Business is in Our Roots
The business of agriculture was the foundation of Arkansas Tech University. When it was formed by the State of Arkansas as the Second District Agricultural School in 1909, ATU offered the education most needed at the time for the rural farming communities surrounding Russellville. As times changed, the university grew and offered new curriculum to enhance opportunities for students in multiple disciplines.
Dr. Lisa Toms, dean of the College of Business, continues Tech’s tradition of adapting to the changing needs of the community. Her vision for the college is “to produce graduates who are so prepared that we become the preferred supplier of new employees for regional employers.”
Since its official establishment as an academic division in 1949, the College of Business at ATU has offered first-rate education for students in the ever-changing field that has always been part of ATU’s roots.
According to Dr. Kenneth Walker’s “History of Arkansas Tech University,” business courses available for students during the 1945-46 academic year consisted of accounting, general business, shorthand, typewriting and office practice. Later, as reported in 1949, the Business Administration division at ATU had added business education. By 1966, ATU had full baccalaureate programs in accounting, general business and business education.
In the late 1990s, ATU’s School of Business completed preparations to seek accreditation from The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), which is “known, worldwide, as the longest standing, most recognized form of specialized/professional accreditation an institution and its business programs can earn,” according to its website.
The AACSB first accredited the baccalaureate degree programs in business at Arkansas Tech in 2000. ATU has maintained its accreditation for each five-year period since then, with the next scheduled review planned for the 2019-20 academic year.
The programs currently offered by the College of Business are:
Business Data Analytics
Economics & Finance
Master of Business Administration (MBA)
An evolving business world awaits future business leaders. Our business faculty are prepared to ensure ATU students will be up for the challenge.
According to the Gartner Big Data Adoption Survey (2017), 52 percent of respondents state that determining how to get value from big data is one of their top three challenges.
Dr. Kevin Mason, professor of marketing and ATU alumnus, thinks “a big challenge facing businesses is the challenge of how consumers’ personal data can be used and shared. Businesses will have to balance the desire to use consumer data to provide greater offerings to consumers while simultaneously not abusing consumer privacy.”
M. Batra, author of the “Competition Forum” article, “Customer Experience–An Emerging Frontier in Customer Service Excellence,” said, “Customers are buying, researching, and interacting more through their mobile devices …This ‘anywhere, anytime’ mentality drives the immediacy of CX [customer experience] programs.”
Of course, the most successful business leaders have employees dedicated to customer service.
“Technology has made it feasible to treat each customer as an individual rather than a ‘number’ in a market segment.” continued Batra.
“Keeping your customers happy while being able to turn a reasonable profit is the biggest challenge,” said Dr. Stephen Jones, professor of management. “Customers today have access to much more information than they did even a decade ago, but they still want a reliable product or service at a reasonable price delivered in a reasonable time period.”
Why study business at ATU?
Dr. Jones believes that Arkansas Tech provides a great foundation for all things business related. Dr. Mason agrees and says that a good understanding of business can benefit any career path a student might choose. ATU’s dedicated faculty inspire students and devote countless hours of service to ensure that the program is one of the best.
According to Dr. Pam Carr, professor of accounting and ATU alumna, “The student-faculty relationships inspire creativity and confidence in our students.”
Dr. Loretta Cochran, associate professor of management, bragged about fellow faculty member, Dr. Kim Troboy, professor of management information systems and ATU alumnae. According to Cochran, “[Troboy] developed deep relationships with industry partners, opened doors and encouraged internships for countless students, and gave up much of her free time to create content and courses.”
As a result of Troboy’s dedication and collaboration with Dr. Cochran and Dr. David Roach, retired professor of management, the business data analytics program was launched in 2012, which Dr. Troboy said was “the first new program in the College of Business in more than 20 years.” The position now held by Dr. Efosa Idemudia, associate professor of business data analytics, was added during the creation of the program.
“I joined the College of Business in 2002 and witnessed firsthand the diligent, hard work of the faculty on two subsequent AACSB re-accreditation visits,” added Dr. Troboy. “These [professors] have made very efficient use of their resources, maintaining quality standards and currency in their various disciplines without losing their focus of individual student care. As I walk the halls, I frequently observe faculty interacting with students in many ways. I see laughter, serious discussions, and work around a computer. I see mentoring that connects the students with the real business world and builds a set of skills and way of thinking that these students will be proud of long after they graduate.”
Change often necessitates innovative solutions. The College of Business is prepared for innovative technology while keeping their goals student-focused and allowing for experiential learning.
“The faculty have determined to add more ‘hands-on’ learning experiences in many of the junior and senior level courses, in extracurricular activities, and in high impact learning opportunities,” said Dr. Toms.
“Technology innovations will continue and likely lead to new consumer products and new ways to shop and procure products,“ said Dr. Mason.
Consumers are also changing. “[They] are willing to pay $1000 for a phone that can be lost or destroyed in seconds, that you can put in your pocket or your bag, that can deliver more information than the world had access to 100 years ago, and that can keep a grandmother in real time face-to-face contact with her grandchild half a world away,” said Dr. Jones. “Over the next decade we should expect to see better ways of learning how to tell the difference [about customers] through analytics.”
Advanced technology is changing the business field according to Dr. Idemudia. “Not only is technology changing every day, but [it] is also becoming more powerful and cheaper. The daily advancements in technology will also drastically improve online education; in fact, there is a strong possibility that in 10-20 years’ time, all management and marketing courses in developed countries will be online.”
Dr. Troboy has witnessed the technology advancements at ATU since her time as a student. “I have watched Tech’s investment in technology grow from punched cards fed into a mini-computer to a mainframe with terminals to a cloud-based, client-server architecture. We now offer distance learning, online collaboration, big data processing, AI, GIS and cybersecurity.”
Management Marketing Split: Setting the Trend for Modern Success
In 1994, as the scope of the business world continued to change, the College of Business at ATU saw the need to expand the “general business” offering into a more pinpointed major: Management and Marketing. This major grew in popularity — so much that it was the most popular amongst incoming College of Business freshmen when I began my undergraduate degree in 2004. I was one of those freshmen, with my sites set on a career in advertising photography. Shortly after I graduated, COB added the concentrations of Entrepreneurship, Management, International Business, and Marketing within the Management and Marketing major. Eight years after adding these concentrations and starting the fall semester of 2018, the Management and Marketing major will be split into two distinctly different majors.
According to Dean of the College of Business, Dr. Lisa Toms, the new split has three different tracks per major. Within Management, the Entrepreneurship, Human Resources Management, and Business Management tracks will provide ATU’s graduates with even more focus on specialty areas to increase their employability and success. “The Entrepreneurship track is quite notable: 99 percent of businesses in the US are classified as small businesses and of that, 64 percent of new jobs are created by those businesses,” said Dr. Toms. She also notes that this particular track will ensure students have the skill set to start up or obtain a job within small business from this focus. The Marketing major has two separate tracks for students: Digital Marketing and Marketing Strategy. Digital Marketing, in particular, is based around the traditional theories of marketing but with a deep focus on the execution of modern tactics that have been transformed by the internet and associated evolving technologies. Dr. Toms believes this track will give its students a “definite edge” in being hired by marketing firms.
As an alum and someone who’s currently working within the advertising/marketing field, it’s exciting to see these areas being split and specialized for the future graduates in this program.
The program staples are keeping up with changing times.
“The accounting major has an excellent reputation for producing graduates who are ready for careers in public and private accounting,” said Toms. “Our new majors in Management and Marketing have tracks that allow students to choose either a specialized path like Human Resource Management or Digital Marketing. The new MBA is available online for individuals who want to be a more effective manager.”
Dr. Carr has no doubts about the education offered at her alma mater. “The Arkansas Tech College of Business provided me with an excellent accounting education so that I could compete in graduate school and in the profession,” she said. “After teaching at ATU for 28 years I am convinced the College of Business is still providing an excellent and practical education for business professionals.”
Dr. Toms is optimistic about the future of the programs offered by the College of Business. “We are making sure that the curriculum in every major is up-to-date and providing students with cutting-edge skills and knowledge,” said Dr. Toms. “Our business data analytics major, the first program of its kind in the state, is an example of innovative faculty using input from employers and the appropriate technology to prepare students to add value immediately after they are hired.”