As Mary Ellen Zuckerman, dean of the School of Business, prepares to leave at the end of the spring semester, the Ithaca College community reflects on the differences she made in developing student professionalism and enhancing the school’s commitment to sustainability.
As announced January 2014, Zuckerman will serve as provost and vice president of academic affairs at SUNY Brockport, effective July 1.
Since she assumed her role as dean in 2010, the school has invested in opportunities for professional development through business and sustainability competitions and alumni involvement, and has introduced a focused investment track within the business administration major.
On April 22, Ithaca College hosted the first Business Plan Competition, which Zuckerman supported as a further development of the Business Idea Competition.
Tom Schryver and Brad Treat, lecturers at the college and local entrepreneurs, proposed the Business Plan Competition this year to allow students more time to fully develop their ideas through more market analysis and financial projections for actual products and services, Zuckerman said.
She said these programs allow students to be more prepared for statewide competitions, such as the New York State Business Plan Competition. Eleven teams from the college competed at the regional competition on April 12 in Binghamton, and three moved on to the state competition in Albany, N.Y.
Michael Axelrod ’91, CEO of LiquidHub, has been involved with the two competitions for the past two years as a judge and mentor to Ithaca participants. In an email interview, he said he wishes he’d had the opportunity to participate in such competitions during his years as a student at the college.
“So many college students are lost upon graduation, but with the training that they are getting through these competitions and the platform they are provided, our students are better prepared for their post-IC endeavors,” he said.
He said the business school has become more of a selling piece to incoming students.
“The business school is no longer about just accounting and finance and business management, but about how to create viable businesses and real world experiences that you can’t learn from a book,” he said.
The investment track, Zuckerman’s new program within the finance concentration, allows students to learn about the real business world through hands-on work in the Center for Trading and Analysis of Financial Instruments. Also called the Trading Room, it is a mock stock exchange in the business school.
According to the business school website, the investment track is a curriculum that provides students with an understanding of different ways to manage real money through special courses, such as Fixed Income Analysis and Management and Hedge Fund Management.
Raquib Zaman, Dana professor and chair of finance and international business, said investment is an area of high-interest for many students.
“In order to get more proficient, we needed some new courses, and the only way we can do it within the finance concentration is to create a track: investment,” he said.
Hormoz Movassaghi, professor of finance and international business, said Zuckerman has been a strong advocate of experiential learning and sustainability and provides case competitions for students, such as the Sustainability Case Competition.
“Mary Ellen, ever since she came, wants to make sure that sustainability is also covered in business courses,” he said. “So she has been promoting and encouraging faculty to develop what we refer here as ‘sustainability modules.’”
The sustainability modules ensure that some core courses, like accounting, marketing, finance and international business, have a sustainability component, he said. For example, Movassaghi’s International Business Operations course compares corporate market practices with global sustainability standards.
Zaman said Zuckerman was hired during a time when faculty were unhappy with the then-interim dean, who he said was more preoccupied with his position than with getting things done.
“She has done more than anybody else to my knowledge to help the students get them what they want,” he said.
William Tastle, professor of management, said Zuckerman was recruited to enhance the school of business. Prior to Zuckerman’s arrival, he said, the faculty members were in need of someone to push them ahead and respond to the needs of the school.
“She has greatly enhanced the morale in the business school by being a strong supporter of initiatives that are novel in business and on the cutting edge of technology,” he said.
Senior Juan Tamayo, a business administration major, said Zuckerman was enthusiastic when he came to her with a business idea — JuannaEat, a company that connects chefs and people from the community to have hands-on cooking parties.
“Anytime that I needed her, she’s been there, and she makes herself available to the students,” he said.
He said the business school gave him money to partially fund JuannaEat’s first cooking party.
Brittany Valente, senior business administration major with concentrations in marketing and international business, said she hopes Zuckerman’s future successor will continue to grow the alumni network and help students succeed.
“I hope to see the amount of alumni growing, the amount of students graduating with jobs, increased involvement in student clubs and organizations,” she said. “I love that; it helped me a lot.”
As Zuckerman prepares to leave the school, she said she hopes her successor continues to work on the initiatives already in place and promote creativity and innovation for students and faculty.
“I hope the person continues to promote this feeling of forward-looking and being creative and innovative for the students and the faculty, and continuously looking for ways to connect the students to jobs and internships, and the kind of knowledge that they need to be successful,” she said.