The new faces of Florida's MBA professors bring eclectic mix of talent and knowledge
The Thinking Behind the Strategy
- DAVID L. MAJOR, 50 University of Miami, Miami
When Major joined the faculty of the University of Miami in 2019, it was a homecoming for the associate professor of professional practice. Major was born and raised in Miami, and his late mother worked in child care at the university, where he would head when his school day finished. “When I would get out of elementary school, I would spend my time running around that campus,” he says.
Now he’s teaching management and strategy classes in UM’s MBA program, where he takes an interactive approach in the classroom. “I make participation a huge part of my classes,” he says. “When it comes to strategy, it’s not black and white. There is so much in terms of gray areas, so talking through that is hugely important.”
Major comes to Miami after a decade at Indiana University. He also spent 12 years in the corporate world, working in management and as a consultant. “I had the opportunity to work with lots of different companies as clients,” he says. “I can tell every day in the classroom that I’m drawing on that experience.”
Major’s research has focused on topics like competitive and global business strategy. “Strategy allows you to have this broad perspective and look at a company as a whole,” he says.
Major also serves as the academic director of the Global OneMBA program. Miami is the only U.S. location for this global executive MBA program that provides students with international business experience, and Major, as founding director of the program, has responsibility for all components, including determining the curriculum and recruiting students.
He is also involved in diversity efforts at the university, most recently through his role as academic director of the new UStart@ MHBS Immersion Program in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which will work with college juniors and seniors from underserved and under-represented communities.
“The idea of diversity issues, bias and social justice — all of those things are lived experiences for me,” he says. “I absolutely care about them as I go forward in the future to be a part of the efforts to make our university more equitable.”— By Beth Luberecki
The Ins and Outs of Business Analytics
- JIM HOOVER, 57 University of Florida, Gainesville
Hoover’s recent appointment to the Warrington College of Business MBA faculty was the culmination of successful careers in the U.S. Navy and the private sector. For the Gainesville native, it was a long-sought homecoming.
“I left the Navy after 25 years with a specialty in supply chain logistics,” says Hoover. “I got a job at Accenture and worked my way up to a very high level running their business analytics practice.”
During his tenure at Accenture, a global Fortune 500 consulting firm, Hoover decided he wanted to transition to an academic career and focus on his growing interest in machine learning and artificial intelligence.
“I always knew I wanted to come back and teach at the University of Florida,” he says.
Hoover, who had earned his MBA at UF in 1996, enrolled in the university’s doctor of business administration program in 2014 and graduated in 2017.
While working on his DBA, Hoover became increasingly interested in how individual privacy is compromised as a result of online activities. “We know people give up a lot of privacy to download these free apps, but we don’t rationally think about how this affects our privacy when we’re making decisions online,” he says.
Currently, Hoover teaches MBA classes on business analytics, which he says is largely about machine learning and AI.
Hoover says Warrington College of Business graduates are getting high-paying jobs at major companies such as AT&T and Accenture, as well as important jobs with state and federal governments.
As for his goals now that he has embarked on an academic career, Hoover says he wants to see the University of Florida emerge as a national leader in business analytics and research in artificial intelligence.
“I love to see our students graduate and immediately join companies that will be shaping the world in coming decades,” he adds. — By Carlton Proctor
Other New UF MBA Professors
- Luiz Kabbach de Castro is clinical assistant professor at the Warrington College of Business. He received his Ph.D. in business economics from the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona. Kabbach de Castro teaches global strategic management courses to graduate and MBA students.
- Mike Schadewald is a clinical associate professor in the Fisher School of Accounting. He received his Ph.D. in accounting from the University of Minnesota, master’s in taxation from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and his BBA in accounting from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in accounting for income taxes, corporate taxation and managerial accounting.
- Sonia Singh is a lecturer at the Fisher School of Accounting. She received her master’s of law in taxation, law degree, master’s of accountancy and bachelor’s in accounting all from the University of Florida. She teaches various graduate and undergraduate accounting courses, including intermediate and advanced accounting. Singh also teaches accounting in the UF MBA online program. Her research interests include financial accounting and taxation. She is also a licensed CPA and attorney in Florida.
Partnering with the Community
- RICHARD BUTTIMER, 55 University of North Florida, Jacksonville
Though Buttimer started his career at a bank, he considers himself a lifelong academic.
After earning a Ph.D. in business administration from the University of Georgia in 1993, he accepted a position at the University of Texas in Arlington, where he taught real estate finance.
He was tenured at UTArlington in 1999 and moved to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2002.
Buttimer rose steadily at UNC-Charlotte. In his final role with the college, Buttimer was director of the Childress Klein Center for Real Estate and the John Crosland Sr. Distinguished Professor in the Department of Finance at the Belk College of Business.
Buttimer accepted the position of dean at the University of North Florida Coggin College of Business in July 2020.
He hopes to position the business college as a key partner in the economic development of Jacksonville and Northeast Florida and has spent his first months meeting with business leaders to determine their workforce needs.
Buttimer specializes in derivative and real estate finance. His academic research has been in mortgage valuation, default modeling and the application of options theory to real estate problems. — By Laura Hampton
Other New UNF Professors
- After earning a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Shenyang University in China, Di (Richard) Shang transferred to City University of New York, where he earned a master’s in marketing and a Ph.D. in business information systems. Before joining the University of North Florida in August 2020, Shang taught undergraduate and graduate courses at Long Island University in New York. He specializes in business analytics, information economics, cloud computing services and social media and social networks.
- While earning a doctorate in management at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, India, Amrita (who goes by one name) served as a lecturer, researcher and project manager. Specializing in information science and management, Amrita’s research interests include project management, information management, health care services and entrepreneurship. She also has special interest in sustainable business ventures. She is a member of the Project Management Institute in Pennsylvania.
Logistics and Big Data
- Launched in 2019, the university’s master’s in logistics and supply chain management is designed to meet the needs of the growing logistics industry. The 32-credit degree program includes courses in making decisions with data, strategic logistics management, modeling and management of operations and strategic sourcing.
- The Coggin College of Business will introduce a master’s in business analytics in the fall.
Putting Fun in the Syllabus
- DEJUN “TONY” KONG, 36 University of South Florida, Tampa
Moving to Florida hadn’t been an objective for Kong. But his visit to the University of South Florida changed that.
“I loved it immediately,” he says.
Kong joined the faculty of USF’s Muma College of Business after four years teaching at the University of Houston and three years at the University of Richmond before that. He’s a big proponent of making the classroom experience fun.
“I believe that when students laugh and have positive emotions, they actually remember things more easily and are more engaged,” he says. “I know the power of positive emotions, so I try to utilize that in my classroom.”
That knowledge stems from the management professor’s research into topics like trust, negotiation, leadership and positive psychology. “The biggest research question for me is how to help people be more cooperative so that everybody can be productive as a group,” he says.
Kong teaches a negotiation class in USF’s executive MBA program and an organizational behavior and leadership course in the MBA/MS program.
He is also the faculty director of USF’s Bishop Center for Ethical Leadership, created to advance the study and practice of trust-centered ethical leadership. “It’s not only about leadership, but it’s about ethical leadership and how to build trust with different stakeholders as a leader.” — By Beth Luberecki
Delving into Data
- COLLEEN M. HARMELING, 37 Florida State University, Tallahassee
Harmeling’s teaching philosophy stems largely from her retailing experience with a national bookseller and her consulting experience with Fortune 100 firms.
Shortly after receiving her MBA from the University of Tampa, Harmeling joined Barnes & Noble as a community relations manager. “My responsibility was to train counterparts to do my job,” says Harmeling. “There I discovered I really enjoy teaching and training people to be good at something.
“And that’s how I approach academics, essentially as an apprenticeship that gives my students the skills to transfer to the workplace,” she adds.
Harmeling was named the Persis E. Rockwood Associate Professor of Marketing at FSU’s College of Business in 2020.
She teaches an MBA-level class that focuses on marketing analytics and a popular research course in theory building from big data. “Many managers have piles of data they don’t know what to do with,” says Harmeling. “So in this class I give them big data sets and have them derive insights into what customers will buy, when they will buy it and how much they will pay for it.
“It’s a very pragmatic approach to handling big data,“ she says.
Harmeling’s courses also delve into the morality of consumer data harvesting. “We study what are the limitations, where do you see the data being a positive for the firm and consumer and when does it cross the line,” she says.
Business analytics courses, says Harmeling, are becoming hugely popular among MBA students. “In the past few years, we have quadrupled the number of analytics database courses we offer,” she says.
Driving this rapid course expansion is the growing demand from private-sector employers looking for students who have translatable business skills and can be employed immediately.
“We are constantly interacting with our hiring employers, and this is something that they directly asked us for,” she says. — By Carlton Proctor
- FSU’s College of Business recorded its highest enrollment yet in 2020, reaching more than 500 MBA students in the fall. “Our full-time MBA admissions more than tripled, and our online MBA admitted more in one semester than it typically does over two calendar years,” says Michael D. Hartline, the college’s dean.
- The college added a marketing specialization to its MBA offerings that includes new courses in big data and new product development.
- The college has streamlined its admissions process for top-performing undergraduates. Students with the highest GPAs at AACSB-accredited schools are now qualified to be considered for a waiver of the GMAT entrance exam.
- RONALD F. PICCOLO, 49 University of Central Florida, Orlando
Though not new to the university, Piccolo is in a new role this year, in a new program.
With the College of Business since 2016, Piccolo came to UCF after seven years as a management professor at Rollins College’s Crummer Graduate School of Business.
He is part of an executive-coaching class within the school’s Executive MBA program. It’s a curriculum he helped develop.
Focusing on the Caliper Profile method of work style assessment — measuring 22 traits, such as students’ decision-making style, for example — the first cohort got underway in December with 14 students, says Piccolo.
The Caliper test “helps them figure out how they are efficient and how they can improve and be as productive as possible,” says Piccolo of the work-tendency analysis and psychological profile. “It gives them a tool for self-reflection and self-awareness. Then we take it one extra level,” with guidance from a professional executive coach, he says.
Piccolo also serves as department chair at UCF’s College of Business.
He earned his undergraduate degree from Stetson University in mathematics; an MBA from Rollins; and a Ph.D. in management from the University of Florida. — By Susan Shalhoub
A Non-Profit Focus in Accounting
- ERICA HARRIS, 44 Florida International University, Miami
Harris, a CPA, received her undergraduate degree in finance from the University of Florida, her MBA from the University of Miami and Ph.D. from Temple University in Philadelphia. Prior to coming to FIU in 2019, she was an associate accounting professor at Pennsylvania’s Villanova University and an assistant professor of accounting at Rutgers University-Camden in New Jersey, winning research awards at both.
Work as the CFO of a non-profit has helped fuel her research specialty — nonprofit accounting and governance — with a focus on donor behaviors. She has also been published in the Accounting Review, Contemporary Accounting Research, Review of Accounting Studies and other related journals.
Harris says she values the entrepreneurial spirit of FIU students, finding it a unique dynamic of the student body.
“At FIU, many more are moving out on their own or in a family business,” she says. “They are really hungry for learning about accounting or reporting practices. As opposed to students working in bigger companies looking to move up in their roles, these students are using this knowledge to move up in their own business or for their own professional development,” she says, “so they can really apply what they are working on.”
Many of her students are in the U.S. to work on their degrees. Information they are learning is either being communicated back to Latin America, the Caribbean or wherever the family business is located, or the students will return there once they have their MBAs, Harris says, “so they know the issues those organizations face and ask pointed questions,” truly applying the subject matter. This makes for robust discussions where students learn from one another, Harris says. — By Susan Shalhoub
Sports and Stats
- FIU’s Professional MBA Online in Sports Management begins this month, part of a partnership with Universidad Europa and professional soccer club Real Madrid. In 2022, the school’s MBA in business analytics program launches. According to FIU, it will equip students with data-analytics tools and the ability to apply statistical methods to guide business decisions.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Change of Plans
- SHANAN GIBSON, 47 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach
After earning a doctorate at Virginia Tech in industrial and organizational psychology, Gibson planned to join the Navy and work in the aerospace psychology program.
Her plans changed, however, because the Navy could not guarantee she would be stationed in the same location as her husband, James, who was a Marine pilot.
When James was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina, Gibson took a job at East Carolina University as a visiting professor. In her 16 years with the university, she held several positions teaching management and psychology classes.
Her last role with ECU was associate dean for student and faculty development.
In 2017, she accepted a position as dean of the College of Business at Texas A&M University-Commerce. While in Texas, Gibson helped launch the Center for Excellence, which provides training and consulting services to the North Texas business community. In addition, she helped secure successful international re-accreditation and cultivated the college’s largest single gift in history.
After three years, Gibson returned to the Southeast when she was hired as dean of the David O’Maley College of Business in April 2020.
Gibson’s goal is to build the reputation of the college’s unique programs, including its undergraduate aviation business administration degree, accelerated master’s programs leading to an MBA, master’s of business administration in aviation management and its doctoral program.
Gibson is co-author of The Handbook of Work Analysis: Methods, Systems, Applications and Science of Work Measurement in Organizations. — By Laura Hampton
- The Daytona Beach school is one of a handful of universities in the U.S. that offer a master’s of aviation finance. The 33-credit curriculum includes core classes related to all business majors — economics, accounting and finance — but also classes to prepare students for careers in the global air transportation industry, such as strategic marketing management in aviation, aircraft and airline financing and aircraft transaction and risk modeling.
- Embry-Riddle has 16 combined bachelor’s degree/MBA programs and is in the process of adding seven. The programs allow students pursuing STEM-related fields such as aeronautics or engineering to pursue a master’s of business administration at the same time. The dual-enrollment option reduces the time it takes to complete both degrees.
Other New Embry-Riddle MBA Professors
- Youngran Choi spent several years in the private sector before earning a Ph.D. in economics from Washington State University in May 2020. Born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, Choi worked in mergers and acquisitions at Deloitte Anjin in South Korea, in transfer pricing at Ernst & Young Singapore and in economic, social and policy assistance at the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Choi joined Embry-Riddle in August 2020. She teaches business analytics and quantitative methods.
- At 29, Seyed Ali Haji Esmaeili is about 10 years younger than the average assistant professor at Embry-Riddle. Born and raised in Tehran, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in industrial engineering before transferring to North Dakota State University. After earning a doctorate in transportation and logistics in August 2020, Esmaeili joined the David O’Maley College of Business, where he teaches courses related to transportation, logistics and information sciences. His current research is on sustainable aviation biofuel supply chains.
Teaching and Research
- MATTHEW IMES, 28 Stetson University, DeLand
After receiving his bachelor’s in business at Anderson University in South Carolina and master’s in finance at the University of Maryland, Imes earned his doctorate in finance at Temple University in Philadelphia.
The 28-year-old is the youngest professor in the university’s business school. Imes says he chose Stetson largely because it resembled the academic atmosphere he enjoyed at Anderson University, also a small private institution.
A native of Milwaukee, Imes teaches a series of finance courses to both undergraduates and MBA students.
Students are not required to take a specific entrance exam to be accepted to Stetson’s MBA program.
“What we do look for in evaluating prospective students are strong undergraduate academic performances, some compelling recommendation letters and a personal statement,” says Imes.
When not teaching MBA courses, Imes engages in research, a major part of his job description.
“Currently, I’m doing research on gender diversity on corporate boards,” he says. “Specifically, I’m looking at the presence of females on those boards and studying the impact they have on certain aspects of the company, including how it affects compensation of other directors and executives of those companies.”
“My hope,” says Imes, “is that I am equipping students with an education that will help make them good leaders.” — By Carlton Proctor
Embracing a New Approach
- THOMAS SMYTHE, 57, Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers
Smythe joined the faculty at Florida Gulf Coast University in 2019 after almost 20 years at Furman University. “I was looking for a place that fit the strengths I had and where I felt like I could add value,” he says.
The professor of finance teaches the financial management class that’s one of the core courses in FGCU’s traditional and online MBA programs. Adding a finance concentration to the program is a possibility down the road.
Nearly two decades at a liberal arts school plus his previous experience in the U.S. Army and as a systems analyst at Mobil Oil have given Smythe unique perspectives that he brings to FGCU’s Lutgert College of Business.
He often uses real-world examples from his time at Mobil and weaves in elements from economics and marketing into his teaching.
The pandemic has opened him up to new ways of teaching that he thinks will help increase student engagement. After he began recording lectures for students during the spring of 2020 while shutdown orders were in place, he saw how shifting lectures online opened up more class time for true discussion and engagement.
“I think it’s a better delivery mechanism now,” he says. “Now when I come into class, I focus on the main points from the material and current events. And what I’m hoping is that the level of learning is getting deeper. I was not a very big proponent of virtual learning (before), but now I’ve sort of backed off of that and said let me use the technology in ways that will help me enrich the experience in the best ways possible.”
Smythe is also part of the committee that oversees the curriculum for FGCU’s MBA program. — By Beth Luberecki
- UWF’s College of Business graduated its 15th cohort of German MBA students in 2020. The program is a partnership between UWF and the Transatlantik Institut of the Universities of Applied Sciences in Ludwigshafen and Worms in Germany. The partnership brings German working professionals to the Pensacola campus to complete components of their program. In addition, UWF professors deliver MBA curriculum in Ludwigshafen in an executive-style weekend format.
Turning the Tables on VCs
- SOFIA JOHAN, 48 Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton
A lawyer by training with extensive international experience in venture capital financing, Johan has had a circuitous journey to her current position from her native Malaysia.
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital, she held senior management positions as a head legal counsel and as corporate officer of the board of directors for the country’s leading governmental venture capital fund.
Johan later parlayed her experience into a teaching job at York University, Schulich School of Business in Toronto.
While attending a seminar in the U.S., she met the dean of FAU’s MBA program and was offered a job. The decision to move to South Florida from Toronto was an easy one for Johan, an experienced scuba diver.
Johan’s areas of expertise and research include instruction in legal and ethical issues in financial markets, entrepreneurial finance and regulation of financial markets around the world.
“While working in venture capital, I would meet many entrepreneurs who did not understand the process of financing their business, and generally you were able to take advantage of that,” says Johan, an assistant professor. “Now it’s kind of like payback. I’m teaching my students how to watch out for the red flags in venture capital finance.”
Despite the toll that remote learning has on students, Johan found a way to turn difficult circumstances to her and her students’ advantage. She approached the Small Business Development Center in the Boca Raton area, for example, and asked if they could use some help. As a result, Johan’s students have formed about 30 groups that are providing free consulting services to SBDC clients.
“SBDC will give my students an active case in financial management for a local small business instead of an historical case,” she says.
“That’s my job, to make sure my students have additional, real-world skills that will give them that competitive advantage in the workplace,” says Johan. — By Carlton Proctor
- FAU’s College of Business Executive Education program jumped 12 spots in the 2020 Financial Times worldwide rankings for open enrollment professional education programs, posting one of the largest improvements of any university. FAU ranked No. 1 in both Florida and the Southeast and also ranked No. 11 nationally and No. 59 globally (up from No. 71 in 2019) in the FT Executive Rankings. The Financial Times ranks the top 75 universities around the world. Only 15% of this year’s winners are U.S. schools.
- BARBARA A. RITTER, 42 Jacksonville University, Jacksonville
Though she has consulted on numerous business-related projects, Ritter has been in academia throughout her career.
After earning a Ph.D. in industrial organizational psychology from the University of Akron in 2004, Ritter accepted an assistant professor position at Coastal Carolina University.
While there, she was promoted first to full professor and then into administrative positions. She served as vice president of executive development and career services, chair of the department of management and decision sciences and business school dean.
Ritter joined Jacksonville University in July 2020 as dean of the Davis College of Business.
She spent the first few months evaluating the curriculum, building connections with business leaders in the community and planning for strategic growth.
Ritter plans to roll out a mentorship program to connect students with industry professionals and leaders. She is also working to increase the number of internships and practicum experiences for students.
Ritter is an expert in organizational behavior and culture, workforce development, employee assessment and satisfaction, data analysis, leadership and organizational decision-making. — By Laura Hampton
- The Davis College of Business launched the College Your Way Program in fall 2020. With the program, students have the option to live-stream classes or watch a video of the class later, using the learning management system Blackboard. The program is on class-by-class basis, meaning the student can attend class one week and live-stream the next week.
- The business college has also begun offering concentrations in executive accounting/finance or management development for its Executive MBA in Leadership Development program.
Other New JU Professors
- Cathryn M. Meegan has two doctorates — one in accounting and one in anthropology. Her passion for accounting tax and teaching led her to the associate professor position at JU. She worked as an accountant for nine years before earning her first Ph.D. in anthropology at Arizona State University in 2009. She enrolled at Florida State University in 2015 to pursue a Ph.D. in accounting, graduating in May 2020. She specializes in financial accounting and tax.
- Angela Masson was a commercial pilot for 31 years before retiring in 2007. In 1984, she was the first woman to be type-rated for the Boeing 747. She earned a Ph.D. in public administration-aerospace safety and systems analysis from the University of Southern California.
Finding Her Calling
- GINGER KILLIAN, 41 Rollins College, Orlando
An associate professor of marketing with Crummer Graduate School of Business since August 2020, Killian is what’s known as a career changer — a trait Rollins seeks in its professors, she says — to ensure students get a corporate perspective in their classrooms.
“One of the things Crummer really looks for are those individuals with career experience because we are serving students who are management focused,” says Killian. “Experience in industry helps us bring examples into the classroom,” she says. It helps students apply what they learn.
These kinds of lessons from the corporate world helped Killian analyze, revise and reposition the MBA program of a former employer, the University of Central Missouri, resulting in more than 200% growth over two years, she says. She held several positions at the university, including associate dean and MBA director.
In the private sector, Killian served in various marketing roles for Fortune 500 companies, which — through leading workshops and the like — led her to realize a passion for teaching. Companies she worked for include Philips Electronics, American Honda Motor Co. and Allstate Insurance.
Killian graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga before earning her MBA at Tennessee Technological University then her Ph.D. at the University of Georgia. — By Susan Shalhoub
- Crummer added PolyStudio, a state-of-the-art system with high-quality audio and wide-angle view of the classroom. It allows students to interact with C-suite leaders and speakers via a classroom multi-media cart and gallery-view TV monitor. The school’s career resource center has also used the technology for virtual mock interviews, a growing trend.
Read more in Florida Trend's March issue.
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