Newly Accredited: University of Central Oklahoma on Earning AACSB Accreditation
Dean of University of Central Oklahoma College of Business, Mickey Hepner, discusses UCO's experience through the accreditation process.
In this blog series, AACSB is spotlighting business schools around the globe that have recently earned AACSB Accreditation. We ask the business school administrators about their journey to accreditation and what the new achievement means to them. In this interview, Mickey Hepner, dean of University of Central Oklahoma College of Business, shares insights on his school’s accreditation experience.
Why was it important for your school to undergo the rigorous process of earning AACSB Accreditation?
As the largest teaching-focused business school in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, and with a number of notable alumni, the University of Central Oklahoma College of Business already had a long record of achievement serving its community. With all of the changes in the higher education landscape though, we knew we couldn’t rely on our past to secure our future. We knew we had to get better if we were going to remain a vibrant, dynamic business school.
The AACSB Accreditation process served to unify our stakeholders around a common goal, and forced us to honestly assess our strengths and weaknesses. I can truthfully assert, though, that the process definitely made us a better school—just like we had hoped.
What did you learn about your school through your accreditation journey?
During this process, I saw our faculty vote to place higher performance expectations on themselves, not once, but twice in the last six years. I saw our staff develop, implement, and embrace an entirely new paradigm for providing student services on our campus. I saw our students embrace new transformative learning experiences. I saw our business community engage with us at record levels—with 147 local business leaders serving on various advisory boards throughout our college. I saw our donors commit new financial resources, enabling us to triple our endowment and quadruple our annual scholarship distributions. I saw our alumni express a growing sense of pride for what we are building.
In short, I learned what we can accomplish when we come together and dare to be exceptional.
What was the most challenging/rewarding part of the accreditation process?
Frankly, this process wasn’t all rainbows and roses. In order to achieve our accreditation goal, we had to implement a significant change to our college culture. And we all know that change, especially cultural change, is hard.
Eventually, after the awkward conversations and intense debates, our college settled on a path toward improvement. The shared goal of achieving accreditation made navigating that path much easier than it otherwise would have been. And in the end our school is in a much better place now because of all the effort that went in to getting us here.
What impact do you hope to see from having achieved AACSB Accreditation?
Most importantly, this process has improved the quality of the education we provide our students. We have assembled the most qualified faculty in our school’s history. We have rededicated ourselves to creating new, engaging learning experiences for our students. We have cultivated new partnerships to engage the local business community. Going forward, our expectation is that this accreditation will further our momentum on all of these fronts, enabling us to continue to serve our distinctive mission in innovative ways.
What advice would you give to another school approaching the accreditation process?
First, the groundwork you lay before you even begin the process is critical. In general, the more work you can do to improve faculty qualifications and implement an assurance of learning system, before you begin the formal process, the easier your path will be. The time to develop an initial self-evaluation report and implement your plan goes by very quickly. Your self-evaluation year will come before you know it.
Second, once you have started the process, the staff at AACSB are incredibly knowledgeable and helpful. Make sure to utilize their expertise whenever you have questions.
Finally, through all the troubles and travails that you will go through, don’t ever lose sight of the fact that your school is getting better. In the end, when you celebrate your initial accreditation, you will know that it has all be worth it.
Mickey A. Hepner is dean of the University of Central Oklahoma College of Business in Edmond.