Frank Braun joined the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in August as the dean of the College of Business, Health & Human Services.
He previously served as dean of the BW School of Business and a professor of business informatics at Baldwin Wallace University of Berea, Ohio, and as department chair and director of the Master of Science in information systems program at Northern Kentucky University of Highland Heights. He has held senior leadership positions with United Dairy Farmers, TouchScreen Systems and Klosterman Baking Co.
Braun earned a bachelor’s degree in applied science from Miami University, an MBA from Xavier University of Cincinnati and a Doctor of Management from Case Western Reserve University of Cleveland.
You come to Arkansas from Ohio. What similarities or differences have you observed about the business environment here?
One of the things that attracted me to UA Little Rock is the engagement of the central Arkansas business community. While it was also true that business leaders in northeast Ohio were involved, I am pleased by the deep personal interest many longtime business supporters have in this university. I’m very interested in furthering those relationships and cultivating new partnerships to support and enhance the social and economic well-being of the region, state and beyond.
What do you hope to accomplish as dean?
One of my key areas of research has focused on the trend of 21st century employers searching for employees who are innovative, creative and entrepreneurial. My goal is for our educational programming to offer learners both conceptual and practical insights to enhance their decision-making, creativity and problem-solving skills. I am focused on our students and their learning environment. We will teach and inspire our students by showing them how to move from intent to intensity in their careers. By elevating the college and promoting innovative partnerships across the university, region and globe, we will cultivate these students to be well-rounded, capable contributors.
What’s the biggest challenge for the college and how do you plan to meet it?
Professionals are finding that their work environment and industry are constantly evolving. Our goal is to evolve beyond the traditional business school structure representing a prescribed format to one that embodies dynamic curricular content and delivery models that are much more flexible for each student. The virtual classroom technology we have in place has strengthened the flexible methods of teaching and learning. Students can decide on the day of class how they want to participate.
What continuing education strategies work when people are rethinking their careers? How might the college respond?
By leveraging our lifelong learning landscape and working with my talented teammates like Elizabeth Small, director of business networks, we are engaging industry leaders to better understand their needs for knowledge worker retooling or upskilling. We are researching current and predicted business ecosystem data, and are creating programs that will address evolving knowledge needs. We now offer leadership training, a range of graduate degree and certificate programs, and practical hands-on certifications that bolster the workforce in Arkansas. Our multitrack Master of Business Administration degree, Master of Science in business information systems and analytics, and certificate programs, in particular, are catalysts for professionals looking to advance or pivot. The college has also expanded its programming and its scholarship opportunities to expand educational access to lifelong learners.
How is the college working to meet local businesses' workforce needs?
Because the digital world advances at such a rapid pace, the skills needed for digital commerce are vastly different than they were 20 years ago. To meet those professional needs, we offer a number of graduate certificates, including business administration, business analytics, business information systems, financial accounting analysis, human resources and organizational communication, and management.
We also created a new leadership academy that provides customized and affordable professional development training for the business industry. The leadership academy offers a variety of training in areas including business decision-making, personnel management and communication through in-person and hybrid learning.
The college has a long legacy of industry partnerships, from our health care partners like Saline Memorial or CHI St. Vincent, human services partners like the Clinton School of Public Service, Baptist Health and countless nonprofit organizations, to business partners in nearly every industry. Interdisciplinary teams work closely with industry leaders to understand their needs, adjust our curriculum to address those needs, and create a pipeline of incredibly talented and ready-to-work graduates.
How might you leverage your background in fintech and data analytics to make the college successful?
My transdisciplinary academic and industry experience in fintech, data analytics and cybersecurity give me unique insight into the effective application and innovative use of information and technology. As digitization continues to accelerate, it is critical we provide our students with the knowledge and skills they need to not only succeed in the current environment but also be able to sense and adapt to industry landscapes that are in a constant state of evolution.
During my career as an executive and consultant for multi-division organizations, I defined, designed and operationalized innovative enterprise-wide systems and strategies. These strategies achieved or exceeded economic, operational and targeted market growth objectives. I leveraged emerging technologies, business analytics, process integration and knowledge management practices to enhance strategic and operational systems.
My experience maximizing opportunities through relationship building and organizational development will be utilized here at UA Little Rock to benefit all stakeholders.
Enrollment has been a challenge for colleges. What role might the college play in UA Little Rock's enrollment strategy?
The best enrollment strategy is to expand our educational landscape to one supporting lifelong learning that continually develops and empowers impactful alumni. Our learners need to know that they are well positioned for success in their careers and that UA Little Rock is a catalyst for their continued success. Successful, engaged and impressive graduates remain advocates for UA Little Rock in their communities and workplaces. When employers hire and promote our lifelong learners, we want them to know they can expect and will get more from UA Little Rock.