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Leading the Way to the College of Business 3.0

Two years into his tenure at USF, Muma College of Business Dean Moez Limayem is making significant progress with new programs and ambitious plans.

Muma College of Business Dean Moez Limayem places students' needs at the center of his plans for the business school.  Photo by Aimee Blodgett | USF News

By Barbara Melendez
      USF News

TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 6, 2015) – If you’re not sure what a dynamo is, spend a little time with USF Muma College of Business Dean Moez Limayem – if you can keep up with him and his busy schedule between breakfast meetings and dinners with alumni and donors his calendar fills up quickly.

Dean Limayem addresses an audience of business leaders held at the Muma College of Business.  Photo by Janel Norton.

Limayem’s positive energy is inspiring and contagious and it has ignited some remarkable results in his first two fast-moving years at USF. Two new degree programs, expansion of online learning and certificate programs, and a reimagining of academic advising are just the beginning.

There’s also the matter of the Muma College of Business receiving the single largest individual gift in its – and the university’s – history.

The $25 million gift from Les and Pam Muma and naming of the college is a powerful endorsement of a shared vision of the Muma College of Business as an elite institution and it is helping to fuel Limayem’s innovative ideas.

“We are doing everything possible to redefine the role of the business school; we’re in the process of creating the College of Business 3.0,” he said.

That translates into a very ambitious goal.

“I want to see to it that every student admitted has a job at graduation in the area we trained them in, with a competitive salary,” said Limayem. “My colleagues are with me and we are working to instill in every student the passion, desire and drive to do everything possible to go through the necessary preparation to achieve this goal.”

New Ways of Thinking

Limayem wants to help students think differently. By the time they reach commencement, the dean wants Muma College of Business graduates to have cultivated the ability to think in a way that will appeal to business.

“We are developing a culture where our students will be able to leverage both sides of their brains,” Limayem explained, pointing out that successful leaders are not just “right-brained” or “left-brained.” He wants USF business graduates to be powered by analytics and driven by creativity.

“They will be strong analytical thinkers who feel at ease dealing with large sets of data and the knowledge and skills to provide quality interpretations that will help them and their companies make better decisions. When they leave here they will also have developed their creative thinking abilities to provide the kinds of insights that lead to creative solutions.”

In addition, the students will know how to relate to the people they met in the business world and beyond.

Dean Limayem handing out t-shirts to business students during a Week of Welcome event hosted at the college each fall.  Photo by Lorie Briggs.

“They are also being equipped with the skills to promote themselves, in a sense sell what they have to offer. From the time we wake up and throughout the day, we’re selling an idea of who we are. We want our students to be magnificent at this. We are equipping them with the skills to promote themselves, in a sense, to sell what they have to offer. ”

To that end, Limayem himself conducts a class on networking skills and how to negotiate a salary. In addition, students go through mock interviews as part of their training.

Strategic Internships

High quality internships play a pivotal role as well.

“We want them to be introduced to the kind of work they want to do throughout their time here, not just emptying waste paper baskets and running errands.”

Dean Limayem (center) with Associate Dean Kaushal and FedEx Co-CEO and CIO Rob Carter, a USF alumnus at a "Breakfast with a CIO event.  Photo by Christine Brown.

In addition to the importance of internships, Limayem and his faculty are making it a point to bring executives into the classroom as teachers and mentors. Whether undergraduate or graduate student, every student will have gone beyond textbook examples and had a chance to discuss and work on real world business issues.

The classes are there, the internships are there, the rigorous curriculum is there, but above all, Limayem wants families to know that when they send their loved ones to USF, they will be treated like valued family members.

“We want to be known for caring about our students and their success in a very personal way,” Limayem said.

To enhance the quality of that personal attention, funding has been raised to intensify the training of the academic advising team.

“Advisors are not typically trained to focus on a student’s career, but our advisors are offering this new perspective,” explained Limayem. “‘If you want this kind of job, you need to take these courses.’ That means going beyond simply taking courses to fulfill requirements.”

Differentiating Muma College of Business

In addition to strong attention to the traditional academic fundamentals, unique academic and other programs are essential to differentiating the Muma College of Business at all levels.

The college now offers a DBA degree for working professionals. The abbreviation is for a doctor of business administration. It is on par with a traditional PhD, which has more of an academic focus, while the DBA is designed for managers and executives who are looking for a more hands-on, practical approach to business at the highest level. The first cohort of top Tampa Bay executives, which just started meeting last month, surpasses the requirements of having at least a dozen years of upper-level industry experience and promises to be a life-changing experience.

“These top executives are developing rigorous research skills that they can apply to true-to-life life business problems and in the process learn how to transform their businesses with state-of-the-art practices and tools,” Limayem said.

The Sport & Entertainment Management program developed in partnership with the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Lightning Foundation in 2012 boasts a job placement rate of 100 per cent for its 2014 graduates. It joins the Executive MBA program for on-the-rise managers working their way to C-suite executive status and traditional MBAs devoted to finance, marketing and more.

And there’s more to come. Adding to USF’s extensive online course inventory, certificate programs in specific areas needed by businesses, such as a certificate in analytics and the business sides of the social sciences and the arts are in the works.

In the final analysis, on the graduate and undergraduate levels, Limayem is making sure that the Muma College of Business is known for turning out the kinds of graduates businesses fight to hire.

A Destination for Degrees and Business Services

“With what we’re offering, the Muma College of Business is set to be the first choice destination because we’re focused on helping them become job-ready with the analytical and creative thinking and practical experience that sets them apart as the best hires.”

The Muma College of Business dean is inviting the business community to come to USF for business services as well. Whether it’s a research project, data collection and/or analysis, the faculty welcomes cases for its students to study with problems they can help solve.

“They should think of us as a resource,” Limayem said. “When companies have a problem or challenge, it’s really an opportunity to take on a project if they don’t have the bandwidth or expertise to tackle it alone. It’s a win for them, it’s more real-world experience for our world class faculty and students – win, win, win.”

One such project with Fintech involved using students to conduct research and studyanalytics on an important endeavor; another project examined the ambience of a shopping venue in order to apply marketing principles and research to more positively affect buying habits.

“We’re excited about doing research that matters and that has impact that is relevant to businesses, while maintaining confidentiality.”

Building on a Strong Foundation

Dean Limayem with donors Les and Pam Muma and USF Foundation CEO Joel Momberg and wife Debbie at the homecoming parade.  Photo by Hilary Lehman.

Building on the strengths that convinced him to leave a job he was perfectly happy with at the University of Arkansas back in 2012, Limayem is finding that USF has lived up to the promise he first noted.

“I saw that USF is a solid institution, with a strong foundation,” he said. “I’ve seen too many places where the default answer is ‘no,’ whereas here, when I’ve stated my case, I’m getting ‘yes, go try it.’ Visionary leadership makes the difference and I just love it.”

Saying yes is something of a calculated risk for USF. Experience and a unique vantage point are on his side. Limayem serves as an evaluator for the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business that accredits colleges of business. Of the world’s more than 60,000 business schools, only about 600 are accredited. “I’m exposed to best practices throughout the world,” he said. “Not only that, but I am raising USF’s visibility and finding schools to target for partnerships that will help gain our students more international experience.”

Dean Limayem with his wife, Alya, a research assistant professor at USF.  Photo by Aimee Blodgett.

While observing colleges of business for accreditation takes Limayem to far flung places, such as China, India, Taiwan and Abu Dhabi – befitting USF’s global outlook – life before USF took him to four continents. He grew up in Tunisia, went to college and graduate school in Minnesota, taught in Montreal, Hong Kong, Switzerland and Arkansas (rising to leadership positions throughout) before coming to Florida. He met his wife, Alya – a research assistant professor in the USF College of Arts & Sciences – in Canada and their two children were born in Hong Kong and Arkansas

“For me, thinking global comes naturally,” he said with his signature warm smile.

Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563

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