by Luke Jones
Posted 5/5/2014 12:00 am
Updated 6 months ago
Shane Hunt won’t officially start his new job as Arkansas State University’s business dean until June 16, but he already has plans for future Arkansas entrepreneurs.
The Great Recession, Hunt said, has been both a blessing and a curse for ASU’s College of Business. Enrollment has increased “modestly,” Hunt said, averaging about 4 percent growth per year, since the economic downturn.
“We’ve been trending positive and adding more people in each of our majors, and considering the circumstances, we’ve been pleased with what we’ve done,” he said.
But the recession also meant increased scrutiny on the field of business.
“Business schools across the country have faced a lot of pressure following the most recent recession,” Hunt said. “So we have a group of soon-to-be college students who really came of age during that recession — maybe they were in high school or junior high — and saw the impact it had on their families.”
To respond to that, the college needs to ensure that its business curriculum doesn’t become antiquated, which Hunt said is a common problem for business colleges.
It also needs to ensure students have skill sets that are relevant to what businesses need and have an ethical “culture of honor” within the college.
“We need to be training great, smart, hardworking and ethical business leaders who can help drive the economy,” he said.
Hunt grew up in Oklahoma City and received his bachelor’s degree in marketing and then his Master of Business Administration from the University of Oklahoma in Norman.
His initial career experience was for The Williams Cos. Inc., an energy and telecommunications company in Tulsa. He started out as a pricing analyst on the telecom side, and said that over time he worked in all of the four “P’s” of marketing: price, product, promotion and place.
“We had at the time one of the largest next-generation fiber optic networks in the world,” he said. “My first job was a pricing analyst, and then I worked with the business sales team to structure pricing. I worked on deals to basically provide bandwidth to large companies like AT&T, Sprint and Verizon down to enterprise solutions for medium businesses.”
Later he became manager of business development for Citynet of Bridgeport, West Virginia, which had offices in Tulsa.
“I think that was a very beneficial part of my time as a professor, having not just a Ph.D. but having a private sector background,” he said. “I have the experiences of things I did well and things I did wrong, and I can help students learn from those.”
In the early 2000s, when the dot-com bubble burst, Hunt began to consider where his career path might lead.
He began the process of obtaining a doctorate from the University of Oklahoma with the thought that he might return to the private sector afterward.
“There, I saw how much I enjoyed teaching, research and helping students achieve their dreams,” he said. “That’s the best job in the world. Not long after that, I knew that’s what I was going to do.”
He began searching for jobs on college campuses, and that led him to ASU.
Having never been to Jonesboro before, Hunt said he and his family “fell in love” with the town and the university.
He started as an assistant professor in 2007 and became an associate professor in 2011, finally receiving tenure in 2013 before being named dean of the business college this year.
As dean, Hunt said his major goal is to increase enrollment and help students ensure a return on their college investments.
Specifically, Hunt is working on a “very aggressive” review of the college’s current curriculum.
“In the three weeks since the dean announcement, I’ve been going out and talking to business leaders across the state and region, spending time talking with executives and for-profit companies,” he said. “We’re looking internally, from an academic standpoint, and we’re also out talking to executives and people in the private sector about what they need.”
He said the process has already revealed that businesses need more well-trained salespeople.
“That’s an opportunity for us,” he said. “One of the positions we’ll be hiring for this summer and the following fall is a new marketing professor who will focus on sales. He or she will really work to develop our sales program and some ideas on the curriculum, including things like students competing in national sales competitions.”
Another area with high demand is supply chain management, Hunt said.
“We have that major within our colleges,” Hunt said. “It’s relatively new and focuses on global supply chain management. We’ve had some great success within that program.”
Overall, Hunt said, he’s more interested in the skills students gain from the college than the number enrolled.
“I will grow enrollment,” he said. “But I will tell you that I’m far more concerned and focused on the experience they have in our business school and the things we help teach them.”