Monday, August 09, 2010
Business instructors in short supply
Courtesy of pamplin college of business
Richard Sorensen, dean of Virginia Tech's Pamplin College of Business, helped develop the Bridge to Business Program.
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The Roanoke Times
In many fields of higher education, there are more qualified professors than there are positions available.
But this is not the case in business education at the university level. In fact, since the beginning of the last decade, student enrollment has grown rapidly, but the number of available qualified teachers has declined.
The shortage prompted Virginia Tech's Pamplin College of Business to create the post-doctoral Bridge to Business Program, through which someone with a doctorate in another discipline can become qualified to teach college-level business courses after eight weeks of intensive training and testing.
Richard Sorensen, Pamplin's dean, began to take note of the problem around 2002 while serving as the national chairman of The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the primary accrediting agency for American business schools.
According to Sorensen, more than 20 percent of all undergraduate students in the United States are majoring in business administration, and at Virginia Tech, the number of undergraduates has risen by 15 percent in the past four years.
That, in turn, has led to even greater demand for faculty to teach those students, he said.
Budget cuts have made it even harder to meet the need, Sorensen said. Schools may cut their doctoral programs first because of the higher demand at the undergraduate level, which means even fewer qualified teachers down the road.
However, schools that want to remain accredited must be able to show that half of their faculty hold a doctorate and are actively doing research and publishing.
Consequently, schools that were trying to get accredited often could not because not enough of their faculty held the required advanced degrees, Sorensen said. Some would actually lose their accreditation. The problem is particularly pronounced at smaller schools that don't have the budgets to compete for the limited number of qualified teachers.
The bridge program is helping to even the odds. According to Frank Smith, the director of management and professional development at Pamplin, several of the program graduates landed new jobs at smaller schools where the need is particularly great, such as Georgia State, Concord University and Christopher Newport University.
There are three tracks in the bridge program. Marketing and finance have been offered since the beginning in 2008, and a management track was added this past year. When participants have completed the requirements, they receive a certificate from the AACSB that qualifies them to teach for five years -- just as if they held a new doctorate in business, Sorensen said.
To continue to receive accreditation as college-level business instructors after that, they must remain active in research and teaching.
The program is designed to reach out to people in related fields with an interest in business and to faculty teaching in business departments with other degrees who are not qualified to seek tenure-track positions.
"It's not uncommon to find an economics Ph.D. teaching finance," said Smith, citing the inherent crossover in the discipline. "It's not uncommon to find psychology Ph.D.'s teaching marketing or management."
Eloise Coupey, an associate professor of marketing at Pamplin, has directed the marketing track since it began. She has seen students with backgrounds in geography, philosophy and educational research.
"Marketing is interdisciplinary in nature, so it lends itself very well to the bridge transition," Coupey said.
"We don't take marketing and try to shoehorn it into geography or philosophy," she said. "We look for not only skills training in terms of research and methodology, but also content training and topical knowledge, and then we look for points of intersection."
Smith said that is a large part of why the program has been so successful.
Of the 20 people who have completed the program so far, 18 have either gotten a promotion, a joint appointment or a new job.
According to Sorensen, business faculty salaries are typically the highest at any given university, and an entry-level business teacher can earn more in his or her first year than existing professors in other departments because of the severe supply and demand situation.
"In many cases, they are twice as high as any other faculty at a university," Sorensen said.
As Coupey pointed out, the participants in the bridge program are highly motivated and accomplished already, so the key is to translate their existing qualifications in a way that prepares them for business research, publication and teaching jobs.
"It is an intensive and rigorous program, but the goal is not to try to provide a marketing Ph.D. in eight weeks," Coupey said.
"What we are doing is building on the foundation of knowledge and expertise they already have and then moving them into marketing with that in mind."
Jae Hwang just completed the finance track while on summer break from his position teaching economics at Virginia State University. His dean specifically recommended the program to him.
"I am enjoying this well-organized program and its excellent faculty, even though this program is pretty intensive," he said.
"Most of all, the knowledge and skills I learned will be my valuable assets for my career."
To learn more about the program, visit www.aqbridge.pamplin.vt.edu/.