As UND celebrates 100 years of business education, the start of its second century marks a time of change in the Dean’s Office in the College of Business and Public Administration. Steve Light took the helm as interim dean in 2017. Now, as he prepares to return full-time to the classroom after eight years in varied university leadership roles, he reflects on the spirit of teamwork and commitment to excellence within his faculty home.
“This College is inspiring,” said Light. “It’s been a joy and a privilege to work alongside such a dedicated group of faculty and staff, motivated students, and inspirational alumni and friends, all of whom care so deeply about the CoBPA and its success.”
Light succeeded Margaret Williams and before her, Denny Elbert, serving in the past 15 months as the College’s seventh dean. Prior to this, Light served as UND’s Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education, and in 2013-14, as Interim Dean of the College of Nursing and Professional Disciplines.
Throughout his time in university leadership roles, he has prioritized opportunities to be in the classroom and developed new research interests, seeing himself first and foremost as CoBPA faculty.
Light joined UND’s faculty in 2000. A political scientist, he is widely regarded as among the nation’s leading experts on the law, regulation, and business of Indian gaming—casinos owned and operated by American Indian tribal governments. The author of four books and some 50 scholarly articles, Light also has won numerous teaching awards, and together with his frequent co-author and team-teacher, UND School of Law Dean Kathryn Rand, has received the university’s highest annual award for faculty excellence.
”When I think of the CoBPA, the first word that comes to mind is ‘home,’” Light noted. “It’s been a privilege to serve the College, because it and UND have inspired my career path and contributions in ways that I could never have imagined.”
The CoBPA has much to be proud of during a year of ongoing success in teaching and learning, research and scholarship, and outreach and engagement.
The College received full reaccreditation from the American Association of Colleges and Schools of Business (AACSB), placing the CoBPA in the top 5 percent of business schools worldwide. Continuing to excel in national rankings, the CoBPA’s online MBA was ranked 36th by U.S. News, and 5th by the prestigious Poets&Quants listing of the country’s top 25 online business schools.
CoBPA students continued to prove they stack up with the nation’s best, competing and earning top placements at business school competitions around the country, including taking first place at the Collegiate DECA Conference and the Student Human Resources Conference and Case Competition, and finishing in the top three at the General Motors/Wayne State Supply Chain Case Competition, among many other student honors and accomplishments.
With the rollout of the One UND university strategic plan, the College explored new ways to advance its mission and align with university priorities in learning, discovery, and engagement.
Learning is job one. The College focused on moving more of its quality courses and programs online to meet student—and employer—demand, including the newly launched Masters of Accountancy. Looking forward, the College made strides in re-envisioning its undergraduate business core curriculum, with an eye toward streamlining student pathways to graduation while fostering the kinds of knowledge, skills, and abilities that employers want and need.
The College provided a record 170 students with scholarships to recruit and support high-performing students and experiential, real-world learning. In the program’s first year, the Dean’s Emerging Leaders received an innovative charge, to reinvigorate the College’s student business council. With community and industry partners, the CoBPA launched the inaugural Red River Valley Business Plan Competition, at which 15 student teams got their “Shark Tank” on and pitched to over 20 expert judges.
The CoBPA advanced the discovery and application of knowledge in exciting ways. The Marketing Department won UND’s top research award—a first for the College—while overall, CoBPA faculty continued to publish in more top-tier outlets and be recognized as go-to experts by business and community leaders, the media, and the public. College faculty joined with others across the university to advance One UND’s goal to help solve state and national “Grand Challenges,” including promoting healthy and thriving rural communities; encouraging energy security and sustainability; using big data; and developing business and societal applications for unmanned aerial systems.
The College placed a premium on outreach and stakeholder engagement, highlighted by signature programs featuring CoBPA alums alongside community and national experts. At the Hultberg Lectureship Series, four prominent women business leaders captivated the crowd, while the Olafson Ethics Symposium packed the Student Union with more than 450 students and others to explore the role of the media in reporting on business and society. Within the College, the first-ever Staff Council was convened to foster staff professional development and promote shared governance.
“The College’s many achievements in learning, discovery, and engagement didn’t just happen—they were intentional, strategic, and forward-looking,” noted Light. “I’m pleased to have been part of these many successful initiatives during my deanship.”
Building for the future
Gamble Hall has served as the home for the CoBPA for the past 50 years. A key strategic priority for Light and many others has been envisioning the College’s future in a next-generation building with virtual and physical platforms for the next 50 years.
“Gamble Hall has helped us educate successful graduates since 1968. As we look to the next 50 years, business education is evolving. For us to stay competitive, our building must empower the next generations of leaders,” Light stated.
With flexible spaces, cutting-edge technology, and a fresh design to inspire ideas and innovation, the next-gen CoBPA will help students experience business as never before, engage the brightest experts, and generate new ideas and startups that will change the world in which we live, play, and work.
“Our vision is to bring the world to our students and our students to the world,” said Light.
As he returns to the faculty, Light is grateful for the opportunity to renew his commitment to student learning. “Through my interactions with students, both as Interim Dean and as a teacher, I’ve been reminded that that’s why we’re here: to educate the next generations of students as they become Leaders in Action,” said Light.
An enthusiastic runner, Light compared his time in College leadership with a relay. “You take the baton and hope to help the team move things forward,” he said, “and then you hand it off. I ran the most recent leg, and now it’s Amy’s turn.”
When Amy Henley takes the baton on August 1, she inherits a College team on a great footing for continued success.