Newly Accredited: Texas A&M University-Texarkana on Earning AACSB Accreditation
Gary Stading, dean of Texas A&M University-Texarkana’s business school, discusses the importance of having the right resources in place, as well as gaining faculty buy-in for the long haul.
In this blog series, AACSB spotlights business schools around the world that have recently earned AACSB accreditation. We ask the business school leadership about their journey to accreditation and what the new achievement means to them.
In this interview, dean Gary Stading of Texas A&M University-Texarkana’s College of Business, Engineering, and Technology, discusses the importance of having the right resources in place, as well as gaining faculty buy-in for the long haul, when beginning the accreditation process. He also offers insight into entering the dean role partway into the process.
Why was it important for your school to undergo the rigorous process of earning AACSB accreditation?
AACSB accreditation is, for us, an important point of credibility. While AACSB’s reputation alone provides that point of credibility, the systems and processes that are required as part of the accreditation journey provide the foundation on which the reputation is built.
Many colleges, when starting out the accreditation process, greatly underestimate the resources and commitment required to achieve accreditation; however, it is critical for them to understand that the processes and systems, once both funded and implemented, create the necessary structure for a quality-based education. The college of business at Texas A&M University-Texarkana (TAMUT) was not different, but the faculty never lost their desire to be accredited by AACSB. When tasks felt overwhelming, it was that desire that carried faculty toward the goal.
What did you learn about your school through your accreditation journey?
When our college started its journey, before I came on as dean, we had an evolutionary and developmental path to undergo. The impetus and motivation for AACSB accreditation at TAMUT started with a faculty that had a strong desire to achieve accreditation. Learning about the systems, processes, and metrics required to demonstrate that a quality education was being provided to meet the standards was indeed the most powerful force. Faculty embarked on a discovery process as they learned the requirements of accreditation and began to understand how those would impact the quality of the educational process.
The journey to accreditation is not a short one. Of the original faculty members who started it with us, three have retired after contributing greatly to the process, and one did not see the end result. Many of the others who began the process are nearing retirement. The selflessness of their contributions to achieving accreditation while knowing it might not benefit their own careers is essential for those undergoing the process. New faculty seeing and understanding this dedication of the more senior faculty is important for continuing the legacy.
What were the most challenging and rewarding parts of the accreditation process?
The most challenging hurdle for achieving AACSB accreditation for the institution was underestimating the required resources to achieve (and maintain) accreditation. The budget to achieve accreditation occurs at many levels. The training commitment needs to include all members of the faculty, administration, and staff. The strategic plan needs to include details on costs, including research releases required to achieve the ratios needed to meet accreditation requirements.
Community groups also play an important role in helping to ensure the college’s success. For example, the Women of A&M club provided research and travel funds for faculty. Faculty also supported each other; for instance, one senior faculty member nearing retirement worked an overload during his last year to provide a course break to a junior faculty member who could then have extra release time to conduct research.
One of the most rewarding events occurred when a new president was hired. Halfway into our accreditation process, the university hired a new president, Emily Cutrer, who valued and supported accreditation. She understood the level of budgeting and funds required to achieve accreditation.
Similarly, once I was hired partway through the process, I started sending all of the college faculty and administrative staff to AACSB training conferences. Both the new president and I supported a reduction in course loads with fewer preparations, allowing faculty the opportunity to conduct the research and the work required to meet accreditation standards. The result has been in increase in the quantity and quality of faculty research, which translates to a better overall program for our students.
What impact do you hope to see from having achieved AACSB accreditation?
First, this accreditation will reinforce the case for students that TAMUT is indeed a “first choice” institution for both students and prospective employers. Students and employers already understand the high-quality reputation of TAMUT graduates, but through achieving AACSB accreditation, the institution’s reputation is further reassured and affirmed.
Achieving this hallmark reinforces the academic excellence, student success, and community leadership the school is known for. Graduates learn that our students embody these pillars, and these pillars are measured through the assurance of learning process. Students graduate from the school not only prepared for their chosen careers, but they also develop the capacity and learn to accept responsibility for community involvement and leadership.
One of the main hidden benefits born out of the accreditation process is that the systems and methods for assuring quality are developed and further defined. The accreditation process provides guidelines for continuously improving the relationships and the systems of shared governance for strategic planning, assurance of learning, and curriculum development and improvement. These processes provide the mechanism for continuous improvement within the College of Business, Engineering, and Technology at TAMUT.
What advice would you give to another school approaching the accreditation process?
There are two pieces of advice that we consider to be very important: training in the AACSB process is absolutely key, and so is buy-in from everyone in the college. The way to accomplish both, in our opinion, is continued 100 percent involvement. So, how is this accomplished?
First, everyone from faculty to staff should be invited to attend some level of AACSB training. The amount and level of training depends on individual roles in the accreditation process, but everyone should have the opportunity to learn; it might just be attending a conference, or it might be attending a detailed educational seminar. Some people may need to attend multiple training sessions and conferences. It is imperative, however, in our opinion, to have everyone receive some level of AACSB training. This serves the purpose of enculturating everyone into the AACSB paradigm.
Second, everyone should be assigned a role somewhere in the process. Shared governance committees, like our Assurance of Learning Committee or Strategic Planning Committee or Curriculum Committee are examples of where people can be included in the process. The committees should not be superfluous, and all of your committees should have a defined purpose in the quality process. Regardless of how or where people are involved, it is very important that 100 percent of your faculty have a role in AACSB accreditation effort. This promotes faculty ownership and buy-in for achieving AACSB accreditation, but it also supports a shared workload.
Both points—100 percent training and 100 percent involvement—are, in our opinion, key factors for achieving AACSB accreditation.
Gary L. Stading is dean of the Texas A&M University-Texarkana College of Business, Engineering, and Technology in Texas.