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Business Observer Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022 9 months ago

With a focus on engaged learning, business school rises in national rankings

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Florida Southern College has a formula for success in the business of business schools: stay ahead of market needs and trends.
by: John Haughey Contributor

More data and more technologies to interpret data is spurring a boom in business analyst jobs, says Florida Southern College Barney Barnett School of Business & Free Enterprise Dean Michael Weber.

“It’s hard to quantify the number of job titles that had the word ‘analyst’ in them,” he says during a recent scan of job postings, noting projections “indicate over the next five years, there will be five times the number of analyst positions” than the number of analysts who currently exist.

“And,” he adds, “the salaries are incredible.”

That is why FSC’s Barnett School of Business has added a business analytics program that emphasizes “advanced analytic tools” as part of “the biggest evolution in business curriculum in the last 25 years,” Weber says.

Swift adjustments to business needs has recently earned Barnett School high rankings from U.S. News & World Report, CEO Magazine and Poets&Quants for Undergrads, which, in January named it No. 69 of only 95 — and one of just three in Florida — business schools nationwide that qualified for the prestigious list.

About 900 of FSC’s 3,400 undergrad/graduate students are enrolled in Barnett, including 650 undergraduates and 250-300 MBA students.

Weber says there’s a surge in interest in Florida’s oldest private liberal arts college. “Last fall was our largest freshman class ever and our numbers are at historical highs even as we go through the pandemic,” Weber says of the 792-member Class of 2025 selected from 11,000-plus applicants.

In 2010 FSC separated Barnett from its arts and science college. Within several years, it received accreditation only 5% of liberal arts business schools receive, Weber says.

“Traditional liberal arts college business schools, particularly in the Northeast, are still struggling to sustain enrollment,” he says. “They don’t necessarily offer applicable industry-preferred degrees.”

Barnett does, Weber says.

Calvin Knight. Michael Weber joined the administration at the Florida Southern College Barney Barnett School of Business & Free Enterprise in summer 2020.

“Twenty-five years ago, it was, ‘Here’s the curriculum, study it, memorize it, pass a test.’ Now it’s, ‘Here’s the knowledge, here’s the problem, how do you solve the problem?’” he says. “It doesn’t really matter if they know the definition of ‘marketing.’ What matters is (if) they can develop marketing strategies and tactics to solve a problem or address a need in their business.”

Weber says succeeding in the business of business today means mastering — take notes! — a tried-and-true equation: E³ = I

Translation: an entrepreneurial mindset, engaged learning and “experiential experiences” to the third power drive innovation, he says.

“Innovation is the very core of what successful businesses are trying to institute every day. If we’re preparing today’s students for today’s workplace and tomorrow’s workplace, they have to innovate,” he says. “Today’s college grad has to hit the workplace and contribute from day one. That’s where we keep our finger on the pulse of technology. Whatever technology is being used in industry, we bring it into the classroom.”

Barnett, for instance, has 12 Bloomberg Terminal software systems for students to analyze real-time financial data on trading platforms. “This allows students to become ‘Bloomberg-certified,’” Weber says, of the expensive machinery.  

"We’re going to create a major in supply chain and logistics. The person trained in supply chain and logistics, they’d have to be good in analytics, queuing theory, production theory. It’s quite exciting." — Michael Weber, Florida Southern College Barney Barnett School of Business & Free Enterprise

‘We talk with employers and ask what technology our students need to know,” he says, noting employers still value proficiency in “Excel, a 30-year technology.”

Barnett is emphasizing project management, which “borrows philosophies and applications from industrial engineering,” and logistics.

“We’re going to create a major in supply chain and logistics,” Weber says. “The person trained in supply chain and logistics, they’d have to be good in analytics, queuing theory, production theory. It’s quite exciting.”

Curriculum must also evolve to ensure students aren’t training for obsolete jobs, he says.

“Accounting is good example. We have AI (artificial intelligence) that can do basic accounting functions,” Weber says. Students must “understand basic accounting but we’re training them to take results of AI and make next-level decisions. You have to pivot. We’re trying to get (students) ready for today and provide pivots for tomorrow.”

Weber arrived at FSC in summer 2020. “An awesome facility and the students are amazing,” he says, noting as dean, he must manage nearly 1,000. “The type of problems I get is, ‘Dean Weber, I have two majors and two minors and I need an overload so I can graduate ahead-of-time.’”

Students are a different breed than when he began teaching 25 years ago

“Today’s students are much more inquisitive. They ask a lot of questions, don’t assume as much. They’re the ‘Google generation.’ They like information from a variety of sources,” Weber says. “They have the capacity to learn a lot more with vastly more information available to them. We have to be prepared to answer those questions.”

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