MTSU College of Business: Dr. David Urban: Looking Backward…while Looking Ahead


Looking Backward…While Looking Ahead

By Dr. David Urban

Dean, Jennings A. Jones College of Business

Middle Tennessee State University

On June 30, 2019, I completed six years as Jones College dean—the average length of service for deans at AACSB International–accredited business schools. Though my term length is average, our accomplishments are not. I interact with deans across the country and served as a faculty member or administrator at two previous universities. I believe the Jones College record compares very favorably to other collegiate business schools.

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Anyone looking at our record objectively would conclude Jones College is a much better business college than it was six years ago. Here are a few highlights:

Academics. We reviewed and improved our offerings, such as the undergraduate business core curriculum. We re-engineered our M.B.A. to create the Flex M.B.A., with accelerated and online-only options. We added market-driven programs such as our nationally ranked M.S. in Management and M.S. in Finance. In Fall 2018, we converted our Insurance concentration in the Finance B.B.A. program to a stand-alone Risk Management and Insurance major. We resurrected the Real Estate concentration and in Fall 2018 created new B.B.A. program concentrations in Supply Chain Management and Professional Selling. Our undergraduate business majors are required to take the Dale Carnegie Course® in Human Relations and Communication, differentiating us from any other collegiate business program. Over 3,000 students have completed the course. The B.S. in Commerce, aimed at adult learners and veterans, launched in Fall 2018 and has over 50 students enrolled. We have a heightened awareness of our Assurance of Learning program, which demonstrates the positive impact of our teaching. Our professionalism initiative, prompted by the needs of the business community, and IGNITE professional development program give our students skills that complement what they learn in class. Student Success. AACSB International has lauded our Advising Center as a source of best practices. Our advisor-to-student ratio is better than the national benchmark. Our advisors set the standard at MTSU and develop innovative ways to engage students. Our student success profile, in terms of retention rates, has improved dramatically since 2013.

Faculty/Staff. Our faculty and staff are even more highly skilled. Faculty members hired since 2013 have raised the college’s research productivity in both quantity and quality of publications. Our specialized centers such as the Business and Economic Research Center and Tennessee Small Business Development Center have a significant impact on economic development in middle Tennessee and beyond.

Technology. Part of our faculty and staff success is directly linked to the leadership provided by Jones College staff in technological application. Our technology experts are proactive in helping us keep pace with new advances. We have been pioneers at MTSU in adopting sophisticated software, such as TopHat, Panopto, and Qualtrics, as well as databases, such as WRDS, Bloomberg, and Capital IQ, to improve teaching and research. Among our major building renovations are the main computer lab, smaller Economics and Information Systems computer labs, a video studio, a new Financial Analysis Center, and several new or vastly improved technology classrooms. 

Support. Our external financial support is stronger than ever and getting stronger. Jones College has received five private gifts of $1 million or more since July 2013, including the $3.5 million gift to establish the Political Economy Research Institute as a joint venture with University Honors College. We have generated funding to name the Mel Adams State Farm Agent Sales Lab and started several new scholarship endowments. We have secured ongoing external funding for our community awards program, annual leadership conference, events to encourage student-advisor interaction, faculty/staff awards program, undergraduate program in professional selling, Tom and Martha Boyd Ethical Leadership Week, Professionalism Week, Global Entrepreneurship Week, and the E. W. “Wink” Midgett digital recognition wall honoring faculty, students, and donors. Participation continues to grow in our Jones College faculty/staff giving campaign. One area of emphasis is raising money for Jones College’s micro-grant fund, MTSU’s largest and best-funded program of its kind, providing students with immediate-need grants that make the difference between continuing their studies and quitting.

Branding. With a mantra of “national prominence and regional dominance,” we forged a new brand identity. Enterprise MT magazine and a redesigned annual report are major components. The website is more functional and attractive. Social media campaigns for graduate programs have launched on Facebook, Google, and Twitter. Print and broadcast advertising extends throughout Tennessee and in neighboring states. Billboard advertising has appeared throughout Greater Nashville and at Nashville International Airport. A point of pride was receiving the Dale Carnegie® Global Leadership Award in 2017 for our commitment to the principles of personal and professional development. The list of corporate recipients of this award reads like a Who’s Who of stellar organizations including Apple, Intel, and Toyota. The college and university recipients are relatively few, placing Jones College in a category with such outstanding schools as Harvard and the London Business School. Efforts to boost graduate enrollment yielded increases in the past year: Flex M.B.A., 11%; M.S. in Management, 31%; M.S. in Finance, 13%; and M.A./Ph.D. in Economics, 4%. In April, we launched a social media campaign with marketing firm All Campus to increase enrollment in the online-only Flex M.B.A. We also will continue to offer in-person classes on campus. We have established community events, including an annual leadership conference featuring nationally renowned speakers with over 400 attendees. Faculty and staff are engaged with the Rutherford County and Nashville Area chambers of commerce, United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties, Rutherford County Business Education Partnership, Nashville Technology Council, Rutherford Cable, community service organizations, and professional organizations specific to academic disciplines. Every year since 2013, Jones College has captured MTSU’s Provost’s Cup for the highest faculty and staff participation in the Employee Giving Campaign benefiting charitable organizations.

2020 and Beyond. As an AACSB-accredited business college, Jones College aims for continuous quality improvement. Our advancements are the result of team effort. I am grateful for the commitment to quality, service, and excellence shown by faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends. 

Editor’s note: MTSU and middle Tennessee students are very fortunate to have Dr. David Urban at the helm of the Jones College of Business. As a state legislator and as a returning MTSU student I have had many conversations about reforms in the areas of the high cost of college, the growing tuition debt, and the high cost of textbooks- Dean David Urban truly “Gets It.” I wish I could say that about every educational bureaucrat, politician and professor, but unfortunately I can’t (Not being negative-Just being honest). Dr. Urban keep up the good work.

If your an adult learner who never had the opportunity to complete your degree and would like more information on how to. Please contact MTSU Adult learning department at 615-494-7714 ask for Dr. Rick Sluder or Dr. Peggy Carpenter. They both were great for me to work with while I completed my degree a few years ago.