A Spirit of Transformation: An Educational Perspective by Dr. Amjad Abdullat

The Accomplishments of the Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business

Dr. Amjad Abdullat, newly appointed Dean of the Paul & Virginia Engler College of Business

In a time of transition, I have found the occasion to pause and to reflect on all the things for which we are thankful. I joined the College of Business in 1998, and subsequently joined the administrative team as the head of the Computer Information Systems Department.  My initial reaction upon arriving at West Texas A&M University was appreciation for the potential I saw around me: successful alumni were dedicated to the institution; faculty and staff genuinely cared about the students; every business in the region employed our graduates; and the institution was a first to move into online education in the region.  

I witnessed the potential of the College of Business significantly move forward in 2006 when Dr. Neil Terry was named Dean and Dr. LaVelle Mills was named Associate Dean of the college. At the time, we had 30 full-time faculty empowered with significant spirit but holding little national or regional distinction.

Full-time faculty in the College of Business in 2006

Since that time, the vision and commitment of our faculty, staff, and campus leaders has positively transformed the College of Business. To wit, our Fall enrollment surpassed 2,850 students and the number of full-time faculty has grown to over 60. We celebrate this growth and maturity by highlighting some of the major accomplishments below.

Accreditation: Quality and Continuous Improvement

Principal among the positive developments in the college has been the planning, review, preparation, and organization required to earn AACSB accreditation – the leading business accrediting body in the world. This accomplishment elevates the college to the highest standards of quality and articulates our adherence to the processes that ensure that these standards are maintained.  An investment in people and infrastructure to connect good people in the college to positive student experiences has been a key element of this success.  However, the positive aspects of AACSB accreditation extend further to enrollment, donor support, faculty recruitment and retention, recognition in peer rankings, and increased alumni affinity with the college and university.  Initial AACSB accreditation was earned in 2012 and the accreditation was reaffirmed in 2018. Our experience with AACSB was also instrumental in supporting the initial ABET accreditation of the Bachelor of Business Administration in Computer Information Systems in 2013 and the re-accreditation of this program in 2019.

College of Business Advisory Board that served in order to help the COB obtain initial accreditation.
Front row, left to right: Lorene Lacer, Quinn Alexander, Cliff Baker, Ray Bain, David Wilder, Lance Jones, Rosemartha Cates, Daryl Curtis, Smith Ellis Back row, left to right: J. Pat Richmond, Dr. Neil Terry, W.A. McCarty, Greg Mitchell, Jack Hudgins, John Marmaduke, Jeff Nunn, Mike Conner. Hassan Dana, Alan Kennon, Gary Wells, Carolyn Balzar

Naming, Ranking and Recognition

The growing stature of the college has also been internationally recognized among peers and independent evaluators of programs. In evidence, the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), the Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Science in Finance and Economics (MSFE), and the Master of Science in Computer Information Systems and Business Analytics (MS CISBA) have all earned top 25 rankings and recognition from either U.S. News & World Report or The Princeton Review.

With accreditation and ranking often comes the recognition, respect, and affinity that attracts the fruits of fundraising and gifts that further bolster the college. Toward that end, in 2017 the Engler Foundation bestowed a long-term gift of no less than $1 million per year for a period of no less than 80 years that resulted in naming of the college: the Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business.  This extraordinary gift will further the college’s goals by creating a more diverse and rigorous learning environment and facilitate research opportunities for both faculty and students across the college’s academic programs. The naming of our college is a major milestone and achievement that positioned us to sustain success and to affiliate with a remarkable individual who is emblematic of the culture and the values of our area.

Mr. Paul Engler with President Wendler and Dean Terry finalizing the agreement to name the College of Business November 2017

Fundraising also manifests in the form of scholarships which are vital to the support the success of our students. Direct scholarship support increased from $80,000 to over $500,000 from 2006 to 2019.  During this period, no less than fourteen major scholarship funds were established in a range of endowments from the $100,000 to $750,000 level.  Endowments are also used to support faculty, and the college currently maintains 23 named professorships which adds to the range of tools available to attract, retain, and develop faculty talent. Professorship endowments range from $100,000 to $250,000.  Another source of funds for the Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business has been realized in the naming of classrooms in the Classroom Center with contributions ranging from approximately $35,000 to $100,000 per room. The naming of rooms provides our students with access to first-rate facilities plus the needed resources to maintain over time. Several donors have adorned the walls of the College of Business with original art, which has created a distinctive and unique appearance throughout the halls. Approaching a total value of $500,000 across the collection, several of the Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business donors and alumni feel it is important for future business leaders to be educated in an environment that is appreciative and supportive of the nuances of fine arts and humanities.

Growth in Enrollments

The most important outcome of attracting support for the mission of the college is when it provides greater opportunity for a wider number of students.  Enrollment has more than doubled from 1,239 in the Fall of 2006 to 2,866 in the Fall of 2019.  A paramount factor contributing to this success was to earn AACSB accreditation and to capitalize on this accomplishment: quality faculty, material support, commitment to excellence and continuous improvement, external validation, and prestige.  Altogether, our advances in fundraising, faculty quality, student engagement and expansion in programs have resulted in the improvement of student outcomes and success.  For these reasons, AACSB accreditation stands as the greatest achievement of the Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business in my time of service at the institution.

Expansion of Programs

In order to accommodate wider range of learners, the college has also expanded online course offerings.  The MS in Computer Information Systems and Business Analytics, the MBA track in Healthcare, the BBA track in Business Law and Economics, and a BS track in Digital Collaboration and Economics have been recent additions with an online focus.  Utilizing a very early lead in online education, dating back to the late 1990s, online programs in the College have flourished with care for the logistics, mechanics, and support to reach students and facilitate their success in an online environment.

Dedicated Faculty

Growth in academic programs has been met by attracting and retaining well-credentialed, motivated, and high-quality faculty.  Success factors for faculty development have included attention to quality facilities, resources and direct professional support.  Professorships and research productivity support, combined with a positive work environment, has yielded significant results.  Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business faculty intellectual contributions, both in terms of quality and quantity, are placed significantly in the campus community and surpass most peer institutions.  Hiring productive research scholars that are dedicated to the craft of teaching has also been key to the academic advancement of our students. 

Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business Faculty and Staff – February 2020

Expansion of Student Organizations and Co-Curricular Experiences.

Ultimately, the greatest marker of growth and success for the college is positive outcomes for students.  To augment a strong curriculum, co-curricular experiences afforded to students have expanded significantly.  The local/college chapter of Enactus, formerly known as SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise), has continued as a cornerstone for student engagement and enrichment that is symbolic of the college and its core mission to promote business education in numerous ways.  The Enactus chapter has continued to provide relevant experiential learning for students by focusing on service-learning projects that transform the lives of citizens and business in the Texas Panhandle community.  The college has also witnessed the expansion of other student organizations – such as Beta Gamma Sigma (the international business honor society for AACSB-accredited schools), ALPFA (Association of Latino Professionals For America), SRHM (Society for Human Resource Management) – which cover a spectrum of interests designed to enhance and enrich students’ learning experience in the college. 

The college has also started to participate heavily in developing academic-focused faculty-lead study abroad programs. The first trip in 2008, took a group of students to Russia, and since then the College has taken students to the United Kingdom, Canada, China, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.  These programs have helped to instill a global perspective in the students who participate in a visceral manner that goes beyond what students can experience through their browsers, mobile devices, and search engines.  Increasingly, online students are participating in our study abroad programs as well, which serves to instill a sense of belonging for those students.

This is a brief history of our college up until this point. To see the direction that we are headed visit our article Supporting the Future: WT125.