Pamplin raises expectations, makes big strides
The Pamplin College of Business has set its sights higher and made significant strides toward its goals of improving its student experience, faculty research productivity, and community engagement, Dean Robert Sumichrast told the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors in a presentation during its Nov. 5 meeting.
Pamplin, Sumichrast said, has an outsized educational impact at the university relative to its resources. In terms of student numbers and teaching obligations, Pamplin is “a very large college on campus, with lots of students and lots of teaching. But in terms of faculty and staff, it’s a very small college.”
Remarking on the college’s recent faculty and staff appointments, Sumichrast noted that Pamplin is a much more diverse place today than a few years ago, “and it’s because of intentional changes.”
The college’s programs have improved significantly, he said, and so has its reputation for those programs. Programs in business analytics/information technology, cybersecurity, hospitality and tourism management, finance, and real estate are ranked in the top 5 or 6 nationally, while accounting and MBA programs are in the top 25.
“One of the reasons we’re making progress is that we have very explicitly raised expectations for what we are going to accomplish. Our strategic plan calls out three areas for improvement: student education and broader experience, faculty research, and the engagement of our community of faculty and staff, students, and alumni.”
He noted that the college’s May graduates numbered more than 1,000, more than 90 percent of whom reported having found jobs.
Students also noted the college’s open and friendly environment. “An important part of community is becoming more welcoming and inclusive of everyone, and we have become more welcoming,” Sumichrast said.
“We have increased the percentage of underrepresented minority students to 16 percent from 11 percent of the freshman class. Among faculty, we have increased the percentage of underrepresented minorities among assistant professors also to 16 percent, from 0 percent four years ago.”
To raise the bar on the research front, Sumichrast said, “We asked all tenure-track faculty to conduct and publish research that’s influential and that changes the way people think about business problems and solutions. We’ve created written expectations for promotion and tenure that are more rigorous than unwritten standards that were previously applied. We’ve created metrics for research performance based on measures that are commonly applied at other ranked business schools.”
And Pamplin is also hiring “some of the most promising new and accomplished faculty from around the world,” Sumichrast added.
“We are seeking to give students the best business-school experience, and we’ve created many more opportunities for experiential learning.” The Apex Center for Entrepreneurs is one such structure. “This year, we expect approximately 2,000 students to participate in our entrepreneurship courses, fireside chats, competitions, and other activities.”
Sumichrast noted that the college has embraced President Tim Sands’ vision for Virginia Tech as a “binary star,” with a major presence in the Blacksburg-Roanoke region and a growing engagement with the Washington, D.C., metro area.
“Pamplin has large and expanding programs in Northern Virginia, including our MBA and other planned programs that take advantage of the business and government environment of the Washington metro area.”
Looking ahead, Sumichrast said: “Virginia Tech’s infrastructure is stretched, including space for Pamplin in Blacksburg. We are developing the Global Business and Analytics Complex to address this problem, but, more importantly, to create an innovative learning environment.”
Students from Pamplin as well as the colleges of Engineering and Science will use this complex for interdisciplinary programs, he said. “Space will be designed to promote rather than inhibit collaboration. The complex will make it possible for Pamplin students to have the best business-school experience in the country.”