What’s your background in business and education?
I actually have been with higher education for about 18 years. I started right after I finished my master’s degree … working with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in workforce training and continuing education. In 2005, I had an opportunity to move into student affairs. We helped a lot of students with career development and helping them connect with employers. Prior to that, my bachelor’s degree was in mining engineering. I’m from Mexico, so I worked in the mining industry for about five years. I have a multidisciplinary background.
You’re one of only 29 male Hispanic-American finance and economics professors teaching in business colleges in the U.S. As a member of the PhD Project, a national diversity program among professors, how is it elevating diversity in education?
The PhD Project was actually founded in 1994. They wanted to increase diversity in corporate America. If we could increase diversity in the faculty, they could probably inspire students from those underrepresented minorities to actually pursue careers in corporate America. They’ve quadrupled the number of faculty members from those underrepresented minorities. There were less than 300 underrepresented minority professors in 1994, and now there are more than 1,300.
What are your main objectives at Drury?
I want to be a professor that the students see as a mentor. I want them to learn, but I also want to learn from them. I like the community; I think it’s very vibrant. Just this weekend, we had the opportunity to experience going to a Greek festival; we had lunch at a Thai restaurant, and we went to buy food at a European market. I want to continue with my research agenda, which deals a lot with international finance and behavioral finance. Part of the vision of this college is to help create ethical leaders and help prepare them for a global business community. I hope to help them meet the objectives that the school has, which includes that every student will complete an internship and that every student will participate in a study abroad opportunity.
Today’s graduates are facing a tight employment market, with Springfield recording a 3.1 percent unemployment rate. Does that affect the way you prepare students?
We’re preparing them to be ready for careers and life. I think the approach that Drury has with embedding that traditional liberal arts education into everything they do is important. It’s helping students not only acquire the skill sets and attributes that are needed specifically for every career, but also looking at some other skill sets that could be considered to be soft skills and are very important for employers. The National Association of Colleges and Employers asked employers, what are the skill sets, what are the attributes needed? It was problem-solving skills, ability to work in a team, communication skills, leadership, strong work ethic and experience in an internship had actually risen to the top, and it hadn’t been ranked before. Companies are actually trying to use internships as recruiting, kind of a long-term interview process.
What’s the status of the Breech School of Business?
We have seven majors, one new one is cybersecurity. The Breech college has about 250 students. There’s a plan to build a new facility. It will be right next door. There are talks of having a trading room; there are also talks about having a small-business incubator where students can actually do simulations. It’s an exciting time.
Juan Andres Rodriguez-Nieto can be reaced at email@example.com
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