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Getting to Know: Business

November 2, 2016

Nathaniel Gallegos Nathaniel Gallegos

EDITOR’S NOTE: College Relations is publishing a monthly series of news articles, features and Q&A interviews highlighting various departments on campus in an effort to assist the faculty and staff in gaining an increased awareness about and understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities.

The November Q&A is with Dr. Nathaniel Gallegos, chair of the Business department.

Q: What are your duties as chair of the Business department at CSC?

The duties of the chair in the Business Academy are manifold due to the size of the department. The Business Academy has nearly 500 undergraduate students and 200 Master of Business Administration (MBA) students, which combine to about one-quarter of CSC’s total enrollment, spread across eight undergraduate programs, the graduate MBA, and supplementary course offerings in the Master of Science in Organizational Management (MSOM) program. We offer nearly 200 iterated courses per calendar year with 13-tenured faculty lines, two instructor lines, and a host of qualified adjuncts. We are graced with additional support with academic advising from Terri Haynes, support from graduate assistants and work-study students, and our office administrator, Emily Snitily, seriously coordinates the whole show.

Furthermore, the Business Academy is accredited by Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) and supports CSC’s Higher Learning Commission (HLC) accreditation. Needless to say, there are a lot of moving parts involved and it’s hard to pin down precise duties as no two days have been the same. In essence, the chair position is almost like a fiduciary oath of accountability to do whatever needs to be done for the betterment of our students, support of our business faculty, and commitment to the miscellaneous grinding gears that are always turning in our business program and institution.

Q: What aspects of business theory and practice do courses in your department cover?

The Business Academy is committed to modern, pragmatic business theory. It’s an academic point to enumerate the many flavors of economic theory from leftist institutionalism to the right-most branches of libertarianism or objectivism. These topics have their place, however, CSC’s Business Academy is devoted to give business students a toolbox of skills that will allow for effective utility in a technologically dynamic marketplace. Yes, it’s important for our CSC business graduates to have the mind to wrestle and contemplate the nuances of advanced economic theories but it’s more imperative that our business graduates have the chops to enter a competitive labor market and produce results in their work-product. Our program, our accreditation, and our faculty are devoted to the latter beyond question. 

Q: Are courses in your department applicable to most or all types of businesses?

The value of CSC’s Business Academy’s courses come largely from our commitment to our ACBSP specialized accreditation standards. These standards require continual program level assessment of courses, faculty credentialing standards, proof of faculty continuous improvement, and relevancy of curriculum development. This has all led to national recognition of the caliber of CSC’s Business Academy.

Moreover, one must realize that business is the common thread in society today. It doesn’t matter if one’s job is an accountant, principal, priest, abstract artist, physician, lawyer, academic dean, or a college professor, today’s society requires a knowledge of budgets, fiscal controls, management concepts, information systems, and marketing principles. You can’t have a yard sale without these skills. Although, one may not need be dexterous with formal double-entry bookkeeping, experimental statistics, financial ratio analyses, business organization law, or pass-through taxation, the deeper investment in one’s toolbox of business skills is wisdom and it can only help a learner’s career. 

Q: How does your department give students real world experience in business?

CSC has an outstanding internship program. Deena Kennell is Director of Internships and Career Services and she works with both our main campus and online students to find internship opportunities and craft the outcomes for fulfillment of the learning objectives. This means a lot for a student who may be on the fence about a given career path. It allows exploration and time-in-job to aid with such a momentous decision.

I will vouch for the internship/clerkship learning method as it was a big part of my own education. When I was in law school, I was uncertain about what branch of law I wished to pursue. I originally had plans of having a consumer practice focusing on criminal and immigration law. However, after doing clerkships and clinics in these areas, as well as taking courses in other areas of law, I found that I preferred transactional law and it further coupled with my prior work in economics and as a business statistician. I naturally found my groove in business law due to familiarity and interest in the subject matter. I may have missed this fork in the career path if I would have labored blindly to my prior choice. The clerkships were commanding to probe, search, and fully flesh out a possible career choice. 

Q: How does your department personalize the interactions with students who take primarily or exclusively online courses?

Online courses are a disruptive force to the traditional education model. There is a ubiquity to the change as we are seeing with learning management systems (LMS) being used in K-12 and even Pre-K schools. And the trend will just continue with the advent of big-data and economies of scale in costs, which unbind tethers of location like classrooms and faculty domicile. There is cultural acceptance of this new digital reality. I am pleased to corroborate that CSC has already taken steps to ensure quality and compliance with membership in National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) and Quality Matters programs.  

Additionally, as to my personal interactions with our students, it is actually a natural check to the previous question of program growth. To properly ensure a qualitative and quantitative measure of interaction, feedback, and all-around connection, an online professor is limited by time in an asynchronous modality; there’s only so much one can do so the time must be spent efficiently. During my first week of an online course, I require introductions in a discussion forum to connect with students. It seems that by about midway through the course, you get to know the students through their work-product, work situations, families, and their voice as it comes across in their work. Again, the quality is negatively correlated to the number of students. The connection to your student expressed through feedback is imperative for course quality and there’s no substitute for doing the work.

Thus, here at CSC, our course caps are kept to reasonable numbers and faculty members are limited to the number of individual courses they must prep. 

Q: What career paths are open to a graduate with a degree in business? 

Anything. A business degree empowers the graduate to do absolutely anything.

Undeniably, one overarching product of a college degree is an ability to think critically. This ability has been largely advocated from courses in a broad, liberal education. There is enormous value in taking courses in science, human diversity, mathematics, writing, etc. … to add to one’s toolbox of analyses. But I would further argue that a student’s major focuses the analysis further. For instance, an owner of an auto repair shop needs to think beyond just mechanics and car parts to business questions like liability insurance, payment systems, advertising, legal entity choice, and much more of concern to his business. This is the same for a Nebraska corn famer, a rural school principal in Colorado, a Detroit yoga studio owner, a South Dakota beef rancher, or a Silicon Valley start-up. What are the important questions to ask for a business objective?

Thus, business students’ career choices are near inexhaustible with a business degree. Even if one’s skills get antiquated and irrelevant, a business graduate understands the economics of disruptive innovation and will willingly retool. Business and economics is like a philosophy, bushido or a tao in that way; it’s never about having the right answers, but having the right questions. 

Q: What advice would you give to a student interested in a business degree?

I have two points of disjointed advice for any business major: 1) read; and 2) reverse design.

Erudition is my first part of advice. I have read statistical studies on the monetary correlations of the well-read affluent. I dislike these figures. One should read for the betterment of one’s self and no other reason. I encourage my students to read. I personally couldn’t imagine my life without reading Dostoyevsky’s “Brother’s Karamazov,” Dickens’ “David Copperfield,” Trollope’s “The Way We Live Now,” Garcia Marquez’s “Amor En Los Tiempos Del Colera,” Edrich’s “Roundhouse,” or Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” and “Fountainhead.” There is such beauty in literature and I assure every one of my students that the contemplation of books will yield dividends to one’s mind and will lend to a richer life helping one connect with people and understand business more than years spent in toiling in business schools or in financial firms in skyscrapers.

And the best advice I can think about giving any business major about the future is to reverse design your life. Think about where you want to be for the prime of your career or retirement and design backward at what it takes to get there. Map it out. Plan it. Set up goals and benchmarks. But I caution to never tie assessment of success with the accumulation of monetary assets; this is hedonistic and shallow. Take it from me, it is not worth grinding 70-hours per week, sleeping with a phone under your pillow, to just sit in traffic in your brand new car (that depreciated 10 percent by just driving off the lot), chasing the Nexium for the ulcer with Red Bull for your next deposition for that six-figure firm job. Personally, I have found success measured by walking to work in the mornings, a flexible work schedule to read interesting books, living close to family, attending church every Sunday (yes, sitting in the same pew), working with interesting colleagues, and talking about innovative people and companies that are working in their passions to receptive and intelligent students. 

Q: What do you like best about teaching at Chadron State College?

Honestly, the best part of working for CSC is the fact that I have been given this opportunity as chair. My department has allowed me this opportunity and it is indicative that they see me worth the institutional investment. Dean Hyer and Dr. Snare have also allowed me to be a part of many campus committees, accreditation efforts, and included me, amongst many other junior faculty, for input on the future directions of CSC. As Google’s head of human resources, Lazlo Bock, said in his book “Work Rules,” a vibrant organization will create a safe place for upcoming talent to try and safely fail without fear of negative backlash. I have been chair for only a few months and I swear that it’s been jumping from fire to fire. It takes me double the time to do tasks that other chairs could finish blindfolded. Even the amount of correspondence has exploded as my email volume increased from 10 or so messages a day to over 70. It’s like drinking from a firehose. However, I have had the fortune of mentorship from Dr. Anderson, Dr. Bruehlman, and Dr. Koza as prior chairs; Dean Hyer is honest and amazingly patient, and Dr. Snare has been encouraging all the while. I love that CSC is actively investing in the next generation of faculty. I know that there are enough people watching that I don’t break anything but they are also supporting me to succeed, because as cliché as it sounds, CSC’s success is all of our success. That’s what I like best about working for CSC.

—George Ledbetter

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