|Dr. Stanley G. Eakins, newly appointed dean of the ECU College of Business, shared his thoughts following his first week on the job. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)
'WE ARE SPOT ON'
New College of Business Dean speaks on achievements, challenges
Jan. 10, 2012
By Kathryn Kennedy
ECU News Services
Dr. Stanley G. Eakins was appointed dean of the East Carolina University College of Business on Jan. 3, replacing Dr. Frederick Niswander who now serves as ECU’s vice chancellor for administration and finance.
A professor of finance at ECU, Eakins received his doctorate from Arizona State University in 1990. He served as associate dean of the College of Business for nearly six years and is former chair of the Department of Finance.
Eakins was instrumental in implementing the college’s new Leadership and Professional Development Program, which teaches students 21st century skills such as professionalism, leadership and communication in addition to the nuts and bolts of business.
A native of Fairbanks, Alaska, Eakins has a background in the private sector that preempted his 20 years with ECU. He also served as vice president and comptroller at the First National Bank of Fairbanks, Alaska, and has experience as a commercial and real estate loan officer. A founder of Denali Title and Escrow Agency, a title insurance company in Fairbanks, he ran the operations side of a bank and was the chief finance officer for a multi-million dollar construction and development company.
After his first week as dean, he sat down with ECU News Services to talk about his background and hopes for the college.
What attracted you to higher education?
For a 10-year period in the private sector I was doing finance kinds of things, got my MBA finished up in the middle of that. All was going well and then the Alaskan economy totally collapsed. It’s an oil-based economy and the price of oil just dropped to nothing. Eight of 16 banks in Alaska failed over two years. That was about 1986 or 1987.
At that point in Alaska, there weren’t options. I had always enjoyed school. That had just been a passion. So this looked like a good opportunity to use our (family) savings, go to school and get a PhD. We wanted a school that put an emphasis on teaching but then also allowed for research – a balanced school. This was one of the few that surfaced as a viable candidate for us. That was in 1990 that I started here.
On the 75th anniversary, what are some of the greatest achievements of the College of Business?
We started as a department of commerce and our first course was keyboarding. We’ve grown a little from those first days. The next milestone would be getting accredited 50 years ago. We were the first or second school in North Carolina to get it and both undergraduate and Masters of Business Administration programs were accredited. The next would be getting our MBA online about 10 years ago. It’s grown to about 900 students.
Then, back about six years ago, we decided we were doing a good job teaching the basic fundamentals of business. We were not doing an effective job of teaching the leadership skills. This was a massive undertaking by the college to revise our curriculum to include leadership focus. We have a program that is completely different than any other school in the country. Every single student in business takes four leadership courses: Strategy and critical thinking, applied leadership skills, professionalism, and then the capstone leadership course. We were a two-year college that you got in as a junior, now we’re four years so they (students) can start at the beginning. Now we’re rolling the leadership programs across the college into all the coursework so there’s this base that runs through the program of leadership development.
How does the College of Business fit into ECU’s overall mission?
We are spot on with what the university is supposed to do. A college of business should lead and enhance the economic development in the region in which you exist. We do that, and we can do better with it. Our leadership development is as aggressive as any college on the campus. Service is also something we’ve really taken an interest in. The portfolio for students requires there be volunteer work by every student every year. So you start getting 3,000 undergraduate students out in a community this size? That’s going to have an impact.
What lies ahead?
The biggest challenge I think you’ll hear everywhere is the budget constraints. We lost a lot of faculty positions. Our operating budget was cut by two-thirds, down to a third of what it used to be. We’re just having to really watch absolutely everything we do and make sure we’re getting the highest value. The positive is that we’ve had really generous donors over the years. Without them we’d be really in trouble.
The other thing we want to do is admit more high-achieving students. We’re asking our alumni to help us fund scholarships to attract the best and brightest. Growth is now taking a backseat. We can’t afford to grow. We’re somewhat stagnant size-wise.
What does it take to be a good dean?
At any one of these big schools, you’re essentially running a big operation. The salary budget is about $20 million, just on salaries alone. You’re servicing about 10,000 students a year (at the College of Business), and 150 faculty and staff. All the issues involved in running a normal business are part of running a college like this. Then, on top of it, you have the complexities of academics – supporting the research enterprise, supporting the teaching enterprise, trying to stay innovative and looking at the market needs, what the students need. We don’t know if I’m any good at it yet. (laughs) I became official Jan. 3.
I think it’s critical that you have to be a capable listener and I always kind of credit the (undergraduate) psychology degree with really focusing on listening for content. To keep peace and harmony, you really need to hear what people are trying to tell you and not walk in with preconceived ideas.