efficiencies in the Cooperative Academic Partnership Program, hiring, performance evaluation, promotion, tenure processes, etc. All of this is very exciting because it allows us to spend more time thinking about strategy, process improvement, goal-setting and metrics, rather than, “Did you receive that form I mailed over?”

What’s new in your college for the 2021-22 academic year?

We are welcoming two new academic department associates, Casey Ange and Erin Johnson, to COB. In addition, we have new instructional academic staff or visiting instructors/professors in economics, information systems, finance, and management/HR. We are also running searches for permanent hires in economics, information systems, management/HR. All of these are, unfortunately, replacing faculty we have lost either due to retirement or resignation. We are excited nonetheless about the new ideas and energy that new hires will bring to our college.

We also have taken the time away from campus to do some reimagining of our space usage. This has led to a relocation of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Small Business Development Center into the space that was formerly used by the COB graduate office. The COB graduate office has moved into the same space as the undergraduate office. We have removed cubicles and filing cabinets to make room for a more dynamic and movable work area that can be used for workshops, student meetings, brainstorming sessions, etc. We also envision this space being used by our instructional designer to deliver small seminars to faculty looking to try a new technique or technology in their classes, share experiences, and otherwise coach and mentor each other to improve our overall instruction. Finally, we are repurposing a space that was used by students in the Center for Entrepreneurship for the students working in our new digital marketing clinic. This project to provide consulting assistance to small businesses looking to increase their digital marketing presence has been flourishing under the leadership of Kathy Fredrickson and Dan Brosman.

Finally, we are working on an exciting Cybersecurity Center project led by Michael Patton of the management information systems department. This center will be in partnership with the Wisconsin Cyber Threat Response Alliance and will provide space for research, training and outreach related to cybersecurity. It is a very exciting venture and one that will meet a considerable need in our community and beyond for additional cybersecurity talent.

How will your college be celebrating our sesquicentennial?

We will be finding ways to link the sesquicentennial to our College-to-Career Night and other events we will be hosting throughout the year. COB also celebrates the 50th anniversary of the MBA program so there will be dual celebrations happening.

What are your own personal thoughts/goals for the coming year following the unprecedented year we experienced in 2020-21?

While the 2020-21 academic year was difficult, I have been amazed and inspired by the incredible creativity, resilience and solidarity that has been displayed by COB faculty and staff. We are all looking for the same thing—to create an amazing college that supports students, faculty and staff in their personal and professional development. I believe COB  is gaining a much deeper awareness and understanding that creating an environment that allows students to authentically explore their personal goals in business and in life starts with creating it for ourselves. Supporting each other, investing time in each other, sharing whatever wisdom we’ve been able to glean from life to this point, noticing when someone is in distress and offering whatever we can by way of help, allowing people to think and be different and accepting them for who they are, these are all things that we are working toward living and modeling. We sometimes fall short but who doesn’t, in life? Failure is part of our learning process and we can be grateful for the joy of failing and learning because if we all came fully baked, life would be awfully boring, wouldn’t it?

In the coming year, we are focusing on improving the personal and professional development opportunities we bring to our students, growing our existing revenue-generating programs, such as the consortium MBA, executive MBA, data analytics certificate and collaborative UW extended campus programs, while also developing new cost recovery programs, refining and elevating our work to create positive social impact with external partners, and starting initiatives that can support scholarship by our faculty. Not surprisingly, COVID has had a detrimental effect on faculty scholarship productivity because of the intense needs related to pivoting online. We would like to take some time and resources to ensure our faculty have what they need to get their research back on track and create more balance between their research, teaching and service obligations.

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