Virginia Tech Magazine
Feature -|- Summer 2006

Pamplin College of Business: Technology, leadership, and international experience
by Sookhan Ho

Pamplin College of Business Alex Karjavine arrived at the Pamplin College of Business by way of Lewis University in Chicago, where he had been recruited for its NCAA Division I men's volleyball team. A graduate of the Governor's School in Richmond, Karjavine discovered after a year that he needed to transfer back to Virginia for family reasons. He visited several universities but particularly liked what he saw at Virginia Tech's business school.

The Pamplin College seemed like a "tight-knit community," Karjavine recalls, noting that he was impressed with its career assistance services, accessible faculty, and "numerous opportunities to expand my education through student-run organizations."

Among the clubs he joined were SEED, which manages $4 million of Virginia Tech's endowment through stock market investments; Business Horizons, which organizes the annual career fair of the same name that attracts more than 100 recruiters; and the Executive Planning Committee, which plans career events.

After graduating last May, the finance major headed to Merrill Lynch in New York for an investment banking job he landed, in part, through Pamplin's "excellent" alumni network on Wall Street. "I couldn't be happier with my decision to attend Virginia Tech and my experience here."

Jenny Nolen had long set her sights on Pamplin. "My father works for a global company and I have grown up learning about business."

Dad happens to be George Nolen (marketing '78), board of visitors member and president and CEO of Siemens Corporation. (Go here for more on Nolen.) Moreover, since 14 family members already hold Virginia Tech degrees, Jenny says, "I knew I wanted to be a Hokie from a very young age."

A finance major who graduated in May, Jenny liked the range of academic majors at Pamplin and the fact that it is one of the nation's top 50 business schools.

For Dean Richard E. Sorensen, such feedback from students -- as well as appreciative comments from alumni, parents, and recruiters -- is gratifying confirmation that the college is on the right path. Assisted by other college administrators, senior faculty, and the Pamplin Advisory Council (a group of college alumni and friends who provide guidance on curriculum, student recruitment and placement, fundraising, and other matters), Sorensen has led efforts to strengthen the college's academic programs and expand its outreach to the business community.

To that end, the college has developed programs stressing technology, leadership, and international experience, such as the university's online master of information technology program, which recently was expanded to serve students in India. Pamplin faculty also are helping to develop the latest technology, including better tools to protect children's online privacy and to conduct customized searches of the National Science Foundation's library from college course websites.

Pamplin College of Business

Through course work, guest-speaker programs, and 25 student organizations, Pamplin offers students diverse opportunities to develop leadership knowledge and skills. Its Wachovia Distinguished Lecture series and Conference on Business Ethics have brought in CEOs and other senior executives from GE, IBM, Siemens, 7-Eleven, Ralph Lauren, ChoicePoint, andTyco.

The college is committed to preparing students for an increasingly multicultural and globally connected workplace through courses and study abroad: more than a third of Virginia Tech students who study abroad are Pamplin students. "We believe our international programs serve as a model for the rest of the university," Sorensen says.

Along with leading study-abroad programs, many Pamplin faculty teach and conduct research overseas. Five of the university's 14 Fulbright Award recipients since 2000 have been Pamplin faculty.

The college's faculty include several nationally recognized senior members who teach many of the required courses, write the books used in classrooms everywhere, and help make their departments among the top-ranked programs for scholarly productivity.

In addition, Pamplin faculty are often cited in government hearings and court testimony. Finance professor Greg Kadlec's research on mutual-fund trading costs, for example, was cited by the Securities and Exchange Commission and industry officials in Congressional testimony and in a report by the Government Accountability Office. The work of finance professor and department head Vijay Singal has influenced U.S. antitrust policy and has been used by the Department of Justice in several cases.

Pamplin College of Business
Pamplin faculty research -- unlike science and engineering research but like that of most business schools -- is largely unfunded by external grants and contracts, primarily because business research does not require expensive equipment and personnel. Nevertheless, several Pamplin professors, working on interdisciplinary research teams, have received national funding. "The college has made a concerted effort to increase its externally funded research," says Sorensen. "We are exploring further opportunities to collaborate on sponsored research -- such partnerships are already underway with colleagues in engineering, computer science, and natural resources."

Research grants are not the only awards Pamplin professors win. Management Associate Professor Mary Connerley is a three-time recipient of the GM Sullivan Award, aimed at promoting the Global Sullivan Principles of corporate social responsibility through campus courses and workshops. Pamplin faculty have also received awards for teaching excellence, including the prestigious Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, which Art Keown received in 1999, six Students' Choice Awards -- all won by management associate professor Chris Neck --and 20 Wine awards. Additionally, Pamplin faculty expertise has been applied to assist businesses through outreach services organized by the Business Technology Center, the Center for Global E-Commerce, the Small Business Institute, and the Center for Management and Professional Development.

The college's future challenges, says Sorensen, include increasing full-time MBA enrollment, which is essential to attracting recruiters and raising the program's rankings; and finding "new ways of doing things and becoming more self-sufficient in response to the university's ambitious strategic plan, academic restructuring, and top-30 goal, combined with state budget reductions.

"We have developed external funding sources through grants and contracts, gifts, continuing education and consulting programs, and other services to business," he continues. "Eventually, we may have to apply differentiated tuition rates or special student fees in order to meet student demand."

The college has achieved remarkable progress in many areas, Sorensen says, thanks largely to the quality of its academic programs, outstanding students, talented and dedicated faculty and staff, and loyal and generous alumni. "We will work hard to overcome the obstacles in order to continue our progress and build upon our success."

Sookhan Ho is the communications manager for the Pamplin College of Business.

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