To support the continued development of a business school renowned for leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship, the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business Dean Eric Jack, Ph.D., has important plans and priorities.
Over the next five years, Collat will focus on implementing its strategic plan — developed through the institution’s largest, most comprehensive strategic planning process — to support growth, innovation and entrepreneurship, value-added partnerships, professional development and engagement, and facilities and technology.
“We aim to create and share business knowledge that transforms the lives of our students and stakeholders,” Jack said. “We have high expectations for student success supported by excellent academic and hands-on learning programs, and we also strive to be responsible to our community. Focusing on these goals will help us build a brighter future for all.”
During the 2013-2014 academic year, Collat saw a 10 percent growth in undergraduate enrollment and a 21 percent growth in graduate programs, prompting the school to seek improvements that would enrich the Collat student experience.
The school’s online degree programs have expanded; six of the seven traditional undergraduate degree programs are now offered online: online Bachelor of Science degrees in accounting, economics, finance, information systems, management and marketing are available.
Two of the graduate programs are now available fully online — Master of Accounting and Master of Science in Management Information Systems. Graduate students also have more flexibility to complete online courses in the Master of Business Administration program. Collat’s online degree programs are among the top 20 in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report.
To ensure greater student success academically, the Collat Tutoring Lab opened in January 2014. This lab is run by student tutors and targets improvements in eight quantitative courses. The tutors have conducted nearly 1,900 individual tutoring sessions for 770 students. Additionally, the Business Honors program attracted a record number of applicants and, with 35 members, has its largest cohort to date.
Innovation and Entrepreneurship
By leveraging closer collaborations with UAB’s Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Collat will continue to foster innovation and entrepreneurship through excellent academic and experiential programs that positively impact economic development in the region.
This year, Collat opened a lab at Birmingham’s Innovation Depot. The innovation lab provides general purpose administrative space where student interns have the opportunity to work on a wide variety of supervised projects to support startup companies. Several Collat students are now doing internships with the 96 startup companies at Innovation Depot. The innovation lab also houses a business accelerator where the school is nurturing very early stage student startups through structured coaching, mentoring and training..
Collat sponsored the Birmingham Business Journal’s Entrepreneurship Spotlight Awards honoring 15 of the region’s top entrepreneurs. Collat furthered its reach in the entrepreneurial world by offering consulting services as part of the economic development recruitment of British startup Oxford Pharmaceuticals to Birmingham. The company recently announced plans to invest $29.4 million to build a 120,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Birmingham that will employ as many as 200 people when fully operational.
The school’s focus on entrepreneurship is closely linked to its goal of building value-added partnerships that serve the community, enhance student success and diversify revenue streams.
In November 2013, the Board of Trustees formally recognized $25 million in gifts and pledges from Charles and Patsy Collat, and the Collat School of Business became the first named school at UAB. The school also expanded its Advisory Board to include several new leaders across the business community.
In response to the growing need in the community for education about personal finances, Collat received UA System Board of Trustees approval to establish the Institute for Financial Literacy. Through this institute, Collat partners with local financial institutions to deliver programs and materials to educate the general public about basic personal finance issues such as budgeting and saving. The Institute also delivers personal finance classes and counseling for UAB students along with outreach services through teacher training and facilitating special community events.
Collat also collaborates with the UAB School of Medicine through the Healthcare Leadership Academy, now in its sixth year. The goal of HLA is to prepare UAB’s emerging and established health care leaders to be successful throughout their careers. HLA has benefited from a new five-year commitment of $625,000 from Duane and Amy Donner and the Doré Family Foundation. The HLA program is also proceeding in tandem with other efforts to develop MBA programs to meet the business training needs of students pursuing M.D., DMD, O.D. or Ph.D. degrees at UAB.
Professional Development and Engagement
In order to support the professional development and engagement of Collat faculty and staff and empower them to take ownership of the school’s programs, school leadership has prioritized the advancement of faculty excellence by hiring nine new faculty members during the past year and appointing several of the faculty members to significant administrative positions within the school.
Collat faculty and staff continue to excel and be recognized for their accomplishments. Recent honors include acknowledgments from organizations such as The National Society of Leadership and Success and the Alabama Economic Educators’ Hall of Fame. Stephanie Yates, Ph.D., a Collat accounting professor and director of the Institute for Financial Literacy, was selected as a Fulbright Specialist, and traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, to expand her professional development.
The school also provides $100,000 annually in internal grants to Collat faculty members to support research projects to expand the knowledge and practice of business.
Facilities and Technology
Collat has also made notable improvements in facilities and technology to support excellence in teaching, research and service. In response to the recent growth and expansion of Collat, the school is working with the university on plans for a new building on University Boulevard.
The building will house several functions, including the Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Institute for Financial Literacy, and the Healthcare Leadership Academy. Plans include collaborative spaces for team-based learning along with new types of classrooms, faculty offices, and critical spaces and technologies for hands-on learning, career services and student success.
This project received Stage 1 planning approval from the Board of Trustees in February 2015. The facility is being supported by many donors, including lead gifts from the Joy and Bill Harbert Foundation, Inc., and Medical Properties Trust, Inc. To date, $5.6 million has been raised toward the new building, along with approximately $28 million to support various programs.
“The Collat School of Business plays a very important role within UAB and within our community,” said UAB President Ray L. Watts. “With Dean Jack’s leadership, faculty, staff, students and supporters are building the foundation for the school to be a top destination that has the ability to attract the brightest in the field.”