Leading edge: M.B.A. students can opt for leadership track

by Jamie Gonzales  |   

"In a place like Alaska, a remote region with a smallish population, we need more people to step forward and lead," says Rashmi Prasad, dean of UAA's College of Business and Public Policy (CBPP).

Answering a call for highly skilled leaders from the major players in Alaska's economy, UAA is developing a focused program of study in leadership for M.B.A. students. Two new faculty members have come on board this year to join the advisory team of four seasoned leadership development consultants and veteran Professor of Management Frank Jeffries as the guiding force behind the roll out.

Terry Nelson

Assistant Professor Terry Nelson

Terry Nelson, assistant professor of business administration, comes to UAA from Tennessee where she earned a Ph.D. from University of Memphis after working for Fortune 500 companies Kroger, Coca-Cola Enterprises and as a banking executive. CBPP caught her eye as a doctoral candidate.

"I basically pursued them and waited for a position to come open," she says.

For Kori Callison, another new assistant professor of business administration, coming to UAA marks a return to Anchorage. This West High School graduate holds a Ph.D. from University of Houston. She specializes in human resources management and organizational behavior with a deep background in leadership. Additionally, she has consulted with many Fortune 500 companies, including Microsoft, BP and Shell.

"I'm excited to be part of something that allows us to shine and lead and get Alaska where we need to be," she says.

Together, Jeffries, Nelson and Callison are charged with shaping the future of leadership education at CBPP.

Kori Callison

Assistant Professor Kori Callison

"We've got motivation classes, management classes, strategy classes and finance classes, and those are all parts of the toolkit," says Jeffries. "What we need is a focus that draws all those things together and also gets into the coaching, teaching, change management, strategic management and implementation that really require application of leadership skills."

Nelson and Callison are particularly excited about UAA's new leadership fellows initiative. Last year, four M.B.A. students went through a pilot of the program and were matched with some of Anchorage's top business executives as mentors. The success of the pilot program encouraged CBPP to expand the opportunity to 15 students next semester after a little fine-tuning.

"Five of those students will be exceptional seniors at the undergrad level," says Nelson. "We're working on building up our pool of mentors so we can start partnering people up and kick it off next fall."

Helping business students plug into a local network is one reason UAA's new program might be edging out some of the out-of-state competition soon.

Jeffries, who has consulted with many industry leaders in Alaska, has a big-picture perspective on the need for enhanced leadership training opportunities at UAA. He references an extensive executive and management talent pool in Alaska that has voiced their desire for a high-caliber, local leadership program. Their organizations are looking for ways to enhance their leadership teams.

Currently Alaska-based businesses are sending their up-and-coming leaders Outside to M.B.A., executive development and management training programs at Harvard, University of Chicago, University of Washington and the list goes on.

Frank Jeffries

Professor Frank Jeffries

"We have the same accreditation in this business school that those folks have and we have highly talented individuals here. So what it tells us is we aren't addressing a need and if we can address that need locally and do a world-class job, then we're going to be doing something great for the state," Jeffries says. "That's what our goal is-to provide locally what companies have had to go Outside for up to this point."

Jeffries says research shows businesses that want to effect change are best served by a cohort of leaders who have the same training. It's impractical and expensive for an organization to send an entire group of employees to Boston or Chicago to study business leadership. It's ineffective to send just one.

"With a local program that's high-quality you can send a whole cohort of individuals through and they can experience the same training and development," he says. "When they go back into their organization, they have that common knowledge and they have a very good chance of being able to have a large positive impact on the whole organization as a result of their combined experience."

Northrim Bank gift

Rashmi Prasad, dean of CBPP, and Joe Beedle, Northrim Bank's CEO and president, were joined by Spirit and Periwinkle to celebrate Northrim's $25,000 gift to initiate the new leadership program at UAA.

On the heels of the new leadership track M.B.A., the team is looking forward to rolling out an executive development program for people who are not interested in or unable to commit to the full degree program. Intensive sessions, maybe one per month for three to five months, would let participants learn from experts and then "test-drive" their new knowledge in the office. The spacing of the sessions would help to improve information retention. When attendees return for successive sessions, they can get their questions answered and receive some targeted coaching.

"I really believe the positive impact of what we're going to be able to deliver locally is going to be substantial and greater than what you can get Outside," says Jeffries.

For more information about the new program, contact Terry Nelson or Kori Callison.

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