Taking Care of Business
By Liza N. Burby
Since the ’80s, the College of Business (COB) has been home to Stony Brook University’s fourth most popular undergraduate major, business management, with more than 12,000+ alums, and a growing and highly-ranked MBA program. It serves as a leader in developing business programs and providing students with an advantage that lands them careers in federal and state government, Wall Street, Fortune 500 companies, entrepreneurial endeavors or the family business.
And now, the COB is positioned to offer its students and alumni even more since earning the coveted Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International Accreditation in fall 2021. Fewer than 6 percent of the world’s schools offering business degree programs hold this distinction, and with it, the university has joined the ranks of Harvard University, Yale University and 887 other institutions across 58 countries and territories. The accreditation raises COB’s profile among its Association of American Universities peers and prospective students and instantly shows potential employers that SBU students are held to a high standard.
While the COB is still the same high-quality school it has been for more than 35 years, it now has an external stamp of approval with the recognition that all the strict standards AACSB requires have been met, according to Amy Milligan, assistant dean for curriculum accreditation and student activities. “The College of Business is a hidden treasure and it has been for a long time,” she said.
The seven-year arduous process to earn accreditation began soon after Distinguished Professor Manuel London became dean in 2010. At that time, the COB only had 15 faculty, made up of PhDs, full-time lecturers and adjunct instructors who brought industry experience to the classroom. However, to be accredited, the school needed a certain percentage of classes taught by PhDs and the COB didn’t have the resources to make that happen until 2011, when the Office of the Provost allotted new faculty lines that allowed the COB to hire doctoral-level research faculty in several disciplines. Today, of the 40 full-time faculty, 34 have PhDs.
Under London’s guidance, the COB has added several programs, including a Master of Science in accounting or finance and MBAs in several discipline areas, to complement the general MBA offered since 2004. In fall 2021, the COB began offering the general MBA and MBA with concentrations in a fully online, part-time format. And an MBA Fast Track Program allows high-achieving undergraduates from 40 nonbusiness majors to begin taking MBA classes while they are still undergraduates.
London said the COB has a history of highly visible programs because it has concentrated in areas such as consumer behavior. For instance, Stacey Finkelstein, associate professor and area head of marketing, is considered a leader in the field who has developed national and international visibility in the intersection of marketing, public health and public policy. In 2019, she received the Emerging Scholar in Marketing and Society Award for contributions to research advancing the study of marketing and society issues from the American Marketing Association (AMA) and in 2021, the Transformative Consumer Research Grant, Transformative Consumer Research. And more recently, media outlets featured her regularly about her research on vaccination hesitation and COVID-19.
Mohammad Delasay, assistant professor of operations management, won the 2022 Stony Brook Trustees Faculty Award for his application entitled “Modeling Disease Transmission and Its Economic Implications in Service Facilities During a Pandemic.” And Julia Bear, a professor of management, won the 2020 Rosabeth Moss Kanter International Award for Research Excellence in Work and Family from the Center for Families at Purdue University and the Boston College Center for Work & Family, for her work about how women negotiate career advancement.
What has changed academically is that while the department used to have only one full-time accounting professor, Carl Allocca, who is still with the program, there are now seven PhD-level faculty. “As a result, we are able to offer additional programs in accounting such as our MBA and MS in accounting programs and our accounting minor, all of which are pathways to the CPA,” London explained. “Students could not become accountants at Stony Brook previously because we didn’t have enough courses and they weren’t CPA eligible.”
The COB also has solid relationships with the Big Four accounting firms — PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, KPMG and Ernst & Young — as well as other firms around Long Island and the New York metro area. “We’re now seeing alumni coming back who are partners in accounting firms to recruit students,” London added. “So in a relatively short period of time over the last 10 years, we’ve really built a highly credible and valuable accounting program, valuable for students as well as for the employers who hire them as interns and then for positions.”
Helping its students build relationships and encouraging them to enhance their own communities is one of the COB’s many strengths. The college has always given students many opportunities to be involved in a wide array of business-related clubs, honors organizations and professional fraternities. These include the AMA, SBU Finance Society, SBU Investment Club, Risk Management and Insurance Club, a Real Estate Club (in tandem with the Real Estate Institute), a petitioning chapter of Beta Alpha Psi (an international accounting and finance honors organization) and the MBA Alumni Network. Professional fraternities include Alpha Kappa Psi and Delta Sigma Pi. The college also recently installed a chapter of Beta Gamma Sigma, an international business honors society exclusive to AACSB institutions.
The COB also gives students the support to step out on their own. When undergraduate Lily Schuhbeck wanted more opportunities to connect with other students, she and two peers launched a Women In Business (WIB) club earlier this year, an organization that empowers and inspires future women business leaders. It already has 25 active members.
“From the very beginning, we had constant encouragement from professors, faculty and the Career Center,” said Schuhbeck, a business management major with a marketing concentration and a minor in media arts who plans to graduate in December 2022. Since it launched, WIB has held a self-defense class, networking sessions with outside speakers and professional development activities like personal branding and a business fashion workshop.
Schuhbeck, president of WIB, said it’s the ability to start an organization in response to students’ needs that is one of the best things about the college — which is also working on an additional WIB club at the MBA level. “The fact that people want to form organizations and collaborate with one another shows it’s a great environment,” she said. “People in WIB are also in the AMA and Delta Sigma Pi. They’re also in Beta Alpha Psi. So it’s nice that everyone can work together with the advisors, students and faculty.”
Harrison Feig, who is graduating in spring 2023 as a business and psychology double major, was working on a presentation for his business honors class when some of his classmates mentioned not having high-quality headshots.
“Then it hit me that many students don’t have headshots at all, so I decided to help solve this problem by putting on a LinkedIn headshot event where we would provide headshots for free,” he said, adding that 70 students showed up to the first event in September he organized with the Undergraduate Student Government and the business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi. Feig said he’s planning to have more events in the spring.
Fostering an environment in which future business leaders like Schuhbeck and Feig have hands-on opportunities is a signature goal of the COB as it prepares students to be competitive in a very dynamic economy. After all, the days of business schools being about crunching the numbers and the bottom line and shareholder value are over, according to Milligan.
“It’s not enough for students to graduate with a high GPA. Employers expect students to demonstrate their knowledge, speak to examples and discuss how they navigate tricky situations,” Milligan said. “Serving as an executive board member of a club, participating in a client project, an internship, these are the experiences that students bring to the workplace. There’s a very big emphasis now on social impact, on business being part of the solution with climate change, sustainability and issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Within the COB, as we think about our mission and strategy, we’re very much thinking about the ways in which businesses can have a social impact. I think that’s also important to note because our students are getting a very broad education.”
Milligan said another benefit of being accredited is the ability to offer enrollment for the first time this semester in a new petitioning chapter of Beta Alpha Psi, an honor organization for financial information students and professionals. Christie Comunale, professor of practice in the accounting area and the advisor for Beta Alpha Psi, said this provides unmatched opportunities for the accounting and finance students in terms of their personal professional growth. Comunale also started the Accounting Advisory Board with the Career Center, which was rolled out in June with seven committed firms. It’s the first area-related advisory board in the COB and gives students direct access to leaders in accounting firms that want to hire SBU graduates. She added that this year’s Accounting Networking Breakfast, which she started in 2013, couldn’t accommodate all the accounting firms that wanted to come to campus to recruit students.
Hallmark Learning Experiences
Milligan said the COB is also providing student development opportunities via special college initiatives. One of these is a new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) committee, chaired by Bear, which began in 2021.
“Our overarching goals are to promote outreach, representation and inclusion at the COB and for students in particular,” Bear said. “In terms of actual impact, we currently are focusing our efforts on programmatic initiatives like events and workshops, such as Donuts, Diversity and Discussion, to start a conversation around DEI, and an informational session about the COB especially for Educational Opportunity Program students. We are also planning programming to coincide with Women’s History Month and Black History Month next winter, and we would like to work with the Career Center to support their efforts that are already well underway like the Diversity Professional Leadership Network.”
Bear said the DEI committee also spearheaded a partnership with the Forte Foundation, a national organization to promote women in business, as a way to support COB female students in general and the WIB club specifically.
Faculty are also creating exposure to up-to-date proficiencies for students. Just before the pandemic shutdown, Richard Chan and colleagues Danling Jiang, Andrew Xiao and Professor Emeritus Gerrit Wolf started the Center of Entrepreneurial Finance (CEF). It offers students the chance to participate in a variety of industry or research projects by creating faculty-student teams to collaborate with industry partners to solve challenging business problems.
Within the CEF, Chan, who is the center’s co-director, and Jiang, Xiao and Wolf also launched the Blockchain Business Lab (BBL) to explore the implications of blockchain technology for the business landscape. “The BBL exposes business students and students from other disciplines to the latest industry trends and prompts them to think about innovation in the blockchain space, which is not covered in our traditional curriculum,” Jiang said
Jiang explained that blockchain technology offers a decentralized and distributed ledger system for value exchanges, and it has the potential to revolutionize the financial industry. “The ledger system is shared among the nodes of a computer network so it is censorship resistant and has no single point of failure. It makes peer-to-peer financial transactions much easier, safer and cheaper, reducing the dependence on financial intermediaries.”
Another opportunity is the Innovation Center, which offers graduate students MBA consulting projects and an opportunity to work with faculty supervisors to create working solutions for business owners. Chan, the current director, said it has helped local governments, large businesses and startups. One of the students who said he benefited immensely from the Innovation Center is Jawad Khalfan ’18 BS, ’21 MBA, who won the university’s Entrepreneurs Challenge for his invention the Versitable, a multipurpose table with adjustability. He used part of his prize money to start his current company, SecureTech Systems, a high-end integration company based in New Hyde Park, New York.
The 25-year-old CEO said it was Wolf’s Technological Innovations class that gave him the confidence to launch an idea through the Innovation Center. “The school drilled into my brain that the people that we admire for being successful were not always like that, so if you want it, you need to make it happen the same way they did,” he said. “The college also provided me with connections to people who have directly gotten me where I am today.”
One of these people is Edward Fabian ’08 MBA, president of American Eagle Systems Inc., who was the COB keynote speaker at graduation where Khalfan was the student speaker. “After the ceremony he said, ‘Take my number and call me if you ever need anything.’ He made me pull out my phone on stage and save his number. I called him two years after graduation when I started SecureTech and needed help getting business. He remembered me and instantly connected me with three of his contacts, who all directly helped me grow.”
All these clubs, events and initiatives are formed with the goal of preparing students for the ever-shifting workforce. This is only further enhanced by the accreditation, which Milligan said validates the school’s legacy and impacts employer recruitment.
“We’ve grown tremendously over the past 10 years since I’ve been here, and now we have these external validating factors that can really distinguish ourselves and really put us in the game with other topnotch, competitive business programs, and will help us continue to grow,” Comunale said. “It gives us more resources to create additional majors and additional lines in our master’s programs like a master’s in tax and maybe even a PhD program.”
“I think of us as a quiet giant that has been in its startup stage with building the faculty and getting the accreditation,” Milligan said. “Now we’re turning the chapter and wherever the story will go, I’m excited just to be a part of transitioning into something else.”
College of Business Timeline
The Harriman School was established with six faculty to teach graduate management and policy
SBU expanded business education with 15 to 17 faculty and Gerrit Wolf as the new dean
A business undergraduate major was started
Joint Master of Science in Technology Management program starts between the COB and Seoul School of Integrated Sciences and Technologies
The Harriman School became the College of Business
The Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) program began
Manny London was appointed dean and a decision was made to move toward the AACSB required by hiring 24 doctoral-level faculty based on enrollments.
The COB was designated eligible for accreditation and the school developed components for accreditation
Submitted two major reports and three interim reports to AACSB, hosted six AACSB mentor visits and three consultant visits including a mock review, and final peer team review in fall 2021
Jiang’s Charge for Financial Literacy Is on the Money
Danling Jiang, a professor of finance and associate dean of research and faculty development at the College of Business (COB), is on a mission to help all students develop financial literacy — a basic life skill she believes most college graduates should possess.
“I tell my students that finance is the management of money and financial professionals manage money for others — for corporations, governments, institutions or international organizations — however, every one of us needs to manage our own money,” she said. “I believe that every student needs basic financial literacy and financial intelligence because we are each the CEO of our own firm: our personal finances.”
Armed with this goal, Jiang volunteers to present workshops on campus, like the SBU Weeks of Welcome sessions she developed, one on blockchain and cryptocurrency and another on personal finance investments open to all new students. She is also the co-director of the Center of Entrepreneurial Finance along with Richard Chan, associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship, and the Blockchain Business Lab (with Andrew Xiao), where she works with COB students through experiential learning opportunities to develop their financial business competencies.
Her passion for sharing financial skills started when she was a finance major at an undergraduate program in China. She came to the United States as a doctoral student in economics and within a year discovered that “economics is too abstract for me and I like the financial application of economics better.” She transferred back to finance and received a PhD in the discipline from The Ohio State University.
Her focus as a researcher involves studying equity and digital asset investments, corporate finance and financial decision making from behavioral and social finance approaches. Her research typically integrates economics, psychology, political science and sociology into finance.
“I’m excited by my research because it looks at the financial markets through the lens of what values, cultural elements, social interactions, political leanings, emotions and moods impact decision making so that collectively they make an impact on the financial market outcomes such as stock prices or maybe bond, stock allocation, trading, volume volatility, things like that,” Jiang said. “If you understand behavior finance, you understand the power of psychology and you have a weapon in your hand to defend yourself and win the battle in financial markets in the long term.”
In recent work, she has studied the impact of weather on institutional investors. “With good weather, they react very fast and very efficiently, but when they’re under the impact of recent bad weather, everything is slow and sluggish. And so we can make quite a bit of prediction, what the price would be upon announcement of earnings over that period and over the next few months.”
Another priority for Jiang since she joined the COB faculty in 2016 is mentoring her colleagues. She created the faculty mentoring program, which paired junior faculty with their senior counterparts to guide them through the tenure process. She has since been a mentor to four members, supporting them with their research and also guiding them through the tenure process. As a result, she received the 2022 Outstanding Mentor Award, which recognized her service as an exemplary mentor and exceptional commitment to mentoring and supporting the intellectual, creative, scholarly and professional growth of COB faculty. She was also recognized at the Celebration of Teaching and Mentoring event in May.
Jiang is also a board director of the Faculty Student Association (FSA) and chair of the FSA investment committee. “I work with a small team to provide recommendations of managing the FSA portfolio as a volunteer. I also sit on the Project REACH visioning committee and co-chair the dean search committee,” she said. “I’m very busy but I feel excited about what’s coming at the university and the COB, especially the search for the next dean.”