Global. High-tech. Fast-paced. That’s the world that Meredith’s School of Business is sending graduates into – a place where leadership and teamwork go hand-in-hand with cultural awareness and the ability to quickly adjust.
The faculty, staff, and leaders inside Harris Hall are adapting to this new world, too, adding curriculum and reaching out halfway around the world to build a school that satisfies the needs of students today – and the future.
As other women’s colleges have struggled or gone co-ed, Meredith’s leaders are seizing the opportunity to build on a program that has a long history of developing successful business professionals. The School of Business has been consistently popular with Meredith students. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) recently re-accredited Meredith, a status that only 5 percent of business programs around the world have achieved.
The work to boost the school’s offerings and opportunities already is paying off. This year, 220 undergraduate students are enrolled in the school, up from 152 last year. After eight years of declining enrollment at the graduate level, the number of students in the MBA program grew for the first time this year to 86, up from 68 last year. Application numbers for next fall indicate continued growth.
“We’re just one piece of the overall strategy at Meredith,” said Kristie Ogilvie, who became the School of Business dean in July 2015. “I’m so excited about the potential of where we are going. Everybody is doing great things here.”
The growth plan is multi-pronged. The goal, Ogilvie said, is to add new programs that will attract more students, but also cast a wider net to build a larger and more diverse student body.
“We’ve really been looking at market forces,” Ogilvie said, “talking with employers and recent graduates.”
That feedback included calls for coursework that reflects the modern business world where social media is king, complex government rules require more oversight, and new management skills are vital.
Starting in the fall, undergraduate students will have the option to choose a concentration in marketing with a focus on social media and data analytics. The new spotlight on digital marketing reflects a shift in the field where online platforms now offer a myriad of new opportunities to promote products and services.
The concentration will be housed in the School of Business, but Ogilvie expects it will draw students from across campus. Already, faculty in other departments are eager for their students to take the classes, she said.
New MBA Concentrations
At the graduate level, the School of Business is offering new courses for students interested in two sought-after topics — human resource management and project management.
Since summer 2015, students earning their master’s degree in business administration have been able to add a concentration in human resource management. The graduate concentration includes courses on compliance, compensation, and talent management, said Kristy Dixon, an assistant professor and faculty advisor for the school’s award-winning undergraduate chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management. Meredith added a human resources concentration at the undergraduate level a few years ago.
Companies are growing, Dixon said, and so are the rules and regulations that they need to meet. Business leaders are boosting their human resources staffs and also hiring outside consultants to do the work. Employment of human resource managers will grow 9 percent through 2024, faster than the average rate for all other jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“The knowledge is needed — either from a consulting side or hiring individuals,” Dixon said.
Existing MBA students already are clamoring to sign up for the new project management concentration, which will begin this fall. The tightly packed program will delve into topics such as supply chain management and logistics.
Ying Liao, associate professor, has been working with the North Carolina chapter of the Project Management Institute, an international group that connects project managers. The North Carolina chapter is one of the largest in the world — thanks, in part, to the high demand for project managers in RTP, said Liao, who takes Meredith students to chapter meetings each year.
“We have a very strong and growing demand for the subject,” she said.
Student Body Grows
As new programs begin, so do efforts to build a student body that reflects the modern workforce — a mix of new and experienced employees from around the world.
Until now, Meredith’s MBA program was primarily open to working professionals. Starting this fall, the program, which is
co-ed like all graduate programs, will accept “emerging leaders” – students who have just completed an undergraduate program or who have only a few years of work experience. Applicants must have a strong undergraduate record of academics and leadership. Experience from at least one internship is recommended.
Ogilvie said classes with freshly minted college graduates and experienced professionals will be a valuable part of the Meredith MBA. They’ll be able to learn from each other.
“That’s what you see in the workplace,” she said. “You see somebody with a lot of technical skills who’s 22 and somebody who is 50 with not as many technical skills, but is vice president of a major organization.”
China to Meredith
Ogilvie also is developing strategic partnerships with colleges and universities in other countries to build a strong base of international students — an area where the School of Business has lagged behind other MBA programs. The average MBA program has about 44 percent international students, Ogilvie said. Right now, Meredith’s MBA program has just one international student.
The first stop is Guangzhou in south China. Meredith recently signed articulation agreements with Sun Yat-Sen University, one of the top schools in China, and Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, a highly rated program where all courses are taught in English in its MBA program. Sun Yat-Sen already has partnerships with schools such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston and Oxford University in England.
As soon as this fall, students from Sun Yat-Sen and Guangdong could arrive at Meredith for graduate study. “We’ll get a couple of international students, we hope, next year,” Ogilvie said. “If they have a really good experience, we can draw from that pipeline.”
The partnerships come thanks to connections that Meredith business professors —Liao and Associate Professor Bing Yu —have in China. Both are Chinese natives.
“All of the conversations started from personal connections, which is a pretty typical model in China,” said Liao, who calls Guangzhou her hometown. “It becomes your personal network and then your business network.”
The alliances with Sun Yat-Sen and Guangdong could be just the beginning. Ogilvie has her eyes on a women’s university in Guangzhou. She traveled to China in January to recruit new students.
“Now, many other Chinese universities have contacted us,” Yu said. “They expressed interest in collaborating with us. We are working with a couple of them and maybe another one or two articulation agreements will come out this summer.”
And Ogilvie is working on other opportunities. She recently hosted visits from deans representing schools in Poland and France.
Eventually, as that pipeline of new students grows, Ogilvie hopes the student body changes from just working professionals to working professionals filling half of the seats and an even mix of emerging leaders and international students filling up the other half.
“It’s going to be, quite honestly, a lot more work for our professors,” Ogilvie said. “They are going to have to serve three different types of students. But they are excited about it.”
Meredith to China
The partnerships also could mean new opportunities for Meredith students to study abroad. Since 2008, Meredith has sent a group of students and faculty members for two weeks every other year to China, a program that also is paired with classes on international business and Chinese culture and commerce in Raleigh.
This summer, 12 Meredith students have signed up to take the classes and go on the trip, which mixes business visits with sightseeing in Shanghai and Beijing. All of the students on the trip this year will receive financial aid through Meredith to help cover their costs.
Liao, along with business professor Rebecca Oatsvall, leads the trips. Liao said future trips could eventually include south China where they might meet up with students to collaborate on projects or research. Other opportunities could unfold in the future.
“It really gets you out of your comfort zone,” said Liao of the trips abroad. “It shows you are flexible, you are able to handle uncertainty, and that is very important in business today. Things change so quickly. You must be able to adapt.”
The experience has opened doors for students such as Cody Jeffery, who graduated in December 2015 with majors in business administration and minors in economics and professional writing and communications. When Jeffery interviewed for her current job as an operations analyst at Credit Suisse in Research Triangle Park, the very first question was about her trip to China in 2014 with Meredith.
“It was certainly helpful in the interview process,” said Jeffery, who now works with teams in Poland. “It gave me an edge to talk about something different.”
Scholarships through Meredith made it possible for Jeffery to travel to China. Other donations are making a big difference, too, as the School of Business maps out future plans. Thanks to an endowment from the Broyhill Family Foundation, business students and faculty are getting new opportunities to grow.
“I’ve been asked, ‘How is my gift impactful?’” Ogilvie said. “The Broyhill grant is a great example.”
Through the new Broyhill Business Fellows Program, selected students with strong grades and proven leadership skills take part in corporate visits, interact with business leaders, get one-on-one career coaching, and attend seminars.
Jennifer Coples, a Broyhill Fellow who graduated in May 2016 with a double major in business administration and fashion merchandising and a minor in marketing, took away important lessons on how to succeed as a woman in a male-dominated field. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” said Coples, “and don’t be afraid to be an alpha female.”
Broyhill Fellow Zainabu Otieno, a double major in accounting and economics with a minor in finance who graduated in May 2016, expects to stay in touch with her mentor long after she leaves Meredith. “She’s somebody I constantly talk to,” said Otieno, who has landed a job as an investment banking analyst at Deutsche Bank in New York. “She’s someone who will be instrumental in my career.”
Meredith received another gift from the Broyhill foundation to support research and teaching opportunities for faculty members. An increased emphasis on research is critical to maintain AACSB accreditation.
With money from the grant, Liao is boosting her knowledge and teaching skills in project management as Meredith prepares to offer the new concentration. Another grant will support Liao and colleague Associate Professor Jane Barnes as they travel to a conference to get feedback on a project they are working on about knowledge management and product innovation.
Dixon used her grant to help take 13 students to Atlanta for the Society for Human Resource Management’s Case Competition. Yu won a research grant for his work on a project on corporate social responsibility.
“I’m really excited about it,” Yu said. “This gives a lot of support for faculty members to conduct research.”
The planned growth can’t come without continued support from corporate partners, who provide internships, which Meredith students are required to complete for graduation, and expertise on panels and at special events.
Firms such as Credit Suisse, Alfred Williams & Co., and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) offer internships to Meredith students. In many cases, companies end up extending job offers to interns. “We focus our placement efforts on the value both sides can bring each other,” Ogilvie said.
At the EEOC office in Raleigh, Thomas Colclough, deputy district director, said he is still in touch with Meredith interns who came through as long as 20 years ago.
“If I had one chair available,” Colclough said, “I would sit a Meredith student in that chair.”
“They are technically competent and … they’ve done research in the laws that we enforce,” he said. “It makes it a lot easier to involve them in our processes. As a result, they take on greater responsibilities and they take them on quickly.”
As Meredith builds its student population, those alliances will be even more critical for faculty and staff to maintain and build.
“We have more internships than we have students, but that won’t always be the case,” Ogilvie said. “That’s why corporate partnerships are so important to us.”
There’s more in store for Harris Hall — a student-run investment fund, thanks to a $300,000 endowment; new programs in entrepreneurship and family business; even a Shark Tank-like competition.
Five years from now, Ogilvie hopes the MBA program will have grown to serve more than 200 students each year. She’d like to see a day when most Meredith undergraduate students are planning at least a minor in a business subject.
Regardless of how it grows or changes, leaders intend for the School of Business to maintain its close-knit atmosphere. At the graduate level, the average class size is just 15 students. Each faculty member works with 10 to 15 students.
“That high touch is exactly what our true mission is,” Ogilvie said. “I don’t think we’ll ever move away from that, nor do I want to.”
Faculty and students are excited too.
“[Dean Ogilvie] has done a great job,” Dixon said. “She’s made a lot of changes in the short amount of time she’s been here. We want to keep growing. And we always want to keep getting better.”
As Otieno heads to New York to launch her career, she looks back with some nostalgia at Meredith where so much change is ahead.
“They have really exciting things planned for the future. And they are getting a lot of student involvement,” she said.
“Meredith, just being a women’s college, has helped me a lot. I’m not just graduating with accounting and economics degrees. I’m walking out a woman leader.” — Zainabu Otieno, ’16