Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

FAMU Means Business: HBCU Sets Standards in Business Education

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

FAMU Means Business: HBCU Sets Standards in Business Education

Article excerpt

FAMU Means Business: HBCU Sets Standards In Business Education.

by Mary-Christine Phillip

In the rough and tumble world of business, image and a good reputation are essential. And for some, that might seem all that is necessary. But at Florida A&M University, business students are bullish on the nuts and bolts basics.

The school's innovative approach to business education has won it a reputation as one of the best in the nation when it comes to training business leaders and managers, and that's particularly appealing to recruiters and CEOs from Fortune 500 companies.

Senior executives from such corporate powerhouses as Amoco, General Motors, Eastman Kodak, Hewlett Packard, Champion International and Procter & Gamble have all rigorously courted and worked with students at this historically Black institution located in Tallahassee, the state's capital.

"The quality of the program is focused on preparing students on how to apply what they've learned to the real business world," says Don Wilson, director of staffing at Chicago-based Amoco.

"The quality of the faculty and the professional examples of leadership they emphasize give students self-confidence. The caliber of students and what they bring to the table when they graduate are another big factor. By the time they graduate, they have worked as interns with at least three major companies, and that's a lot of experience."

With its highly selective application process, tough standards and a curriculum that combines traditional emphasis on accounting, mathematics and economics with a "professional development program" that imposes a businesslike ambiance, FAMU's School of Business and Industry (SBI) has defined itself as a big-leaguer in training and placing graduates in major American corporations.

Many business leaders and recruiters say FAMU could teach some of the nation's top business schools a lesson or two when it comes to preparing students. They are struck by the school's blending of a business curriculum with grooming in the methods and manners of business.

Business Partnership

Under an agreement with leading businesses, top executives regularly teach courses at the SBI. The global logistics course is one example of that partnership. Over an 18-month period, logistic experts from such firms as Packard, Weyerhaeuser and Digital Equipment Corps, to name a few, visit the campus. Financial experts and bankers also teach.

"Corporate executives have regular interaction with our students," says Amos Bradford, an associate professor and director of professional development at the school.

"They (executives) give us regular feedback on our curriculum and they also work with us on special projects. Not too long ago, Volkswagen gave us a marketing case on one of its vans for one semester. We did the marketing on it and presented the results to the executives. We were right on the money."

"We like that kind of personal relationship between students and executives, because to reach the top, we have to be current. We could be teaching a course that might be outdated and may not know. With curriculum input from them, we are sure that we're dealing with current issues," says Bradford.

Not bad for a school that is not accredited by any of the business school organizations. Normally, accrediting agencies such as the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) are recognized by the U.S. secretary of education as reliable authorities concerning the quality of education or training offered by the institution or program.

According to Bradford, SBI made a conscious effort not to apply for accreditation because of AACSB's inflexibility and because of standards he considers outdated.

"They were not moving in the direction of an emerging business environment," Bradford said. "We were busy being innovative and they were stuck with one set of old standards. Many of them, including the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business -- the oldest accrediting organization -- are now rewriting their standards to look more like ours, and we are beginning to consider accrediting. …

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