UCA's Michael Hargis on Specialization in Business

by Luke Jones  on Monday, May. 5, 2014 12:00 am  

Michael Hargis

Arkansas State University isn’t the only institution in Arkansas with a new business dean. Last year, Michael Hargis served as interim dean of the University of Central Arkansas’ College of Business in Conway, and in April he was named permanent dean, effective in July.

Like Shane Hunt at ASU, Hargis has ideas about where UCA needs to focus its efforts.

“It’s early in my tenure, so I can talk about some grand plans for us,” Hargis said. “We’re going to grow and expand our graduate programs online, but also focus on specialization where it makes sense. We’re really expanding our efforts to partner with the outside environment. We’re developing training programs to meet the needs of job creators out there.”

Hargis grew up in Little Rock and got his undergraduate degree in industrial psychology from Hendrix College in Conway and then moved to Detroit to obtain a doctorate in quantitative management from Wayne State University.

He said that in business education, particularly at the graduate level, demand is moving away from the “gold standard” of the Master of Business Administration and more toward MBAs with emphases in certain disciplines.

These specializations can be in areas like information sciences, finance and banking and computer systems.

To cater to these needs, Hargis said, UCA has been working with many of the state’s job creators. In particular, the college recently modified its management information systems program after consulting with local companies.

“We talked to the key hiring managers at Dillard’s, Acxiom and Data-Tronics in Fort Smith, all of those key players, to make sure our classes and courses make sense,” he said. “My job is to get out there and have those conversations. I need to know where education is going. The fundamentals of business don’t change on a year-to-year basis, but some of the key skills change. We didn’t have online retail a decade ago, and that’s something we’re moving toward. The notion of big data didn’t exist in real form a decade ago.”

Hargis said those “key skills” include creativity and innovation. “Whether you’re a giant like Acxiom or HP or a small startup business, you’ve got to create and innovate and do it in a way that doesn’t ruin your balance sheets.”



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