2015 Vision: Dr. Karl Lawrence on the School of Business and Technology

Karl Lawrence, PhD.
Karl Lawrence, PhD.

Throughout the month of January, Excelsior Life will sit down with key Excelsior College influencers and decision-makers to discuss the upcoming academic year, anticipated challenges and opportunities, and their vision for the future.

The first interview is with Dr. Karl Lawrence, dean, School of Business and Technology. A trained financial economist, Dr. Lawrence assumed the position of dean this past November.

Excelsior Life: Looking back, what are you most proud of in terms of what the School of Business and Technology (SBT) was able to accomplish in 2014?

Dr. Karl Lawrence: The focus of the school in 2014 was on strategic planning and quality improvements. In the area of strategic planning, we were able to successfully align all school activities to the College’s strategic plan. The extent to which our numerous stakeholders were actively involved in assisting us to become more aligned with the College’s strategic plan was most enlightening. Together, we identified opportunities to support the College’s strategic plan through innovative approaches and by leading several initiatives. In sum, “the little school that was” SBT grew to become a recognized strategic leader in 2014.

Our collaborative effort also unearthed several innovative approaches to improve the quality of our products and services. This work did not go unnoticed, as our business reaccreditation site visit team commented on our continuous improvement efforts and the collaborative environment that supports it. Our persistence, retention, and completion rates have also been positively impacted by our efforts. While we focused less on enrollment growth during 2014, we witnessed considerable growth in course registrations. We attributed much of our successes in 2014 to our commitment to strategic planning and quality improvements that are facilitated by our collaborative environment.

2014 will also be remembered in SBT as the year the School embraced its destiny as a disruptive innovator in crafting new approaches to post-secondary success. The School explored new ways to develop courses that support student learning and engagement, while lowering the cost of course resources. The School ushered in a 360 degree assessment of student learning protocol that pushes the bounds of current best practices within higher education. Student advisement practices within the School are been looked at to determine how we might be able to best support the needs of our unique student population.

Excelsior Life: What are takeaways from the past year that you hope to apply in 2015?

Dr. Lawrence: The following are the three takeaways from 2014 to be applied in 2015:

  1. Quality is our priority. Continue to implement our four-year Rejuvenate Student Experience. We will continue to strive to provide the best services to all contingents (i.e., staff, faculty, students, academic and corporate partners) so we will not only be one of the preferred education providers for the partners but a leader in business and technology education.
  1. Data driven continuous improvement. Continue to collect data and evaluate the effectiveness of our operations to identify areas for improvement and make informed actions to enhance the work process.
  1. The only way to achieve holistic improvement in persistence, retention, and degree completion is to be transparent and work with the institution as a whole, and the other units, to improve these numbers. SBT students take courses from other units, and it’s important that we identify particularly where in the mix the students are stopping out, and why.

Excelsior Life: What is the school’s vision for 2015?

Dr. Lawrence: We will continue to grow in terms of the variety of the programs as well as the percentage of the engaged enrolled students that we retained through the following three areas:

New Programs

  • Discipline specific programs: logistics, software development (concentrations).
  • New interdisciplinary programs: MS in Data Science and Business Analytics and MS in Engineering Management.

Student Success

  • Engage in the college-wide writing across curriculum initiative to enhance student writing.
  • Infuse experiential learning into the curriculum through project-based learning, labs and hands-on activities, and simulations.
  • Establish engaged and sustained experience; individualized student retention programs to new students provide needed coaching to ensure early success and make their first-two term experience rewarding.

Faculty Support and Development

  • Continue to recruit qualified and experienced instructors and weed out instructors who did not perform to our expectations.

Our vision is two-fold: growth and quality improvement. We feel strongly that these two elements of a healthy school go hand in hand. Although we are expanding our ability to offer market relevant degrees and learning methods, we must be watchful and make sure our quality improves as well. Obviously, continuous improvement is a strong theme as it relates to the maintenance and renewal of specialized accreditation. However, our goal is to be seen as leaders in the field.

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