Changes at Hull College Will Create More Work-Ready Grads
Hull College of Business at Augusta University is taking steps into the real world.
“One of the biggest complaints about business schools is that we’re not really engaged with businesses,” said Richard Franza, dean of Hull College. “The complaint coming from businesses was, ‘You’re supplying our workforce but you’re not asking us what we need.’”
Franza explained that in an effort to bring business schools the same respect at the college level as schools of arts and sciences, business schools in the past placed more emphasis on developing theory and laying a foundation for knowledge than on real-world skills. But doing so created an insular, academic atmosphere, which boosted respect but often didn’t address what businesses needed or what students needed to succeed in the business world.
But that is changing at Hull College — it now considers businesses as its customers.
“That’s the most fundamental change,” Franza said. “Our emphasis is to make our students more work-ready so they can hit the ground running.”
He said in the past there has been a big disconnect between doing well in school and doing well in a job. Correcting that involves a number of changes. One is more interaction between area businesses and business students.
One trend in accomplishing that is increasing internships for students in local businesses.
“Our students are seeing business not just from a book but from working on the shop floor and out in the field,” he said.
Business people are brought in from various disciplines early in the students’ academic careers to give them a better understanding of the various avenues they may pursue.
“It gives them more motivation to understand why they’re learning what they’re learning,” Franza said.
But the interaction is also good for the business leaders, because it gives them a better understanding of local students.
“It’s a win for the graduates and a win for the companies,” he said. “There’s less time spent in getting students up to speed, and there’s a positive retention issue because the students are less likely to move to another job.”
Hull College is also focusing more on class projects and simulations instead of passive learning.
“Our responsibility as business educators is to provide more real-world experiences,” he said. “The more experiences they have, the more opportunities they have to thrive. And the majority of students think it’s more fun when education is active instead of passive activities.”
The education includes developing “soft skills,” something many local businesses have said is lacking in job applicants. That includes such things as getting to work on time, dressing properly, team skills — such as getting along with others — and written and oral presentation skills.
Making all this happen means Hull College has had to make some changes to courses and requirements.
For example, all business students will now be required to take a class in professional business-to-business sales. Another requirement for all is a class in project management.
Franza also sees a need for increased knowledge and skills in digital marketing and social media.
Starting this year, Hull College added a new concentration in health care management to provide a workforce that can be an asset to Augusta’s large medical community. Technology-based management skills will also become an asset as the area’s cyber businesses grow.
Those changes also created a need for changes in faculty.
“We’ve just rewritten our mission statement to explicitly address that,” Franza said. “We want a portfolio of faculty with both academic rigor and business acumen.”
Even with all the anticipated growth from the changes, Franza said Hull College’s focus will remain on the Augusta area.
“I don’t ever see us being a national brand, but I see us being a significant player in the state,” he said. “We may not be the business school for business, but one the business community can look to for areas of expertise in health care or technology-based management. If the pillars of our area are health care and cyber and technology, we need to support those.”