WSU seeks competitive edge

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 1:33 PM

Rachel J. Trotter

OGDEN -- Weber State University's school of Business and Economics is looking to get on the fast track to garnering national attention within the next five years.

To do so, Dean Jeff Steagall asked his faculty to identify areas where the school has a competitive advantage.

Steagall feels the university has one of the best business colleges around and wants everyone to know it.

"We're not really looking to increase (numbers), we just want to get some recognition for WSU programs nationally," he said.

The business college wants to recruit students from a broader area, even nationally and internationally, and increase the quality of the school's programs.

Currently the business college has about 2,400 students, 2,000 undergraduate and the rest in the master's program.

Contributing to the strategic plan are 44 full-time faculty members.

The faculty identified five main areas where the school has a competitive edge:

* Supply chain management, a specialized degree that Weber State was only the second school to offer.

* Entrepreneurism. The school has been working with serial entrepreneur Alex Lawrence to establish a new program.

* Master of Taxation, a specialized degree offered through the School of Accountancy.

* International Business. This is Steagall's specialty, and the school is looking to expand its connections overseas.

* Sustainability, which is a new trend in business that the school is getting a piece of.

Steagall said the school will not jump on all five of these emphasis areas at once, but will concentrate on those it can work on most immediately.

The first target is supply chain management. The school plans to play up that emphasis because it is such a unique field and one where there is a need.

"We have approximately two-and-a-half job offers for each of our graduates," Steagall said. "We owe it to our students to grow this program so that they are career-ready the minute they receive their diploma."

Another area that will help the program attract attention is establishing an endowed faculty chair, to be filled by a nationally known individual in the field.

That can be difficult because it is very expensive and more than a state school can pay for, so the college would have to secure funding from outside the school.

Steagall and his department are going to start looking in that direction and hope to have someone on board next year.

The college will also start to recruit students more nationally and even internationally. By doing this, it increases credibility and basically raises the bar, Steagall said. It also helps the local economy because people who come to the area tend to stay here.

"It has a halo effect," he said. "If you have credibility with one program, it affects all the programs."

Steagall has no doubt that gaining national attention and better preparing students for careers in business are obtainable because of the quality of the college already.

Steagall has been the dean of the business college for one year.

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